BROOKS — State agencies, local organizations, non-profits, and sponsors came together again this summer to bring outdoor experiences to Oregon families for the Governor’s Campout. The Campout is part of a statewide effort to help families who traditionally don’t have access to the outdoors feel welcome and excited about outdoor recreation.
Families like Ben and Lani Visaya’s, who moved to Oregon from Maui, HI last year. As Oregon transplants, knowledge of outdoor recreation opportunities in the area wasn’t always accessible.
“On the Islands we would always paddle board and swim but its hard finding good spots in Oregon for that,” he says.
Ben and Lani moved to Oregon with their son, alongside their friend Shareen Kaili and her children; their recreation styles faced new terrain leaving them a bit lost on how to best access outdoor fun for their family.
Shareen, an employee at the Salem Boys and Girls Club — one of the sponsors for the weekend— learned about the Governor’s Campout and reached out to her friends about the opportunity. The Visaya’s joined 29 other families at the Governors Campout this year, bringing together nearly 150 Oregonians to celebrate and enjoy the outdoors.
“Trucking through Oregon, I’m able to find spots to bring my family back out to enjoy the outdoors. We haven’t found an easy way to find good outdoor spots beyond that, or get to explore more of Oregon, but this helps,” Ben says.
The Governor’s Campout started in 2016, led by Tammy Baudmin from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). The event takes place every year at the Willamette Mission State Park just outside of Brooks, OR. Promoting a healthy physical, mental and spiritual relationship with the outdoors is the Campout’s vision, along with shifting doubt to desire for Oregon families’ relationship with the outdoors.
Volunteers from OPRD, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife made the weekend possible. They led activities and trainings at the archery and frisbee ranges, navigated wooded hikes, and shared the wonders of kayaking on the water. Families were taught safety, stewardship, and other tools to make outdoor recreation more accessible. Staff from YMCA camps visited in the evening to lead cheery camp songs around the fire pit and s’mores crafting. All of these wonderful volunteers were ecstatic to share in the wonder of the outdoors with these families, breathing in the fresh air with dirt under their boots.
“My favorite thing so far has been Gandalf,” said Ikaika, one of the participants, as he walked the trail, swinging his newly acquired “wizard staff” (tree branch), “Oh. My favorite activities so far has been archery and kayaks!”
Ikaika attends the Boys and Girls Club, where he first learned about this weekend. His mother,
Sunshine, works in Salem as a property manager. As any working parent may feel, it’s hard to find time to get to the outdoors and recreate. Sunshine talked about how she had been able to get outdoors when she was growing up but not much since then. Having the opportunity to bring her son on this weekend was exciting for them both.
Creating a culture that promotes healthy relationships with the outdoors requires access. Programs that allow families who traditionally don’t have that access are incredibly crucial to this goal. Oregon’s commitment to opening up the peoples’ lands with programing and educational events such as these are key. When more families like Ben and Lani’s or Sunshine and Ikaika have the opportunity to experience this is when we will have a supported culture of accessible Oregon outdoor recreation.
Oregon continues to make the beauty and bounty of the state open and accessible for all, like declaring the first Saturday in June “Outdoor Recreation Day.”