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Group helping increase access to Columbia Gorge trails

On March 30, the Friends of the Columbia Gorge will host a free webinar that will explore how people from all walks of life can access the gorge.

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. — This week's Let's Get Out There takes us to Cascade Locks in the Columbia River Gorge to highlight a free webinar hosted by Friends of the Columbia Gorge to increase access and representation.

No matter what kind of outdoor adventure you’re looking for, the Columbia River Gorge has it. Eighty miles of deep woods and stark desert come together to paint a beautiful picture of diversity.

“There’s a reason it was made a scenic area,” said Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance (CRTA) network director Emily Reed. The organization promotes sustainable gorge tourism and protects the towns in it.

On Wednesday, March 30, Friends of the Columbia Gorge will host a webinar “Exploring Recreation & Representation in the Columbia Gorge” featuring the work of CRTA. The topics will include new trails and transit alternatives to help increase access for all.

“Everyone should feel welcome in the woods,” Reed said. “That's why it's important. It's that simple.”

The CRTA hopes to bring attention to some of its partner nonprofits like Wild Diversity and CultureSeed.

“This is just one more tool that is supporting with one of the biggest barriers that we have in the gorge,” said Yesi Castro, co-executive director of CultureSeed.

RELATED: ODOT to require waterfall corridor permits to drive in parts of Columbia Gorge during peak season

Castro was born and raised in Hood River. She said she was in high school before she realized all the waterfalls in the area. She’s been an outdoor enthusiast ever since.

“Our work is to really focus on youth early — as early from seventh grade onward through high school and even after to get them outside,” Castro said.

CultureSeed typically works with people of color facing socio-economic disparities, and some of them might not even be comfortable in the outdoors. The work of Castro along with the CRTA webinar hopes to change that.

Reed added the issue in the gorge isn’t trail use, it’s the packed parking lots. If you get a Gorge Pass, you can leave the car at home.

Credit: Jon Goodwin/KGW
Dry Creek Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

“The Gorge Pass is an annual pass that allows you to hop on and hop off any of the bus systems in the gorge,” Reed said. “It allows you to come from the city into the trails, without parking issues or reservations or any of those things that are possible barriers.”

“You can just hop on and be ready at a trail and do the thing and come back home,” added Castro.

You can even bring your bike on the bus

No matter your roots, the growth is in the connection. Making everyone feel welcome and comfortable is what it’s all about.

RELATED: Woman paddles 250 miles of the Columbia River

“All the things that we can do in the gorge are really trying to expose the youth to all of those activities, so that they can find their passion and continue to do those things outside,” said Castro.

The CultureSeed Junior Council asks you to participate in a survey as they research transportation barriers and access to the outdoors in the Columbia Gorge Region. All personal information will be anonymous. The data collected through this survey will help determine transportation trends across the Columbia River Gorge.

Visit GorgePass.com for trip ideas and details, and don’t forget to support the local businesses.

Let's Get Out there airs once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. We're including viewer photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.

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