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Cascade Volunteers group
Cascade Volunteers

Get to Know the Cascade Volunteers

We’re proud to once again partner with Cascade Volunteers for our 2023 Willamette Valley Ornament Hunt — where volunteers will hide locally designed holiday ornaments on specific trails throughout the Willamette National Forest for eager hikers to find.

But this groundbreaking nonprofit does important work all year long. Cascade Volunteers is driven to maintain, repair, and beautify the Willamette National Forest for thousands of hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers who enjoy its outdoor offerings all year long. 

For example, when large swaths of the Willamette National Forest sustained heavy wildfire damage during recent summers, closing dozens of trails and sending visitors to a shrinking number of sites that are still open, Cascade Volunteers came to the rescue to make scenic trails as welcoming as possible for outdoor enthusiasts—largely by cutting back overgrown vegetation, removing rocks from the middle of trails, and trimming roots that may trip hikers and mountain bikers.

It’s a small glimpse at what Cascade Volunteers has done since its formation in 2005. In that time, the nonprofit has enlisted the help of more than 3,600 volunteers who have worked nearly 200,000 hours to beautify the Willamette National Forest. Here’s a glimpse at how the organization does it:

Cascade Volunteers
Volunteer Management

Cascade Volunteers manages 35 volunteer groups that perform all manner of activities — from repairing trails and planting trees to answering visitor questions and offering education at popular trailheads.

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The organization is the official nonprofit partner of the Willamette National Forest — so staff members and volunteers work to build relationships with the forest and among community members, all of which builds support for new projects, creates an environment where everyone feels welcome, and strengthens collaboration with diverse communities. 

Behind-the-Scenes Work

Cascade Volunteers’ three employees train volunteers and coordinate their efforts, scout out work that needs to be done, apply for grants, and more.

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Trailhead Hosts

Some volunteers act as hosts by hanging out at certain trailheads — where they provide updates on conditions, safety, and other relevant information.

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Tree Planting

One popular volunteer role is to plant new trees to help ensure the health and vitality of the broader forest.

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Visitor Education

Some volunteers answer visitor questions, teach the seven “Leave No Trace” principles, and act as docents on heavily trafficked trails.

The Cascade Volunteers team is always looking to see how they expand their offerings and better serve outdoor enthusiasts across all 2 million acres of the Willamette National Forest. Here’s a look at two projects the organization is currently working on:

Between 1865 and 1939, the Santiam Wagon Road shuttled livestock, freight, and people between the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon. Today, portions of the historic road have been preserved for public use — and Cascade Volunteers is working to clean, clear, and rehab additional sections for hikers and mountain bikers.

The most-visited trail in the Willamette National Forest is the section of McKenzie River National Recreation Trail that heads to Tamolitch Falls (Blue Pool). The trail has suffered from overuse and conflicts between users in recent years — so in 2024, Cascade Volunteers will help install a larger parking lot, improve safety features, and create a portion of trail that separates hikers from mountain bikers

Are you excited to survey trails for invasive weeds, build bridges on well-loved trails, plant trees, and help visitors have the best time possible?

If so, you’ll be happy to know the organization is always looking for volunteers to help further its mission and keep visitors safe across the Willamette National Forest.

Anyone over the age of 18 can apply to volunteer; those younger than 18 can take part under the watchful eye of a responsible adult. And after serving a certain number of hours, volunteers are eligible to receive a variety of free recreation passes.

And if you’d rather contribute in other ways, click here to make a donation to Cascade Volunteers.

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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