by Steve Lundeberg
Opportunities for the public to enjoy the McDonald and Dunn research forests continue to be enhanced by volunteers of all ages who are always eager to welcome new members to their ranks.
Ken Imamura, a retired Hewlett-Packard process engineer, is one of College of Forestry’s core volunteers, each of whom volunteers on a weekly basis and collectively are responsible for most of the trail work on the research forests.
“I retired in October 2008 and started volunteering in the forest in November,” said the 76-year-old Imamura, who lives near Peavy Arboretum. “The work is meaningful – users of the forest really appreciate what we do. I see people I know from work or from town, and two-thirds of the people who pass us and know we’re volunteers thank us for what we contribute. That means more to me than any wage.”
Fifty years Imamura’s junior is volunteer Andrew Miller, a Corvallis High School graduate with a nearly lifelong relationship with the research forests.
“I first started going to the forest close to 20 years ago; I’m 26 now,” he said. “I’ve had a connection with McDonald forest most of my life – it means a lot to me for sure.”
Miller, a mountain biker, trail runner and running coach, was inspired to forest volunteerism by the local trail running community.
“Everybody in the community was so good to me, and I wanted to be a part of that,” he said. “I feel like it’s the right thing to do. Others have done it before me, which is why Mac forest is so cool, and now it’s my time to get out there and give back and hopefully get others involved.”
Whether it’s blowing leaves off trails, cleaning out ditches or pulling down overhanging limbs, the work of volunteers like Miller and Imamura involves “whatever needs to be done to make it safer for users of the forest,” Imamura said.
“The only time we’re not out there is when it’s hazardous to us, like if there is heavy snow on limbs, or high winds,” he added.
Miller stresses that volunteer opportunities are open to anyone who completes the college’s application process.
“You don’t have to be in the know, it’s not a select group of people,” he said. “Everybody wants to see more people getting out and giving back to the community.”
“We all like to contribute,” Imamura said. “We like to give back, and people definitely appreciate what we do. It touches your heart – that’s payment in itself.” For more information about volunteering in the forest, contact volunteer coordinator Matt McPharlin at 541-737-6730 or email@example.com.