Caretakers of the Gorge, a collaboration between Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Swanson Studio, is a tribute to the resilience of the Columbia Gorge in the aftermath of the Eagle Creek fire. The individual profiles represent the deep connections to the Gorge shared by those who love and care for this beautiful landscape and its communities.Pam Lauwerens, executive producer, Swanson Studio: "While returning to Portland on I-84 on the day the Eagle Creek fire began, I found myself inside the last car allowed to pass through the Gorge as the freeway closed behind me. Witnessing the smoke and flames engulf an area that we are so emotionally connected to was surreal. I asked myself, 'How can we help? Where do you even begin after a tragedy like this?'
"As a studio comprised of many outdoor enthusiasts and native Oregonians, the devastation of the fires weighed heavy on our hearts. With the holiday season quickly approaching, we decided to forgo traditional gifts and instead put our holiday budget and time toward relief efforts in the Gorge. This year, it wasn’t about us.
"Through discussion with Friends of the Columbia Gorge, we learned about the critical importance of encouraging stewardship in the affected areas. Together, we developed Caretakers of the Gorge, a portrait and interview series that highlights and celebrates the individuals who embody the spirit of Gorge resilience."
Kevin Gorman, executive director, Friends of the Columbia Gorge: "Being a part of a community also means you have a responsibility to support others when they need a helping hand, even when the costs to your own interest aren't certain. Since the Eagle Creek fire began last September, thousands have fallen into the role of caretakers as we work to support a place we care so dearly about, the Columbia Gorge.
"The fire was a jarring experience, but the public response has been truly remarkable. At a time of so much sadness, so much fear and so much uncertainty, people who love the Gorge stepped up to help in unimaginable ways – both during the fire and in its aftermath. And Friends of the Columbia Gorge is pleased to partner with Swanson Studio to help illustrate some of the individuals who in their everyday work or volunteerism help steward, protect and make the Gorge a more resilient place."
Meet the Gorge CaretakersFor decades, Friends has worked to help bridge the gaps between the conservation, recreation and the economic development communities by educating the public and working to build a network of dedicated Gorge advocates and stewards. There are many more Gorge caretakers than we could ever have the ability to showcase, but our hope is this collaboration will both help underscore the importance of current Gorge stewards and inspire a new generation of Gorge caretakers who can follow in their footsteps.
Mayor of Mosier, OR
Hike Program Volunteer and Trainer
Chair of Mt. Hood Chapter, Pacific Crest Trail Association
Sheriff of Hood River County, OR
Hike Program Volunteer
Salmon marketing specialist, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
Ranger and Manager, Oregon State Parks
Chamber of commerce executive director, Skamania County, WA
Hike Program Volunteer