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Good Samaritans touted for restoring Columbia River Gorge hiking trails, celebrated with work party

For National Public Lands Day on Saturday, Sept. 22, organizations teamed up to thank Eagle Creek Fire volunteers by hosting a volunteer cleanup day at a state park in the Columbia River Gorge.

Participants met at Rooster Rock State Park to clear invasive Himalayan blackberry bushes, and members of the Trailkeepers of Oregon (a hiking trail advocacy group) led groups to clear overgrown vegetation and fix walking surfaces on the Angel's Rest Trail.

Since last year's Eagle Creek Fire, volunteers have helped with trail repair, invasive species removal, and participated in a new program called "Trailhead Ambassadors." For the new program, ambassadors are stationed at popular hiking trailheads during weekends to provide visitors with information about trails and encourage safe recreation.

About half of the trails impacted by the Eagle Creek Fire have reopened since the fire was declared 100 percent contained on Nov. 30, 2017.

The U.S. Forest Service, Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, Trailkeepers of Oregon, Pacific Crest Trail Association, and REI sponsored the cleanup day on Sept. 22.

The Eagle Creek Fire started on Sept. 2, 2017, after a then 15-year-old Washington boy threw fireworks into the Eagle Creek Canyon, and the fire eventually consumed more than 48,000 acres. In May, The boy was sentenced to pay $36 million in restitution.

It's the 25th anniversary of National Public Lands Day and the celebration is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands.

This year's theme, "Resilience and Restoration," resonates with the hundreds of volunteers who worked to restore Gorge trails since last year's fire, according to a press release from the U.S. Forest Service.

"The enthusiasm from volunteers this past year has been truly inspiring," said Lynn Burditt, area manager for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. "We are grateful to our partners for connecting the many people who expressed interest in helping after (the) Eagle Creek Fire with the opportunities that made a real difference on the ground."

Also in honor of the National Public Lands Day, the U.S. Forest Service waived fees for park entry at all Forest Service day-use recreation sites in Oregon and Washington.

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