Your experiences at the 2015 Living River Celebration
By Eric Alan, McKenzie River Trust member
People’s experiences of the McKenzie River Trust’s annual Living River Celebration on Green Island make it clear that the river there is not just water: it’s a river of life, emotion, experience and connection.
We gathered attendees’ thoughts about the land and the event, and the diversity of answers is illuminating and beautiful.
Surprises intertwined with the intrigue
We asked in terms of discovery, first and foremost. What were you surprised by? What was most interesting to you? What had you never noticed before that day?
Peaks of interest varied from the shifts in the restored river channel, to the surprise meeting of an old acquaintance. The living and free birds drew passionate attention; so did an animal pelts exhibit, and evidence of beaver along the river. For one, the most exciting sight was a snake; for another, the chance to climb a tree. For a many it was simply everything — the beauty of it all.
Surprises intertwined with the intrigue. Unexpected giant tadpoles. Warm morning clouds, which briefly let loose rain. The vast numbers of attendees, the wide range of planned activities, an unplanned connection with a friend. A doe, a riverbank, the growth of poplars, the sheer magnitude of Green Island’s acres.
And what did people newly notice? The sheer amount of restoration work done. The hiking trails. Beaver teeth. The way a dragonfly lands on prairie grass. How waste can be recycled through forests. Plantings done in rows, for weed control and irrigation. That urban runoff can add more pesticides to the environment than agriculture. The time, money and effort needed for restoration; yet the sheer number of other conservation projects nearby. The confluence of the rivers, and how it felt to swim in them.
Living River experiences and the emotions instilled by them left lasting impressions. We asked, how did you feel after visiting? Answers included: More connected. Relaxed. Delighted, inspired, sunburned. (It was an unusually hot day.) Energized, positive, rejuvenated. Refreshed, more knowledgeable, reassured that there is hope. Even more clear that MRT is a great organization.
We also asked what inspired people to visit, as 900 did. For a few, it was because they’d been before; for others, because they hadn’t. The kayaking opportunities called someone, and in contrast, one had previously only paddled through. One was new to Eugene. Another came because of a friend’s suggestion on Facebook. Curiosity, nature, support of local land conservation—these reasons and more brought people together.
What would attendees tell their friends who were elsewhere this year? What a gem the land is, how much others missed by not attending. How great it is to learn about the world of which we’re all a part. How much can be accomplished successfully in restoration. Mark your calendars for next year, someone said. Take a walk, visit when you paddle by. All fine suggestions.
Your visions for Green Island’s future
In the beauty of the moment, we asked for visions of the future. What will it feel like, to see Green Island’s continued shifts by next year? Superlatives flowed in. Exciting, gratifying, uplifting, fascinating, inspiring.
And in fifty years, what were visitors’ visions for Green Island and MRT? Many envisioned the continuance and growth of restoration work at Green Island. One had a vision of its riparian area so well restored that its previous life as a farm would be invisible. Some saw Green Island as a model for other restoration projects, with MRT thriving, growing, recognized as an example of what combined efforts can do for a natural resource. One envisioned more programs for kids, on a land opened up more often for visitation. Another, thriving salmon runs in the rivers running by. Many saw inspiration for others elsewhere, and viewed Green Island as a showplace for conservation opportunities on lands private and public.
We share our attendees’ visions and their inspirational excitement. With gratitude for everyone who attended and took time to write down their visions, we look forward to being in the flow of next year’s Living River, because in truth, we already are.