Celebrating 40 Years of Conservation: The middle years

Celebrating 40 Years of Conservation: The middle years

This month we are highlighting conserved public-access natural areas in Jacksonville, Oregon. We are grateful to the City of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Woodlands Association, and the selfless volunteers who help protect the lands we love for the people we love. We hope you enjoy this month’s “hike” down memory lane. – Cathy Dombi, Executive Director

The Southern Oregon Land Conservancy was an all-volunteer organization from 1978 to around 1999, and even then paid staff time was extremely limited. In 1992, under the direction of then board president, Mike Uhtoff, SOLC rented office space in the Historic Ashland Armory on Oak Street. That same year, Will Wyman, a former board member, was hired part-time as the first executive director. “The honeymoon is over, now it’s time to get down to business. There is no shortage of work or projects, just a shortage of time to do justice to each one,” said Wyman.

It turned out to be challenging to fund the position, and by 1993 SOLC was once again all-volunteer. Thankfully, our dedicated board of directors didn’t see it as a setback. SOLC’s hearty band of volunteers continued to conserve properties and raise funds for a variety of local land projects such as the Bear Creek Greenway, Siskiyou Mountain Park, and several protected properties in Jacksonville (e.g., Britt Woods, Beekman Woods) that are now part of the Jacksonville Woodlands and public trail system managed by the amazing volunteers of the Jacksonville Woodlands Association.

Woodlands community-driven campaign fundraiser form with proposed conserved areas.

Right about the same time that Beekman Woods was protected by a conservation agreement in 1995, Alex Liston Dykema, volunteered to join the SOLC board. By 1999, Alex became executive director ending the all-volunteer era for SOLC. Will Wyman was correct; there was no “shortage of work or projects.”

From 1995 to 2010, eight land parcels in the Jacksonville Woodlands were protected by conservation agreements. “If we value the natural habitats around us, from the forests to the rivers and streams, we need to act now,” said Dykema (annual meeting, April 25, 2000). “The names and faces around the table change, but the issues remain the same and will continue to long after all of us move on. But what the Conservancy does today to help preserve land around us will also remain. Each acre we protect will stay largely as it is for both the present and the future.”

Hikers enjoying a guided bird walk in the conserved Jacksonville Woodlands.

The land that was protected for the benefit of all of us over 20 years ago is there for you to explore today. Learn more about the Jacksonville Woodland's protected public access natural areas by visiting our Woodlands webpage. Enjoy a hike on the trails the next time you are in Jacksonville, or perhaps you’d like to join the fun by participating in or volunteering for JWA’s 25th annual Hike-A-Thon on April 21.

Author’s Note: Some of the "faces" might have changed, but not all: Alex, also a conservation easement donor, is still with SOLC today as our staff attorney helping craft conservation agreements (easements) for the majority of our protected lands.

Volunteers are still (and have always been) integral to the strength and success of SOLC. In 2017, 223 individuals, children and adults, performed over 2,205 hours of service work. That’s a whopping $55,000 worth of unpaid project time! Volunteering is a win-win experience. Volunteers complete a lot of important tasks and projects plus volunteering is good for you. According to Psychology Today (March 2014), volunteers live longer and healthier lives than non-volunteers. Volunteering helps you develop strong relationships, is good for your career, is good for society, and it gives you a sense of purpose. We always welcome new faces. Please consider becoming an SOLC volunteer.