Connecting the Space Between

Gorge Towns to Trails

Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust
Columbia River Gorge

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Some of the proposed focus areas for the Gorge Towns to Trails project


Over pints of dark beer, Kevin Gorman unfurls a well-loved map of the Columbia Gorge and, with a paperclip, traces the green protected areas. It’s the spaces between the green he’s interested in.

As executive director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust, Gorman has a vision of connected areas—a 170-mile loop trail that connects cities to hiking trails and local businesses. The Gorge Towns to Trails project, inspired by European hut-to-hut trekking, began in 2011 and has helped secure four parcels of land in Oregon and Washington, steadily building a connected corridor of green.

One such space, Mosier Plateau, is 45 acres that now links to a city-owned park. The land is currently used by dog walkers, hikers, and a local charter school for science and PE classes. On a sunny May afternoon, Gorman took the COLT board of directors to Mosier Plateau to show them this success story. Over burritos they looked at the numbers. Of three trail connections they are working on, 92% of the envisioned landscape is already conserved and protected public land; Gorman and the numerous partners will work to secure land and develop trails on the remaining 8%.

“This is not just a project about wildlands,” Gorman said. “It’s a project that embodies what the gorge is all about. There’s something wonderful about connecting a town not just to waterfalls, but to orchards, wineries, salmon runs and more.”

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