I have made several trips to the Columbia River Gorge area over the past few years. This beautiful stretch along Scenic Hwy 30 just East of Portland, Oregon has been a beautiful treasure for hikers, photographers, nature lovers, and tourist for years. Unfortunately, due to extremely careless actions of one or several young teens, reportedly setting off fireworks near Punch Bowl Falls, this area will likely never be the same. Over 33, 000 acres had burned at one count. If you have ever been to this beautiful area and are familiar with some of the beautiful waterfalls and their locations in the Gorge, you can’t help but be devastated and heartbroken as you view some of the fire images.
Fortunately, no lives were lost but 3 homes burned and local business which rely on tourism will likely be devastated as many consider revising vacation plans. Even I had planned a photography workshop in the Gorge for 2018, which is now on hold indefinitely. Undoubtedly, the Eagle Creek fire will cost us all in terms of the loss of some beautiful areas to explore and photograph, but the local economy and small businesses that depend on visitors will likely suffer as well.
I read one opinion that the teens in question are not to blame. Rather, it is global warming, logging and capitalism at fault. Really????? Now I have no desire to rehash arguments, pro or con, about global warming. As far a logging, there is not logging in the Gorge and logging as an industry in Oregon has been greatly reduced over the years due to environmental issues. No, the cause and blame is clear: the carelessness and insensitivity of young kids, who maybe lacked proper guidance or mentoring from adults in their lives. But it goes beyond that. In recent months we have heard of even adults who clearly were aware of their actions, being prosecuted for defacing landmarks in national parks. In some cases actions like these are irresponsible careless acts and in other cases deliberate criminal acts. Either way we must do more to educate our young to preserve and protect the beautiful natural resources we have the good fortune to enjoy. I am 66 years old and will likely never see again see the beauty of the Gorge as I remembered this past Spring.
Okay, enough. I’m off my soapbox.