By Donny Hyde, Columbia River Chapter President
Y ou may not recognize the world we live in right now. Stores, gyms, restaurants and other businesses have all had to shutter their doors during this difficult period. What gives me hope is that I’ve seen people open their hearts as the world seems to close. I’ve seen the drive people have to help, with whatever resources they have.
As president of the Columbia River Chapter for 6 years, my members have never ceased to amaze me. Every event, community project, fish along—you name it—starts with an idea from one chapter member. From there, other members start adding their two cents and a tangible plan starts to form. A few phone calls are made to friends, family, and acquaintances and suddenly there’s a network made up of skilled individuals geared towards achieving one goal. All of the pieces fall into place and volunteers show up excited and ready to help accomplish the project.
This is how the power of our members working collectively makes a difference in our community… people simply show up for each other. I’ll tell you one particular story about the Columbia River Chapter.
This past April, our chapter was completing park maintenance at one of our project locations when a chapter member mentioned that the Lewis River Golf Course boat launch was in pretty rough shape. He suggested that we should see if our chapter could do something about it. As I mentioned above, all it takes is one idea. This then sparked a conversation among the 6 chapter members present. Within hours, phone calls and connections were made. A plan was in action. Chapter members reached out to me with the proposal and I was absolutely astonished. I have been using that boat launch and fishing the Lewis River my entire life. I was so excited it was finally going to get some much-needed love.
My father Keith, who is the current Government Affairs Director, spoke directly to the owner of the Lewis River Golf Course and launch. Apparently, not one single person or group in the entire history of his ownership of the property has ever offered to help out with the boat launch maintenance and was ecstatic to have some help.
A few days went by. Many phone calls and text messages were sent reaching out to the local community for help (having active chapter members with diverse backgrounds, networking connections, and big hearts helps projects like these radiate throughout the community).
For this specific project, we needed A LOT of gravel, delivery, and the equipment to spread it. Dan Pond and Ben Stordahl, from Stordahl Pit located in Vancouver, WA donated two entire truckloads of gravel and delivery. Chapter member Corey Erskine, with Anderson Environmental Contracting LLC in Kelso, WA donated his time and the heavy equipment needed to work and spread the gravel.
Once we had secured the material parts of the project, we needed to rally the troops! The announcement was made to all chapter members during a virtual chapter meeting and a date was set to accomplish the project. Our chapter never lacks motivated volunteers, so this was an easy ask.
On May 22, 2020, the big day finally arrived. Volunteers, dump trucks with gravel, and heavy equipment started showing up to the Lewis River boat launch around 8am. Volunteers brought their own yard equipment (chain saws, weed trimmers and the like) and immediately set to work tackling the overgrowth surrounding the road that leads down to the launch. Tree branches were hanging down too low and blackberries were growing out of control, making the once-established trail leading down to the bank fishing access spots pretty much non-existent after years of neglect.
The excavator worked for hours leveling dirt, filling in all the potholes, and spreading the gravel. The end result was a beautiful, level parking lot at the top of the launch and a well-manicured road leading down to the river.
The Columbia River Chapter is known for many things, and one is that no one goes hungry! At every gathering—be it volunteer-oriented or social—our chapter members donate put together an awesome meal. This project was no different. All members got together in the upper parking lot to eat lunch, take a break, and of course share fishing stories. We would like to thank Kari Kaiser with Anderson Environmental and chapter members Sara Starkey and Sarah Fontyn for their donation and all of their hard work preparing the food.
The project took roughly 8 hours to complete. A total of 12 chapter members attended and donated their time. A project like this would have cost the city or private business thousands of dollars to complete, but with the power of the angling community behind it, we accomplished it for FREE.
No matter what is currently going on in the world around us, our community has the strength and drive to accomplish feats for the common good. It just takes a bit of coordination and effort. Our chapter is extremely grateful for all its faithful chapter members and community partners who make this possible. We couldn’t do it without everyone lending a hand.