PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Planning to travel soon? There’s a new way that you can explore the outdoors all while supporting Oregon communities affected by last year’s historic wildfires.

As a visitor, you can become a volunteer and partner with local non-profits to do things like hand-on work to help restore the forest area along the McKenzie River Corridor, just outside of the Eugene area. It’s part of what’s called the McKenzie Regenerative Travel Project.

This spring and summer there are different options to choose from. Think of it as volunteering while on vacation in some of Oregon’s scenic places. It’s the kind of trip where you’ll leave knowing more about things like wildfire recovery, prevention and even how to build a trail.

From tree planting to trail maintenance — it’s adventuring, all while lending a helping hand.

“The McKenzie Regenerative Travel Project is a highly collaborative effort to combine stewardship and tourism in support of the areas that were impacted by those 2020 wildfires in the Willamette National Fores,” Alyssa Archer, the executive director of Cascade Volunteers said.

Local organizations — Cascade Volunteers and First Nature Tours — are teaming up for this all-new travel project that invites visitors to spend a weekend volunteering and exploring the McKenzie River region while hiking, biking, and rafting.

“These all-inclusive trips support the local economy,” she said. We’re bringing folks from Portland and Eugene. They’re going to be lodging locally, eating locally and they’re going to be actively engaged in stewardship on our national forest.” 

Archer says the project is made up of four different adventures, each led by First Nature Tours. It gives people the chance to be part of restoring the forest area to help public lands and communities affected by 2020’s Holiday Farm Fire – which burned nearly 174-thousand acres along the McKenzie River.

“We’re doing tree planting, cleanups, we’re doing installations of signage, bike repair stands, and trail maintenance,” Kieron Weidner, the founder of First Nature Tours explained. “It’s a way to get people out to fully immerse in their local communities and to actually make a difference with travel.” 

Archer said you’ll never hike a trail the same way after you’ve been in the dirt, working to build a new one. She says the goal of the travel project is to help boost local economies while improving access to outdoor recreation opportunities.

“When you were out there serving on your public lands, it gives you a new appreciation for them,” Alyssa said. 

Widner agreed, saying they want people to be able to leave a lasting impact in a positive way.

“If you want to visit the Mackenzie River corridor, this is a great way to do it — because you’re going to leave it better than you found it,” Archer said.

The first adventure kicks off this weekend. Each trip includes roundtrip transportation to and from Portland, with a stop in Eugene.

If you’re interested in booking one of these three-day, two-night volunteer trip, you can do so online here.