The long anticipated field trip to Douglas County finally happened! We were blessed with incredible weather while we were there, and got to experience a variety of aspects of Douglas County. It was a lot of fun to have this experience with Jim and the students of ENVS 350, and based off of the initial ideas we had for praxis projects I’m excited to see what we all come up with.
On Friday, we arrived at the Roseburg Courthouse at around 10am and got to meet with current and former commissioners of Douglas County. They stressed the importance of the timber industry in providing revenue to the county, and emphasized the different ownership of the land (Federal lands, O & C lands, and BLM lands) created problems in management and sustainable harvests. Another issue that I found interesting was the rise of mental health issues in conjunction with homelessness in Douglas County. A new psychiatric ward is being built in Roseburg to try to deal with this issue, and there’s also a VA hospital that assists people with mental health issues. The commissioner also mentioned how people tend to essentialize all homeless people even though many of them are homeless for different reasons, including people who moved to Roseburg to have a simpler life free of possessions. I thought it was interesting how this essentialization took place without being directly related to an ethnic group, but it could still be harmful to that group of people who are perceived to be homeless.
After that, we had lunch at a local restaurant, O’Tooles, which touted the “eat local” horn. Later, we saw the founders of O’Tooles featured in Verve, a hip new publication in Roseburg aimed at harnessing the changing demographic of the area. It portrayed the area as being local and artisanal, qualities that I didn’t initially get from walking around the town.
We were then treated to one of the best museum tours of my life! Gardner Chappell, an experiential educator for the Museum of Cultural and Natural History in Roseburg, gave us a quick tour of the museum, then proceeded to show us the museum archives as well as several artifact storage rooms. I was blown away by how many artifacts the museum had that were not on display in the rooms open to the public. There were rows upon rows of really neat items that people had donated or the museum acquired somehow, and it was a lot of fun looking through them all, from printing presses to vintage clothing to old rifles and glass jars.
After that, we decided to take advantage of the wonderful weather and explore the biophysical environment of Douglas County, so we set out on a quest to find the Doerner Fir, the tallest non-redwood tree in the world! It wasn’t actually in Douglas County, but it was close enough for me. It took us a while of driving through the logging backroads searching for signposts, but in the end we found it and got to spend a little while soaking up its calming energy.
That night we barbecued a delicious meal and got to chat with one of Jim’s board members, David Parker, who knows a lot about the local timber industry.
In the morning we all took a hike on Jim’s land and learned a bit more about the experiential/environmental education programs that he runs on his property. They focus on a variety of issues that can be measured on his land, including microclimate weather monitoring, wildlife cameras, water quality testing, and tree measuring. The curriculum is aligned with NGSS as well as the GLOBE program, which allows students across the world to communicate their projects with each other.
I also got to spend a bit of time in downtown Roseburg on Saturday morning to get a sense of what was happening in the community. It was eerily deserted for the main street of a town on a Saturday afternoon. Somehow I ended up eating lunch with an old German gentleman who lives in Little River and does research on creating hydroelectric dams in the area. He mentioned the lack of education in the area, as well as the difficulty of overcoming policy barriers.
Overall the Douglas County field trip was a lot of fun! We got to discuss a lot of the theory we have been reading about these past few weeks in an applied manner. Watch out for my praxis project ideas post, coming soon!