Making the drive from Inchelium to Nespelem on a mid-October sunny day in Southern Okanagan County is truly a sight to behold. Fall colors are in primetime and there is a dusting of snow on both passes. No Puget Sound rush hour traffic, no text messages, phone calls or emails. Just me, my packet of information on WWRP, and over 14 deer I spotted along the way. It was truly a glorious drive and it was the first thing I mentioned to the good folks of the Colville Tribe once I arrived in Nespelem.
The Coalition was invited to attend this meeting by representatives of the Cal Ripken Senior Foundation whose work all over the country has helped communities fund ballfields for kids. It was the first meeting between the Foundation, the Tribe and the Coalition. Our organization has long wanted to begin outreach to the first peoples of Washington State to promote the WWRP so when this opportunity arose, our office jumped at the chance.
In theory, my job is pretty simple. I am charged with advocating and educating people about this state’s most robust grant program for outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat. and working lands. I encourage local government jurisdictions, nonprofits, land trusts, school districts, and tribes to apply to one of twelve WWRP categories while also trying to unearth local WWRP champions who will advocate for the program. This particular meeting, however, began with a different tone. The irony was not lost on me that these people have been on this land for 1000’s of years and now they get to sit with someone from the 206 area code talking about how this 27-year old state run grant program will be the answer to all of their problems. I decided to take a different approach than my normal passionate WWRP elevator pitch entails. I decided to listen.
There were 6 representatives of the Tribe at the meeting from the new Boys and Girls Clubs in Inchelium and Nespelem, former Tribal Council Members and current administrators from the finance and education wings in the their local government office. We went around the room, made introductions, and exchanged pleasantries. Finally, to break the ice, someone asked me if I had any children. Without hesitation I started talking about my 2-year-old daughter Scarlett and why—because of her—I work for the Coalition. Because when she gets a little older, I want her to be able to paddle the same waters and hike the same trails, as I do now. Something resonated.
All of a sudden, there was a flood of information that started pouring out from these tribal representatives and before I knew it, there were three AWESOME potential projects laid out on the table in front of us. I saw the passion in the faces around that table. The sheer will and determination I witnessed was undeniably going to move these community projects forward—and hopefully, they will apply for and receive WWRP funding in the next grant round.
It was a honor to spend time with folks from the Colville Tribe and I look forward to more discussions on how we can better partner as stakeholders. Once again, my job does not disappoint. It was a powerful day with passionate individuals.