A cluster of silver grain silos stands stoically out the west-facing window, backed by rolling golden hills. Cars roll down second avenue towards the interstate, moving slowly in the summer heat. The faded tawny bricks of the Marcus Whitman Hotel stretch upwards towards a cloudless blue sky.
This summer I am working as the Recreation Outreach Intern at the Blue Mountain Land Trust here in Walla Walla. Coming off of Whitman’s Semester in the West program this past fall, I knew I wanted to continue exploring the work of the conservation world. I also knew I wanted to stay in Walla Walla for the upcoming summer, and started searching out local internship opportunities in March. I reached out to the executive director of the Blue Mountain Land Trust, Tim Copeland, and after a few meetings about their project openings over the summer I decided to apply for their Recreation Outreach position.
Over the course of the summer I am developing an online recreation blog and opportunity database for the Trust, focusing on the Blue Mountains outside of Walla Walla. So far, I have designed a beta version of the website, and hopefully it will go online in late July or early August. This website builds on similar work done in previous summers by other Whitman interns. I have spent much of my days so far gathering and indexing local recreation data, regional economic development organizations, and access information. All this information is actively integrated into the beta version of the website as the design and content move forward. I am hopeful that this site will serve the recreation information needs of locals and visitors to the area. Although much of my work is done on a desktop computer, I have been lucky to attend a Walla Walla Community Council luncheon and a board-member dinner. Interfacing with the larger community of Walla Walla in this way is both useful for my work and personally fulfilling. I have also been on a few exploratory outings in the Blue Mountains, testing recreation access information posted on Forest Service and other websites. These outings can be seen as a form of ground-truthing, and are one of my favorite parts of the job.
Besides my immediate duties, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in and observe the workings of a land trust that is truly invested in the community it serves. The Blue Mountain Land Trust operates a highly successful community education program called Learning On the Land. A variety of weekly outings on private lands, organized and executed by the Land Trust staff, foster a vital sense of connection to the rich landscape of the Walla Walla Valley while also working to protect privately held landscapes for perpetuity. This integration of traditional land trust duties involved with private holdings and public landscape education fosters an important sense of community and regional stewardship. I feel lucky to be working for an organization that performs such important work in a community-oriented way, and look forward to the website going online later this summer.
Experiences like Gardner’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff.