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Giving back to the Community

A Family Culture

Giving back to the community is ingrained in the culture of the Van Zandt family. It started in 1964 in Groton, CT with my mother, Sidney, founding the Haley Farm Committee, later called the Groton Open Space Association (GOSA). This great group of volunteers by 1970 raised the equivalent in today’s dollars of $350,000 for the Town’s portion to purchase this wonderful section of land that is now the Haley Farm State Park. Among many other things, the property borders the local High School, and the cross-country track team gets to practice on

those 250 acres of the Haley Farm with additional abutting acres they also helped to save of over 800 acres now called Bluff Point Coastal Reserve. GOSA has since purchased four additional properties in Southeaster

 Ct totaling 534 acres with an ongoing purchase project of an additional 104 acres.  In addition they helped the State raise funds to purchase Candlewood Hill Wildlife Management Area of 201 acres.  For more information go to

Early on, after moving Hurricane Sails from CT to the Gorge, I volunteered to be a board member of the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association. Concurrently I started taking care of many of the mountain biking trails on both sides of the Columbia River. It did not take many (mountain bike) MTB rides to realize that if I did not cut or move a tree, limb or other material blocking a trail, that it would be waiting for me the next time I rode the trail. I started carrying pruners and a folding saw with me on every ride. I did my best to pass this on everywhere I rode not just in the Gorge. 

Over the years I have been a founding member of two MTB organizations: “Columbia Area Mountain Biking Advocates” (CAMBA) and Oregon Mountain Bike Alliance (ORMBA). CAMBA was formed shortly after the Kreps Ranch sold the area, now know as the “Syncline”, to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (CRGNSA). We (MTB community) wanted to show the CRGNSA that we cared about the land and wanted to be good stewards and take care of the existing trails on their new land. 

ORMBA was formed to advocate to keep as many trails as possible open to MTB in the (then) new area being considered for Wilderness in the Mt. Hood National Forest (MHNF). This small group worked with the International Mountain Biking Association. We went to countless meetings, made presentations and did lots of ground-truthing to identify (and of course ride on) all the trails in the MHNF that were currently open to MTB that were in jeopardy of being closed due to being within the new wilderness boundary. Note: bikes are not allowed in Wilderness.

A few other founding CAMBA members and myself and took care of a lion’s share of the trail maintenance and trail building on the other side of the hill in an area know as Hospital Hill. I also volunteered to be the contact person between the two land owners, SDS lumber and Kreps Ranch, where a majority of the trails were located. Whenever there were fire or logging closures or when Kreps Ranch was putting out the cows I would get the information out through many channels. For many years when the cows were put out or fire closures I would then make the appropriate signs and put them up at all the entry points to the land.

I built my first trail section on the Haley Farm back in 1985 – well cleared all the brambles off the old trolley line so I could ride the route. I have since built or help build many miles of trails on both the Oregon and Washington side of the river. Hi-line on Hospital Hill and Spaghetti Factory and Mobius in the Post Canyon area of Hood River are ones that are still ridden daily. 

After 35-years of trail building, trail stewardship and trail advocacy, I’m backing away to allow the next generation of trail stewards to step up to the plate and learn about the rewards and hard work that it takes to keep the trails in the area in good shape. I still take care of my three main trails – Hi-line, Mobius, and Spaghetti Factory.

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