News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

AmeriCorps to give Camp Taloali a boost

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

By James Day

Camp Taloali, the Santiam Canyon oasis for the hearing impaired and other recreation lovers is getting a much-needed face lift.

The 111-acre camp, which dates to the 1970s, has been approved for an AmeriCorps visit that starts Feb. 22 and runs through April 1. Ten AmeriCorps members will be on hand to assist with invasive species removal, replanting trees, fuels reduction and the relocation of the camp’s Challenge Course. Corps members also will be spending a week at the Upward Bound Camp near Gates, helping that group with wildfire mitigation. 

“We are very happy to have been selected as one of their sites this year and appreciate the opportunity to communicate this with the Santiam Canyon Communities,” said Janet Johanson, board member for Camp Taloali.

Camp Taloali officials submitted a 42-page application as part of their bid to win acceptance for the project.

The approval process, Johanson said, “includes reviewing for projects that meet a compelling community need, has clearly defined outputs and outcomes, has clearly outlined work and training plans, an accessible site supervisor, available housing, a plan to support safety and security, has an understanding of service learning, and a plan for sustainability.”

The application also had to meet the Corps’ “project focus areas,” which for Camp Taloali meant Environmental Stewardship and Conservation (invasive species eradication, replanting trees lost to climate change and windstorm and ice storm, and the relocation of the Challenge Course), and Natural and Other Disasters (wildfire mitigation and recovery and fuels reduction). 

“We have clean up days throughout the year and have had great turnouts,” said Brian Czarnik, another Camp Taloali board member. “Because of COVID, we have had to limit what can be completed, but to have 10 AmeriCorps members for 6 weeks will get a lot done.”

Johanson said Camp Taloali officials have been collaborating with the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District (MSWCD) staff for several years to address invasive species and watershed conservation issues at the camp, with Scotch broom, a particular challenge.

Extreme weather, including the Labor Day 2020 winds and the February 2021 ice storm, led to the loss of many Douglas firs and brought down numerous trees and branches, creating a large amount of debris which has the potential to become wildfire fuel. 

Camp Taloali recently purchased more than 200 trees to restore the forest and provide more shade at the camp. The Challenge Course, which started with low and high ropes, is being relocated deeper into the forest to take advantage of the shade. A giant swing element was added last year and a zip line is going in this season.

“These Challenge Course features are of high interest and enjoyment by our campers,” Johanson said. “The AmeriCorps team will help Camp Taloali with all of these projects.”

Last year, he said, “we opened the camp for 9 months to wildfire survivors. Currently we are open year-round for rentals. When COVID restrictions loosened a bit last year, our open air pavilion and outdoor amenities drew and continues to attract small groups.”

Czarnik added that Camp Taloali is “hoping as more restrictions are no longer needed, we can return to hosting larger gatherings, festivals, concerts, cosplay events, fairs, etc.”

The camp also is offering special promotions for spring break (see https://www.taloali.org/ for more information).

Despite COVID and the wildfires the camp was able to hold its traditional Deaf and Hard of Hearing Camp Program last August for one week.

“This was especially valuable to our campers,” Johanson said, “since so many of them were socially and linguistically isolated through the COVID-19 school and community shutdowns.” The camp also hosted the Camp Taloali Wildfire Benefit to raise funds for the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund and Upward Bound Camp. This summer Camp Taloali will once again host the National Association of the Deaf’s five-week youth leadership program and the camp’s traditional two-week summer camp program for deaf and hard of hearing children and youth in August. 

Camp officials also are prepping the disc golf course for a national tournament in 2023.

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