Spring 1991 // Volume 29 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW1

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The Columbia/Willamette Waterways Program helps youth broaden their horizons and promotes a partnership between industry ad Cooperative Extension.

Betty Morrison
4-H Agent
Multnomah County, Oregon

Carol DeHaas
4-H Agent
Clark County, Washington

Imagine discovering a river that's a gateway to international trade, a source of jobs, and a recreational treasure flowing through your city. That's what a group of older youth in Multnomah County, Oregon, and Clark County, Washington, discovered.

The Columbia/Willamette Waterways Program helps youth broaden their horizons and promotes a partnership between industry and Cooperative Extension. This was accomplished by:

  1. Focusing on a local resource many take for granted.

  2. Combining Extension interdisciplinary programs with private industry.

  3. Including issues such as water quality, pollution, and natural resources that are of international concern.

  4. Giving older youth, including minority and at-risk young people, a positive experience as well as an awareness of their community and how it relates to the world.

During the two-day event, Vancouver and Portland youth toured Christensen Yacht Corporation and Tidewater Barge Lines in Vancouver, the Toyota Import Center at the Port of Portland, the U.S. Coast Guard base on Swan Island, and the Willamette Falls lock and fish ladder at Oregon City. The activities were selected to emphasize the regional economy, career opportunities, recreation, and international aspects of trade and transportation in our area.

At the Christensen Yacht Corporation, participants got a look at how luxury yachts are built and they were able to walk through a partially completed yacht. At the Toyota Import Center, they saw where cars imported from Japan are unloaded and shipped to 19 states. They also saw how truck beds and air conditioners are installed on the newly imported vehicles.

At the Coast Guard base, the youth saw a film about the functions of the Coast Guard, toured the base, and had a cruise aboard one of the Coast Guard vessels. At Willamette Falls, they saw how navigation locks operate. They also visited the fish ladder and fish observation window to see how fish are counted as they migrate upstream to spawn. At Tidewater, they were able to see several different tugs and barges and learned how they're used to ship products up and down the river. The program ended with an afternoon picnic and windsurfing lessons at Vancouver Lake.

The program was educational and innovative:

  1. It offered a unique experience for youth.
  2. It used a multidisciplinary team across program areas and state lines that merged the expertise of all involved.

The program, offered in 1988 and 1989, came about because of the collaborative efforts of 4-H Extension agents, Sea Grant Extension agents, and the Toyota Corporation, which underwrote the program during each of the two years. About 150 young people participated. Personal observation indicates that this program is particularly adaptable for offering to nontraditional groups.