Sense of Place 2020

The Jan. 15 Sense of Place lecture sheds light on the Finnish history of the Gorge as told by Maija Annala Yasui. (Submitted photo)

After nearly 20 years of existence, the board of the Columbia Gorge Earth Center doing business as Gorge Owned (GO!), voted to dissolve the organization in early 2020.

The popular Sense of Place lecture series, now in its 10th year, will continue as planned, with monthly lectures taking place January to April at the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River.

 Founded in 2000 and established as a 501c3 in 2003, the Earth Center/Gorge Owned is a community-building organization working to boost social, economic and environmental resilience throughout the Gorge.

In its early days, it was known for organizing an annual Earth Day celebration and Green Home Tour and establishing the Gorge ReBuild-It Center, which in 2009 spurred off to become an independent nonprofit. The Earth Center rebranded as Gorge Owned in 2013, which is how it’s known today. 

The Earth Center/Gorge Owned pioneered long-standing community- and economic-development programs such as the Sense of Place Lecture Series, Gorge Green Drinks and GO! Local, a buy local campaign, as well as environmental programs such as Weatherize Oregon Now, GO! Solar and the Gorge Green Home Tour.

For the past nine years, the Earth Center/Gorge Owned recognized local environmental leaders—students, individuals and businesses—with the annual Tod J. LeFevre Sustainability Champion Awards.

In addition to these long-standing programs, The Earth Center/Gorge Owned organized dozens of stand-alone events, ranging from author readings, film screenings, book discussion groups, a sustainable business conference, bike-to-work and school events, and most recently, Bridging the Gorge facilitated community discussions.

While these programs have been largely successful, changes in leadership and staffing, difficulty recruiting new volunteers, and a growing landscape of similarly-focused Gorge-based nonprofits and programs led the current board to decide to close its doors in the New Year, according to board president, Becky Brun.

“We came to this decision after a great deal of thought and discussions with both current and former board members and employees,” says Brun, who has been a volunteer, employee and board member of Gorge Owned since 2009. “While this was a hard decision, the board of Gorge Owned feels that the communities of the Gorge are very well-supported by existing nonprofits.”

 Gorge Owned is happy to announce that the very popular Sense of Place lecture series will continue into the future, with Mt. Adams Institute staged to host the program in 2020-21. Based in Trout Lake, Mt. Adams Institute has a mission to strengthen the connection between people and the natural world through education, service learning, career development and research.

“Mt. Adams Institute is a perfect home for Sense of Place,” Brun says. “On behalf of the entire board, we very much thank the many individuals, businesses and organizations who have invested their time, talents and financial resources in the organization over the years, especially former employees. Thanks to all of you, the many seeds we have sown together will far outlive our organization, and that’s something for which we can all be proud.”

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