Ekone Ranch Caught in Student Films, Showing Highlights Improvements

The Ekone Ranch Bunk House is just one of the many amenities that are in need of an upgrade as the activities at the ranch grow. (Submitted photo)

In partnership with Wildwood Academy and Story Gorge, student films about Ekone Ranch in Goldendale will be shared with the community at The Ruins in Hood River on Jan 26.

After 33 years of summer camps, field trips, and other programs that have inspired thousands of children and adults through the ideas of place-based education, inclusive community, meaningful work, and horses, Ekone Ranch needs major facilities improvements to continue serving the generations to come.

Ekone Ranch is an 1138-acre land trust held by Sacred Earth Foundation (SEF) a 501c3 established in 1986 with a mission, “to activate children and adults to love the earth deeply and wisely, through stewardship of the Rock Creek watershed, authentic community experience, and place-based education.”

The ranch is located 15 miles east of Goldendale near the Rock Creek Canyon and offers a multitude of activities that locals and visitors to the Gorge have enjoyed over the last 30 years.

There is also White Eagle Memorial Preserve, which is one of just nine Conservation Burial Grounds in the nation. Offering a simple, natural way to return our bodies to the earth on wild land.

The ranch also offers field trips, workshops, retreats, community celebrations and service opportunities for children, adults, and families, building community and connection to self and place.

It is also a part of the Conservation of the Rock Creek watershed, the most important waterway in eastern Klickitat County, an expanse of oak/pine forest, meadows, ponds, and canyonlands.

“We bring over 1000 people to Klickitat County each year, for summer camps, field trips, and other programs, as well as our green cemetery. Our big current initiative is a significant redevelopment of our facilities, to bring them up to current codes and ensure that they are safe and durable long into the future. We’re requesting $930,000 from the Washington State Capital Budget this year to support this work and will invest $2.5 million before all is said and done. Not a small project,” said Shonie Schlotzhauer, Executive Director for Ekone Ranch.

Ekone is at a crossroads, having outgrown its spaces for both campers and the folks that live on the ranch full time. Ekone’s buildings are aging and must be renovated to meet modern codes and standards, in order to continue to operate.

“The ranch has a long history, and we intend that it will have a long future,” said Schlotzhauer.

SEF has developed a comprehensive update of the entire Ekone Ranch campus to accommodate current programs plus 20 percent of future growth in camps, retreats, stewardship activity, and natural burial services. The end result being an inspiring, practical, ecologically appropriate facility; a place to cultivate community and stewardship for many generations.

SEF has mapped out a careful five-year planning process which includes the following:

• Renovations of existing buildings such as the Lodge, Bunkhouse, Shop, and Cabin.

• New builds, such as a new camp kitchen/dining/gathering facility, ADA-accessible bathhouse, a dedicated septic system, and new employee housing.

• Improvements to roads and grounds such as improving emergency vehicle accessibility and overall function and flow throughout the grounds.

• Capacity Building: Investing in the staff and organizational capacity to succeed in this work, ensuring that the organization is truly strong and stable upon completion.

“We are well into Phase 1 of the projects, with road work complete, a new bunkhouse entering construction in Spring 2019, and over $850,000 secured for this work to date,” said Shonie.

As part of their first-ever overnight field trip as an alternative school, the Wildwood Academy middle school students spent three days at Ekone Ranch in September. The students were immersed in ranch life, from riding in the truck to collect firewood, having grand adventures in the woods, honing their dishwashing skills, and deepening their overall sense of community.

When students and teachers learned about Ekone’s capital improvement campaign, called Saddle Up!, and with Story Gorge, newly located at The Ruins with Wildwood Academy, the inspiration for a film project was born.

Students will share their films with families and community members on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. at The Ruins in Hood River. All are invited to come celebrate the students’ accomplishments and enjoy an evening of live music by Ryan Kolberg & Kerry Williams.

T12here is no admission fee.

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