Recreating outdoors in Central Oregon is a part of our way of life. No matter who you are, what you look like, who you love or what you believe, there are trails, rivers and forests that belong to you. Isn't it amazing that we all have the opportunity to enjoy so much natural beauty?
I think so, and I think most people would agree. But do you still feel this way when the campers next to you play music that you hate? When people use your favorite secret beach as an Instagram backdrop? When a toddler is loudly splashing next to your fishing spot? Do you find yourself wishing that people acted more like you?
If we want to make Central Oregon a better place to live, we need to make space for all people to be themselves in our outdoor spaces. When we "other" those who don't recreate like we do, we deepen the racial, socioeconomic and political divides that prevent our region from thriving. We also alienate people from the lands we so desperately need them to care for and support.
Unless an activity is illegal, unsafe or damaging, there is no wrong way to recreate.
Next time you bristle over someone talking on their phone on the trail or revving their engines on forest roads...take a deep breath and remember that these places really are for all of us. If you have to work a bit harder to find places where you can recreate your way, it's a small price to pay for the long-term future of our community and our lands.
—Rika Ayotte is the new executive director of the Deschutes Land Trust and chair of the Deschutes Trails Coalition. In her free time, you can find her camping and hiking with her husband, dog and energetic toddler.