Dedication of the Rich Guadagno Memorial Trail
Words from the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
Remarks by Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Secretary
of the Department of the Interior
Doug, thank you so much for that introduction. And thank you, your staff and your volunteers for working so hard to make this a very special event. Today is National Trails Day. I just drove down from Portland, where Governor Kulongoski and I celebrated the designation of the Willamette River Water Trail. These are just two of the 40 new National Recreation Trail designations that Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced on Wednesday.
This evening I am excited to designate the momentous 1000th National Recreation Trail and at the same time celebrate the life of a dedicated conservationist and American hero, Rich Guadagno.
Now in its 15th year, National Trails Day continues to inspire the public to flock to their favorite trails to discover, learn about and celebrate nature. Trails build community. Last year, nationally, volunteers spent more than 135,000 hours establishing, maintaining and cleaning-up nearly 1,700 miles of trail labor worth an estimated 2.5 million dollars.
Celebrating National Trails Day is an excellent way to connect with nature. Trails are life-enriching places, and hiking them is one of our best nature-based recreational activities. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is committed to connecting people to nature through his children and nature initiative.
More than 95 percent of the land in the Willamette Valley is privately owned. It is through trails, like the one we are designating here today, that we can connect people of all ages to their natural world.
This trail, like no other trail nominated this year, has a powerful national relationship because of its connection to Rich Guadagno. Rich is the former refuge manager of Baskett Slough and Ankeny National Wildlife Refuges here in the Willamette Valley.
Rich died on September 11, 2001, on United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Everyone who knew him believes he was among those who fought the hijackers and diverted the plane from its target in our nation's capital. His law enforcement badge was found in the wreckage. He was that kind of man: brave, honorable and committed to doing the right thing.
Today we are renaming this trail the Rich Guadagno Memorial Trail in his honor. This selection, I hope, will resonate with a wide audience, linking Americans with nature trails in their area.
One of the guiding principles of the National Wildlife Refuge System and one that Rich took literally is that we are stewards of this land. He was guided by Aldo Leopold's teachings that land is a community of life and that love and respect for the land is an extension of ethics. Rich's land ethic is evidenced all around us today. It is fitting we rename this trail in honor of one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's best natural resource managers and an American hero.
Rich had a tremendous intensity for accomplishing whatever he set his mind to. It was the focus and passion that drove him to make every refuge where he was stationed not only the best for wildlife but also a place where people could make a connection to nature.
You can see Rich's handiwork here today with the visitors' kiosk and overlook on route 22. You can see it in the 600 acres of restored wetlands. You can see it in the restoration of habitat for endangered species. You can see it at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge near Albany in the new public access areas with wildlife observation blinds and at the 1.75 mile boardwalk trail built by students in the Youth Conservation Corps. Lastly, you can see it in the newly named "Rich Guadagno Memorial Trail," which we are here to celebrate today.
Rich was an avid conservationist and his passion and intensity for life helped him to excel in everything he did. Rich was a photographer, glassware artist, rock climber, birder, musician and guitar craftsman. He wrote songs about the natural world he loved so much as you heard at the beginning of this ceremony.
Rich would be shy about this dedication today. But he would be honored, too, for he would know the greater purpose of this dedication would be to impassion people of all ages about wildlife and their natural world.
National Recreation Trails provide outstanding opportunities for people to observe and appreciate wildlife in a natural environment. The National Wildlife Refuge System places a high priority on providing facilities that promote on-the-ground experiences. The beauty of this trail behind me demonstrates that commitment.
This trail will provide the perfect opportunity for visitors to view the world's largest endangered Fender's blue butterfly population and their host plant, the Kincaid's lupine. It will put people in an historic landscape to learn about habitat conservation and restoration. Walking among the native oak savanna and upland prairie habitat you'll be able to hear the Ruby crowned kinglets, sparrows and juncos as they dance in the trees.
I hope that by walking along this trail, in this special place, people will come to care about their natural world. National Recreation Trails are the paths that connect people to nature.
As you walk along the trail this evening I hope you will understand Rich's passion to protect this beautiful piece of nature and his desire to share that passion with others.
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Updated July 6, 2012