By Mikala Soroka, Assistant Trails & Restoration Manager for the Forest Park Conservancy
As of this time next week Tuomas Uola, our favorite Finnish field crew member and stewardship coordinator, will no longer be working with Forest Park Conservancy. Tuomas came to FPC from Finland through an environmental exchange program called Experience International. Since March of this year, Tuomas has been working hard maintaining trails, restoring habitat, leading educational hikes, and managing volunteer work parties in Forest Park. Now that Tuomas has finished his internship, he is headed back home to Finland. All who had the privilege of knowing and working with Tuomas will surely miss him here in Portland. Read on for a brief interview with this fun-loving Finn.
1. So, you’re from Finland. What did you do there?
I am from Finland. I’ve lived there for 25 out of my 28 years and I was mostly doing things Finns do, you know, riding reindeers, watching hockey and sitting in a sauna. Before I came to Portland, though, I worked at Syöte National Park as a nature guide. I really loved that job. In a way I felt bad leaving but I just needed to do something else for a change.
2. How did you score a job with Forest Park Conservancy?
I was very lucky, mostly. I applied to a program through Experience International based in Everson, WA. Their job is to help students or recent graduates to get international work and cultural experiences throughout the world. It was a very dark February evening in 2009 when I decided I needed to fly as far away from Finland as possible (I mean that in the most positive way) and to try to work for some greater cause than myself. I was accepted into the program, and my application was sent throughout the US West Coast in the summer of 2009. I had a preference to work in Oregon but I really didn’t know who would find me interesting enough. It took months and months of waiting. I didn’t really know what was going to happen until December 21st. The same day I received my MSc certificate in the mail, I also received an email from EI that Forest Park Conservancy would like to set up an interview. A few weeks later in a small log cabin up north, I spoke to Stephen Hatfield (FPC’s Stewardship Director) via Skype. Then two months and a pile of paperwork later, I was standing on a little muddy trail surrounded by tall and wide conifers, mosses and lichen hanging from different branches, little birds I had never seen or heard before, and tiny flowers already sticking out from the ground. I was mesmerized. I took a deep breath of that morning misty air and thought: “Yeah, I can work here.”
3. What are some of your fondest memories working in Forest Park?
Every volunteer event has been great. It’s incredible for me how dedicated some of our volunteers are. Every week they show up and work for this park they love. I’ve really felt I’ve been part of something greater. Also working with Mikala, Matt and “the Jeff” as well as other FPC and PP&R employees has been nothing but fun. It’s amazing to be around smart dedicated people who work their butts off for the park. Also, every day in Forest Park has been different and hugging some of those old and fat Douglas-firs and redcedars was a dream come true.
Click here to read the entire interview.