Inspiring Action: Case Studies

How can we inspire people to take action in their community?

Strategy Three: Inspire Action

How can we inspire people to take action in their community? On social media and email, we work hard to bring you stories about people using creative— and effective—strategies to win. And we aggressively pursue earned media—television and radio interviews, newspaper and magazine coverage, op-eds—to reach a broader audience and decision makers.

But our most important tactic, our bread-and-butter play, is providing opportunities for people to come together and be part of something bigger. This includes community events to connect with friends and neighbors like the annual Pete Seeger Sing-Along, Happy Hours for Habitat, and educational forums on the Hanford Nuclear Site cleanup, rising river temperatures, oil-by-rail, and other hot-button issues.

We encourage deeper involvement like participating in specific campaigns, engaging in leadership training, restoring habitat, or testing water quality. And, by donating money to Riverkeeper, our members are protecting the Columbia everyday. The following stories illustrate how Riverkeeper members are coming together on behalf of the Columbia. However you choose to engage, through your Riverkeeper membership, you are inspiring action.

Hit the pavement for clean water

Did you join Riverkeeper after talking to a canvasser? Riverkeeper’s professional canvass team builds our membership and has thousands of conversations about clean water each year. Importantly, our canvass team reaches new supporters who might not get involved otherwise. “We knock on doors rain or shine,” explains Canvass Director Alex Smith. “My favorite part of this job is providing opportunities for people to get involved in issues they care deeply about.” With one-on-one conversations, people are inspired to make a difference and connect with other community members who are passionate about climate change and clean water. 

Transform a former industrial area into an outdoor classroom

Conoce tu Columbia spring celebration at Kelley Point Park, Portland, OR, March 16, 2019, photo by Stan Hellman.
Conoce tu Columbia spring celebration at Kelley Point Park, Portland, OR, March 16, 2019, photo by Stan Hellman.

The Nichols Natural Area is a living laboratory in the middle of the bustling Hood River waterfront. Riverkeeper holds a conservation easement to restore nearly three acres of land where Nichols Boat Works operated a boatyard for more than 50 years. Our vision for the Nichols Natural Area is to engage, educate, and inspire the diverse communities of the Columbia River Gorge to turn this former industrial site into vibrant riverfront habitat. At Nichols, learning is not confined by classroom walls. Young students plant trees and inventory bugs. High school students sample water quality. All students learn how imagination and the power of community can transform our river.

Yesenia Castro and Ubaldo Hernandez, Conoce Tu Columbia recording, September 2018
Yesenia Castro and Ubaldo Hernandez, Conoce Tu Columbia recording, September 2018.

From targeted outreach to underrepresented communities, to bilingual events, to plans for interpretive signs in English and Spanish, Nichols Natural Area serves as a model for inclusion. “The value of outdoor science exploration lasts far beyond the day in the field,” explains Lorri Epstein, water quality director for Riverkeeper. “The teachers are thrilled that our program closely mirrors many of concepts they are covering in the classroom. And the kids can watch with pride as the Nichols Natural Area grows, knowing that they took part in the restoration.”

Connect and inspire on Conoce tu Columbia

Two years ago, Riverkeeper Community Organizer Ubaldo Hernández added an engagement tool: a bilingual radio show and podcast. Conoce tu Columbia features inspiring stories from the environmental and social justice movements along the Columbia River and shares the latest news on how to get involved. Conoce tu Columbia airs live every other Tuesday from 7 to 8 p.m. on Radio Tierra 95.1 FM Hood River. You can also find archived shows at

Test water quality, inspire river use

Carly Meyers, Water Quality Technician
Carly Meyers, Water Quality Technician.

An important part of Riverkeeper’s playbook is inspiring people to learn about and use the Columbia. And that starts with access to information. That’s why Riverkeeper staff and volunteers regularly test for E.coli bacteria at popular recreation sites along the Columbia River, then post the realtime data on Swim Guide, a website and app that makes it easy to find popular swimming beaches and check their current water quality. At a glance, users can see if their beach is safe for swimming and other recreation that day.

Clean water is a right. All people deserve the opportunity to enjoy the Columbia River— swimming, fishing, boating, enjoying its incredible beaches and islands—without fear of getting sick. Sadly, toxic pollution and high bacteria levels make some stretches of the Columbia unsafe. Yet state and federal agencies collect very little site-specific data to help users make an informed decision about where they can go to safely enjoy the river. By providing the information needed to make informed choices, Riverkeeper inspires people to use and enjoy their river.