BANDON ─ Since its inception in 2012, the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance has been supporting the South Coast’s environment and conservation needs.
During the pandemic, this grant-making department of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort expanded its support to help surrounding communities through worsening economic stress.
“We have a generous ownership and there was a desire to help,” said Marie Simonds, executive director at Wild Rivers Coast Alliance. “While we haven’t done much in the way of social service grants, we turned our attention to those organizations on the South Coast providing immediate need.”
There were 28 organizations that received COVID grants throughout Coos and Curry counties, including United Way of Southwestern Oregon, local food banks, and the Nancy Devereux Center which helps homeless individuals access services to get them back on their feet.
Though 2020 was the first time Wild Rivers Coast Alliance has made these types of grants, it has always sought to help the surrounding community. When it was founded in 2012, its grants focused on what Simonds calls the “triple bottom line” or projects that are good for local ecology.
“We’ve done grants for organizations like Washed Ashore, Wild Rivers Land Trust, a number of grants to watershed councils doing projects for river restoration and bringing back salmon species,” she said.
Traditionally, this branch of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has promoted “healthy fish and species habitats, working landscapes and seascapes, sustainable tourism, and resilient communities, businesses and nonprofits,” said Michael Chupka, director of communications at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
In addition to releasing grants, the department has focused on projects to uplift the area. Simonds said that one of the ongoing projects is the development of the Whiskey Run mountain bike trails, a fishing pier for the Port of Bandon, and child care expansion. One of the promising projects, she said, is also the development of a wildfire training center in Gold Beach.
“There’s been a couple large fires on the coast and a number in the valley,” Simonds said. “Partnering with the City of Gold Beach and the local fire chief … there’s an idea if you build a Fire and Emergency Training Center you can train a lot of the volunteer fire department.”
As it stands, she said, it's difficult for those volunteers to get training in the valley or the east side of the state. But to have a local training center would provide more opportunities. Right now, there is “some initial granting exploratory work to scope out that project and see how it could be viable for Gold Beach in the future,” Simonds said.
According to Chupka, since 2012, the department has granted over $4.5 million to local organizations and “seeks opportunities to utilize the generosity of Bandon Dunes and the Keiser Family to forge partnerships and assist in securing greater resources for South Coast organizations to reach their goals.”
Now in 2021, Simonds said that the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance is embarking on both its original focus in supporting the community’s environment and conservation needs, as well as its social service needs such as food insecurity.
Jillian Farmer is a freelance writer who lives in Coos Bay.