Nonprofit Spotlight: Columbia Springs: Keeping people ‘hooked on nature’

For the first time, Columbia Springs has hired a development director, Dave Eitland

kids with binoculars
Courtesy of Columbia Springs

Columbia Springs serves 19,000 people each year from its wooded 100-acre site in East Vancouver, mainly through school field trips.

“It was fundamentally designed in the late 1990s to provide nature education for children and families,” said Executive Director Maureen Montague.

The nonprofit education and environmental center wears many hats though, not the least of which is that of the fiscal agent alongside Clark Public Utilities for the Vancouver Trout Hatchery on site that populates Klineline, Lacamas and Battle Ground lakes. In addition, the organization has launched Repair Clark County through a grant from the Department of Ecology. Now renewed for a second year, Repair has for the first time scheduled one of its free small appliance repair workshops onsite, bringing with it the potential for hundreds of new supporters who have never visited the location before.

“Repair Clark County teaches people about the impact of garbage … and economic justice,” said Montague. “It’s a broader look at our mission.”

For the first time, Columbia Springs has hired a development director, Dave Eitland, with a three-year grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Eitland’s number one goal is to increase individual households giving to 500, which the organization is doing through outreach to their neighbors in the form of newsletters, house parties and other events that are focused in the neighborhood.

Another goal is to increase corporate sponsorship by reaching out to companies that support children’s education and the environment.

Columbia Springs has a special relationship with Hewlett Packard, who has sent a team out twice in the last year to lend tools, materials, in-kind labor and engineering minds to onsite projects developed by Columbia Springs’ property committee. Particularly poignant, one of the teams rebuilt a boardwalk over the macroinvertebrate learning station, after working with a designer to redesign it. For the first time, a child in a wheelchair was able to fully participate in that exhibit and its learning activities.

Columbia Springs has benefited from exceptional support from Heidi Johnson Bixby and her company Johnson Bixby over the years. Most recently the downtown financial planning and tax firm stepped up its support to become a presenting sponsor for Hooked on Nature and also procured KINK FM 102 radio personality and environmental activist Peggy La Pointe to emcee the event.

The 501(c)3 nonprofit organization is also working with the Port of Vancouver USA and beginning to pursue relationships with businesses at the Port, chiefly those whose missions include the environment. They have maintained the support of Tidewater Transportation and Terminals, and recently another Port tenant, NuStar Energy, bought a table at Hooked on Nature, Columbia Springs’ annual gala and fundraiser.

Columbia Springs is one of the nonprofits participating in this year’s Give More 24! event. Visit

Hooked on Nature

Dinner, auction and fundraiser featuring a local celebrity chef salmon cook-off.

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.

WHERE: Warehouse ‘23, 100 Columbia St., #102 in Vancouver.

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