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Polish delegation enthralled by walk through Tongass

Six visitors and one Forest Service employee pause with Ward Lake and mountains of Tongass National Forest behind them. The visitors are wearing hiking shoes or boots and winter coats. The employee is in uniform and hiking boots. Bright blue sky is above them and is filled with fluffy white clouds.
Paul Robbins Jr. and members of the Polish delegation stopped during a walking tour of Tongass National Forest's Ward Lake in Ketchikan, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Open World program.

ALASKA—Members of a Polish delegation traveling with the Open World program, part of the One World Leadership Center in Washington, D.C., recently visited Ketchikan, Alaska.

The program focuses on creating long-lasting professional partnerships between emerging leaders from Open World countries and Americans who are dedicated to showing American ideals and democratic institutions.

A stroll around Ward Lake was included as part of the early spring tour of the city in southeast Alaska. The lake is in the Tongass National Forest and visitors tend to stop there to enjoy the unmatched scenery. Paul Robbins Jr., who serves as the public affairs staff officer for the forest, led the tour.

"Like most visitors to the Tongass, many of their questions concerned wildlife, especially bears," said Robbins Jr., who has worked on the Tongass for six years. “But because of their professional backgrounds and program affiliation, they were interested in organizational information as well, like our funding and regulations.”

The normally short trail trip of 30 minutes took the party of seven people nearly twice as long to finish because they often stopped to take photographs of the scenery and ask questions about the national forest.

The Ward Lake tour was one of the last things that the delegation did during its trip. Other itinerary activities included meeting with staff members from the office of Representative Mary Peltola, the local police department and the juvenile court. The group also met with representatives from local support services and other organizations.

The robust tour was planned and guided by former Rotary District Governor of Alaska Michelle O’Brien, on behalf of the Rotary Club of Ketchikan.
According to Agnieszka Pugacewicz, who serves as a facilitator for the Open World group, "For the whole group, the experience in Ketchikan was both professionally exceptional and socially interesting."

Open World is a U.S. exchange program for post-Soviet countries. It has enabled more than 29,000 current and future leaders to meaningfully engage and interact with members of Congress, congressional staff and thousands of other Americans. To learn more, visit the program's website.