Marge Woodfin, Pilot staff writer

Briana Goodwin, an AmeriCorps volunteer who has been working with Ocean Resources in the City of Port Orford, captured the grand prize in the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department State Park Photo Contest with her photos of a sunset on the Port Orford beach.

The young woman, who grew up in Belleville, Ill., joined the AmeriCorps program following her graduation from Knox College in Central, Ill.

She applied for a post with the Port Orford Ocean Resource program and headed west. andbdquo;

I've fallen in love with the Northwest," she said. "And, I'm definitely not going back to the Midwest."

Goodwin was taken by surprise when her photos took the top award in the photo contest that she entered just on a whim.

She said she has always taken a lot of photos with her Olympus Stylus camera, but only for fun. "I don't think I've ever entered a contest before," she said.

Goodwin, who arrived in Port Orford in October, applied for the AmeriCorps position with the city after doing a bit of Internet research about the area

In her AmeriCorps position, Goodwin said she has been having a wonderful time, helping with the Second Annual Port Orford Water Festival, and working with the Port Orford Resource Team on the city's storm water ordinance amendments to better protect the water system.

In fact, she said she is enjoying her work on the Pacific Coast so much that, when her current contract ends, she plans to apply for another year's contract. Her long-term plans include pursuing a graduate degree but she hasn't yet decided on a major and expects her work with the city to help her make a decision. One thing she said she knows for sure is that the university she chooses for her post-graduate work will be in the Northwest.

According to a news release from OPRD, Goodwin's photograph of a sunset reflected on a Port Orford beach with Port Orford Heads in the background, received the most votes in a public judging earlier this month, and her photo of a tide pool scene on a Port Orford area beach also was among the top 12 vote-getters from a selection posted on for public viewing.

Her prize-winning photo and the other top 11 photos will appear in a Go Click! Exhibit during the 2009 Oregon State Fair, Aug. 28 to Sept. 7, in Cascades Hall. Her Port Orford sunset photo will appear on the cover of a 2011 Oregon State Parks calendar.

Goodwin will receive a 14-day state park free camping package for her grand prize-winning effort.

Goodwin said that she receives a small stipend and graduate studies credit for her AmeriCorps service.

As for the future, Goodwin said, "I always take a camera with me everywhere, but I don't have any plans about being a professional photographer."

About the AmeriCorps program, she said, "It's very exciting and will be influential on both my personal and professional growth."