Many Ways to Engage in Outdoor Recreation Opportunities
It’s no secret that Oregon’s public lands and open spaces are one of its biggest assets. Of the 26.4 million overnight visitors to Oregon last year, 33 percent participated in an outdoor recreation activity during their stay. This equates to nearly 9 million people, 67 percent higher than the national average.
While some towns such as Bend, Portland and Newport already benefit greatly from the outdoor industry, other communities lag behind. Numerous initiatives have surfaced in recent years to assist Oregon communities seeking to increase access to the outdoors for residents and visitors alike. If you’re a destination, business, organization or individual with a vision for growing outdoor recreation in your community, there’s perhaps never been a better time to make it happen. Here’s an overview of resources.
Oregon Office of Outdoor Recreation
Last year, the Oregon State Legislature passed House Bill 3350 establishing the Office of Outdoor Recreation housed within the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Oregon is one of eight states to set up an office focused solely on the outdoor recreation industry. The office coordinates the state’s outdoor recreation policy across agencies, between public and private sectors, and cooperates with organizations that have a vested interest in seeing Oregon’s outdoor recreation reach its fullest potential in every corner of the state. The office is led by Lewis and Clark graduate, Cailin O’Brien-Feeney. Its goals include:
- Improve access to outdoor recreation, whether through new trails or better facilities.
- Improve participation levels in outdoor recreation, especially in communities that don’t typically take part.
- Improve stewardship of resources, whether by moderating crowded areas, bolstering ecological quality or adapting to climate change.
- Help ensure that parks, campgrounds and other facilities don’t fall into disrepair.
In October 2017, Dave Lacey, destination coordinator for the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA), and Elizabeth Gronert, OCVA’s South Coast tourism development project coordinator, traveled to Corvallis to attend the inaugural Oregon Outdoors Summit. A follow-up summit is in the works for Spring 2019 (stay tuned for details).
Travel Oregon’s Outdoor Recreation Initiative
Precluding the creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, Travel Oregon had established its Outdoor Recreation Initiative, which supports the public and private sector in improving access to outdoor recreation while increasing the economic impact and sustainability of Oregon’s outdoor recreation economy.
Travel Oregon’s Outdoor Recreation Initiative supports communities by providing one-on-one support and leading workshops at Rural Tourism Studios. The next opportunity for Coastal residents to attend an Adventure Travel & Outdoor Recreation Studio is Nov. 13-14 in Cannon Beach. Businesses can also reach out to Stephen Hatfield, Travel Oregon outdoor recreation specialist, for assistance ([email protected]).
Travel Oregon Competitive Grants Program
This grant program awards eligible applicants for projects that contribute to the development and improvement of local communities throughout the state. During the last funding cycle, Coos County received a $100,000 grant from Travel Oregon and a $50,000 match from Travel Southern Oregon Coast to further develop “Whiskey Run,” a single-track mountain biking trail system along the South Coast that will stimulate the local economy by delivering an attractive, all-season outdoor recreation experience.
“People will go out of their way to ride a trail like Whiskey Run,” Lacey says. “For rural communities like Coos County, this investment from Travel Oregon will have lasting impacts.”
With the establishment of the Oregon Office of Outdoor Recreation, a new coalition of outdoor recreation businesses, conservation groups, recreation organizations has formed as a way to have a unified voice in Salem. As a longtime business owner in the outdoor recreation economy, Lacey joined Oregon Outdoors on behalf of his business, South Coast Tours.
“It’s encouraging to see so many people around the state taking a proactive approach to protect and increase access to parks, trails and waterways. Completion of the Oregon Coast Trail is just one example of a project gaining traction within the coalition.”
Adam Baylor, Stewardship and Advocacy Manager for the Portland-based Mazamas and member of Oregon Outdoors, led a listening session at this year’s Banana Belt Fat Tire Festival in Gold Beach to hear what outdoor policy issues were most important to people on the South Coast. It was one of four listening sessions held around the state.
“Going into the 2019 legislative session, we have three policy goals,” Baylor says. “It took a lot of coordination and negotiation, but for the first time, conservation groups, user groups and businesses have created a unified policy agenda.”
Photo courtesy of Travel Oregon