Tillamook Bay Heritage Route Concept Gains Traction
Discussions are underway in Tillamook County about creating a curated experience that would help visitors and locals learn about Tillamook Bay’s rich cultural heritage. This experience, dubbed the Tillamook Bay Heritage Route, is already bringing community members together and raising awareness about the community’s passion for preserving and protecting the area’s valuable cultural resources.
“We’ve learned through the Oregon Visitor Report: 2017, Longwoods International Longwoods Visitor Profile Study that visitors are seeking more cultural heritage experiences,” says Marcus Hinz, executive director of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA). “And lucky for us, heritage is everywhere.”
Whether you’re buying fresh seafood from a local fisherman, walking a trail dotted with new and old-growth trees, or picnicking at a local park named after a historical figure, you’re experiencing Oregon’s cultural heritage firsthand.
The Tillamook Bay Heritage Route concept connects five communities and five rivers. It overlaps the Tillamook Bay Water Trail, 250 miles of navigable waterways on Oregon’s North Coast; the Oregon Coast Trail, a 382-mile hiking trail crossing sandy beaches, forests and headlands; and the Salmonberry Trail, an ambitious effort to plan, develop and maintain a multi-use trail within an 86-mile rail corridor currently owned by Port of Tillamook Bay running from Banks to the Tillamook Airport through the canyon of the Salmonberry River and the Tillamook State Forest.
The heritage route would help outdoor enthusiasts learn about the area’s rich history by pointing out historic landmarks, museums and other points of interest along the way. “The goal of the heritage route is pretty simple, really — to help people understand how history has shaped this place,” says Kristen Penner, a founding board member of the Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative, a non-profit 501c3 organization formed to preserve and rehabilitate the retired U.S. Life Saving Station at Pier’s End. “The heritage route would help people connect the dots between many of the area’s fascinating attractions.”
Partnering with the Outdoor Project, OCVA helped produce and publish a draftmap and guide of the proposed route, which many businesses and organizations in the area are already promoting. The map includes 12 heritage sites around the bay, including the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, the Cape Meares Lighthouse and the Guard Station at Pier’s End. Completed in 1936, Pier’s End was part of a network of life-saving shelters set up to respond to ships in distress. It was one of the last of its kind to be commissioned and is the last of its kind remaining on the Pacific Coast. “We realize that our efforts to preserve the station could gain more traction if we are part of a larger, coordinated effort to increase cultural heritage tourism in the region,” she says.
The Outdoor Project’s unpromoted article has been viewed more than 1,000 times since it was published in September 2017. “We know there is demand for cultural heritage opportunities. Now we just need to figure out how to create the experience people want,” Hinz says.
That was one of the main goals of a series of listening sessions with Tillamook Bay landowners hosted by OCVA and the Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative this September. Landowners discussed some of the opportunities and barriers associated with establishing more recreational assets such as bike pods and non-motorized boat launches campsites, as well as restrooms, restaurants and other amenities that visitors seek.
The timing of the listening sessions couldn’t have been better, as the North Coast Tourism Studio will be diving into cultural heritage tourism opportunities at an all-day workshop in Tillamook on Dec. 4. The workshop is $10 and open to the public. Sign up here to register and receive notifications.
Photo of the Garibaldi pier courtesy of Visit Tillamook Coast