If all goes accordingly, Coos Bay might soon join the rankings of Oregon’s top mountain bike flow trails, joining Sandy Ridge on Mt. Hood, Tyler’s Traverse in Bend and Alsea near Eugene. With support from numerous organizations, including Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, Oregon Coast Visitors Association and the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Coos County is constructing 30 miles of new mountain biking trails designed for cyclists of all ages and abilities.

“The trails will also be welcome to hikers and trail runners, and will include learning features for beginner mountain bikers,” says Dave Lacey, destination coordinator for OCVA. The new trails in Coos Bay will complement existing trails, such as the 382-mile Oregon Coast Trail, which is increasingly attracting visitors from all over the world. We are addressing a dangerous section of the OCT around Humbug mountain this summer with a $171,000 Regional Solutions grant that will re-route hikers off the 101 onto brand new trail.  The Lower Rogue River Trail is also receiving a major rehabilitation effort being lead by the Forest Service and the local International Mountain Bicycling Chapter in Curry County.

Non-motorized trail users in Oregon account for 162.3 million user days per year, and the vast majority of these days are spent walking or hiking, according to a 2015 study conducted by Oregon State University for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. These recreation days account for substantial expenditures in the surrounding communities. The amount spent per person per day and the total economic impact vary greatly within the state, a data point that planners in Coos and Curry County want to see grow. According to that study, trail users in Region 5 (which includes the entire Southern Oregon Coast), spend $66 million/year. Yet in other parts of the state, such as Region 2 (which includes Mt Hood and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area), trail users spent $927 million/year.

Seeing the economic impact that mountain biking trails have had in places like Mt Hood and Oakridge, the Southern Oregon Coast is investing $300,000 in a new, well-designed trail system that’s expected to generate more than $1 million/year for the local economy.

“Hopefully, we can show that both timber harvest and recreation within the same forest can provide economic benefits,” Lacey says.

The trail system being constructed within 12,000 acres of timberland at the Beaver Hill/Seven Devils unit Plan is expected to officially open in Fall 2017.

Lacey and his colleague Brian Kraynik are also working to make another dream come true—a 41-mile water trail that would go from the Hoffman Myrtle Grove near Myrtle Point down to the mouth of the Coquille river at Bandon. Known as the proposed Coquille River Water Trail, the trail would attract kayakers, standup paddleboarders and historic tour boats. Along the way, people could go bass fishing, view  wildlife, ride surf waves, learn about the area’s history, and camp at primitive campsites. To become an official water trail, it requires an Oregon State Park Designation, which could take up to two years, according to Lacey.

Lacey and Kraynik are working with the National Parks Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program to develop a management plan for the Coquille River Water Trail. Such a plan includes boat landings, additional services, shuttling, camping, day-use sites, website development and more. They are also coordinating fundraising efforts, and garnering support from the community by showing the economic value of investing in a world-class water trail. They shared their progress this winter during Travel Oregon’s Rural Tourism Studio in the Southern Oregon Coast. The robust training program is designed to assist rural communities in sustainable tourism development.

“This kind of product — world-class, unique outdoor recreation opportunities — is something people are searching for,” says Lacey, who is also the owner of South Coast Tours.