The Future of the Oregon Coast Trail Foundation: One trail, Many Communities

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The Oregon Coast Trail trail system runs the length of Oregon’s 363-mile coastline, arguably the most scenic in the United States. Well-suited to both day hikers and thru-hikers alike, this is a trail unlike any other. It connects dramatic coastal headlands and picturesque beaches, but most importantly, it connects our Oregon Coast communities. 

The vision for the Oregon Coast Trail as a continuous walking path along the entire Oregon Coast has been a longstanding initiative involving several organizations, including the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA). 

Five years ago, OCVA sponsored the creation of the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) Foundation to support the future development of the trail, ensuring that there is a single touchpoint for fundraising efforts given the many organizations, cities, counties, and port properties that are involved in the trail. Until now, OCVA Executive Director Marcus Hinz has served as the foundation’s Volunteer Executive Director. Now, as the project enters its next phase, OCVA is excited to hand over the reins to the OCT Foundation. 

This transition includes the publishing of the Oregon Coast Trail Action Plan, a multi-agency collaboration funded by a Federal Land Access Program (FLAP) grant. The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the trail’s conditions, proposes solutions for gaps, suggests facility and wayfinding improvements, and includes a funding toolkit with implementation actions. 

The Oregon Coast Trail Action Plan is the culmination of over three years of work between Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Association of Oregon Counties, Oregon Solutions, and FHWA Western Federal Lands. It was guided by the insight of staff from Oregon Department of Transportation, Department of Land Conservation and Development, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Tribal governments, coastal cities and counties, Oregon Coast Visitors Association, private businesses, and most importantly many dedicated recreation users and advocates who know these trails inside and out. It was developed by Parametrix.

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The OCT Foundation is also excited to share the OCT Foundation Fund Development Work Plan. This document outlines the vision for the future of the OCT, the role of the OCT Foundation’s fundraising needs and timelines, and methods for recognizing sponsors and donors. This process was led by Diana Smiley, who helped find and understand the perspectives of community leaders interested in this work. Their feedback on how the foundation could best serve coastal communities has been instrumental in shaping the development plan and sheds light on how the foundation might achieve its vision of one trail, many communities. 

Stakeholders feel the trail has incredible potential to both increase the tourism economy and become a pillar of local communities. “As portions of the trail become safer and more accessible, local communities can take ownership of their piece of the trail – connecting it to other outdoor recreation areas, utilizing it for community events, and relating back to the local history or geography of the trail,” says Smiley.

For example, a portion of the OCT running through Yachats has been designated as the Amanda Trail, dedicated to the memory of Amanda, a blind Coos woman who suffered injustices during the reservation years in the 1860s. Now, it’s also part of an annual event called the New Year’s Peace Walk – a community gathering that honors her story and brings in the new year in a sacred ceremony led by tribal leaders. 

There are many more stories like this one to be told that involve the trails locally, and the work of the Oregon Coast Trail Foundation can help give communities a voice to make the trail their own. 

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What’s Next? 

Pre-transition, the OCT Foundation’s immediate focus is on creating a “Case For Support” to secure funding for capacity building and staffing. In alignment with the Action Plan, the Foundation aims to address gaps, improve and maintain the physical aspects and infrastructure of the Oregon Coast Trail, and prioritize the local community benefits the trail can offer. 

OCVA also looks forward to being a closely involved ongoing partner of the foundation. The OCT project spans cities, counties, and port properties, all of which fall under different management. As the Regional Destination Management Organization for the Oregon Coast, OCVA is uniquely positioned to facilitate collaboration and give a voice to cities and counties throughout the process. 

In the future, the OCT Foundation will look at gaps in the trail, identify funding, and prioritize development. To guide these decision processes, they will work with OCVA to engage our coastal communities (local businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and citizens) through envisioning exercises. These conversations will ensure that communities have a say in how they connect to the trail, with considerations for physical infrastructure, marketing, and cultural representation.

The OCT is meant to be a backbone that other trails can connect with, and ultimately, a trail that connects the coast. The Oregon Coast Visitors Association is the perfect convener to make this a reality since our work spans the coast and our mission is to inspire travel and strengthen collaboration to create and steward a sustainable coastal economy. “We saw a big picture problem and created the big picture solution that establishes a support system for all communities along the Oregon coast,” says Hinz.

As OCVA hands off management of the OCT Foundation, and they prepare for their next phase of funding and staffing, we look forward to the future of our partnership, and for the future of a trail that connects all of our coastal communities. 

Special thanks go to key contributors, including Greg Wolf, Diana Smiley, Marcus Hinz, Aron Bosworth, Dan Haag, Chrissy Smith, and former OCT Foundation Board President Connie Soper for their roles in this phase of the OCT Foundation’s development. If you or someone you know are interested in being involved with the OCT Foundation, whether as a staff or board member, you can find out more about the opportunity here

Oregon Coast Visitors Association

The Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA) is the official Regional Destination Management Organization for the entire Oregon Coast as designated by the Oregon Tourism Commission (dba Travel Oregon). OCVA inspires travel and strengthens collaboration to create and steward a sustainable coastal economy.

OCVA has the honor of working with coastal communities to align partnerships, destination development projects, and destination marketing with the vision of creating “a coastal utopia for all.” This includes coastal stakeholders, new and returning visitors, and the natural resources that make these coveted experiences so magical.