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Travel Oregon mulls need for statewide trails advocacy organization

Travel Oregon mulls need for statewide trails advocacy organization

Portland to Stub Stewart family camping trip-30.jpg

The Banks-Vernonia trail is one of Oregon’s riding gems. Would we have more trails like it with a new advocacy approach?
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Community advocates and government agency staffers throughout Oregon are working hard to develop world-class trails. But is that work failing to reach its potential without a statewide trails advocacy organization?

Stephanie Noll is researching an important question for bike tourism in Oregon.

Stephanie Noll is researching an important question for bike tourism in Oregon.

Trail projects — many of them spurred by a demand for bicycle use — are being dreamed up, funded, and built all over Oregon right now. There’s tremendous momentum for all forms of cycling — from singletrack dirt trail riding that’s become popular at Sandy Ridge to rail-to-trail riding on paved paths like the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. Trails are the backbone of Oregon’s bike tourism engine that pumps $400 million a year into the state economy.

Despite all the projects and people that make up Oregon’s outdoor trail ecosystem, there’s no statewide group that can present a united front for lobbying, promotion, fundraising, and so on.

This problem has been identified by Travel Oregon and they’ve hired a consultant to look into it. At a meeting of their Bicycle Tourism Partnership meeting in Bend today, Stephanie Noll (former deputy director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, now a private consultant) shared insights from her ongoing research into the topic.

Noll has conducted 20 interviews with trails experts throughout Oregon where she posed the following question:

What hurdles does Oregon face in building and maintaining a world class network of trails, and how could we work together to address those hurdles?

The number one response was the need for a coordinated effort to get more funding (big surprise!). The other top feedback was a need to convene existing trail groups to learn from each other and creating a cohesive vision for a statewide trail network.

Noll also shared examples from Washington, where a much more evolved approach to trail advocacy exists.

Washington Trails Association website.

Washington Trails Association website.

The Washington Trails Association was started 50 years ago, has 33 full-time staffers and 13,000 members (whose donations provide most of the funding). On the biking side of things, Washington’s Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance has 25 staffers and chapters all over the state. There’s also the Washington State Trails Coalition that convenes a wide variety of groups including ATV users, boaters, and equestrian advocates. It’s an enviable ecosystem that feeds off the state’s dedicated Recreation & Conservation Office — Washington’s governmental arm that does the heavy-lifting of getting federal grants, among other things.

With this advocacy ecosystem, Washington seems far ahead of Oregon when it comes to trail planning and development. It could also be one explanation for the fact that Washington has 110 officially designated rail-trails and Oregon has only 20.

Oregon has a lot to be proud of when it comes to bike trail advocacy. Travel Oregon has been a stalwart supporter of the trails for over a decade as the founder of the Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership (which first met in 2004), creator of the Oregon Scenic Bikeways program, funder of the website, and much more. But they’re a government entity beholden to many other (non-bike-related) priorities.

If Oregon wants to become the premiere state for cycling on off-highway trails, it might be time for a new entity to help tie all the existing threads together and weave a more beautiful tapestry of riding opportunities.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Bikes and trains: Free meetup at the Green Dragon tonight

Bikes and trains: Free meetup at the Green Dragon tonight

Bikes on Amtrak

More Amtrak lines are allowing this.
(Photo: Will Vanlue)

They’re the smallest and the biggest vehicles many people use during their lives, and they keep becoming a better travel pair.

A free event Wednesday evening will bring a rail-riding college student to Portland to talk about various aspects of bicycle-and-train travel.

The latest major improvement on this front in the United States is Amtrak’s expanded roll-on bike service, a 2013 shift by the national passenger rail company that came after years of advocacy from people who saw the potential.

Eleven Amtrak lines (including the Eugene-to-Vancouver Cascades line through Portland) now offer roll-on bike service, and seven more offer checked bike service.

By removing some of its trains’ old requirements that you disassemble your bike with every boarding and pack it into a special box, Amtrak has greatly improved its potential for people looking to combine the two modes.

To promote its new service, Amtrak has hired Elena Studier as a summer intern to travel the country by train and with her bicycle, whose name is Stevie. Studier will visit the Green Dragon brewpub in southeast Portland tonight to briefly discuss and answer questions about her trip, which started in Manhattan last week and will last for four more weeks.

The happy hour is being organized by the Portland chapters of Young Professionals in Transportation and WTS International. It begins 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at 928 SE 9th Ave.

Studier is blogging about her trip at — hopefully not exclusively with Amtrak’s on-board Wi-Fi.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Travel Oregon tourism workshops and better transit coming to the Gorge in 2016

Travel Oregon tourism workshops and better transit coming to the Gorge in 2016

Gorge Roubaix - Sunday-13

More bikes in the Gorge is a very good thing.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

If you’re interested in helping the Columbia Gorge keep ascending into the pantheon of world-class cycling destinations, Travel Oregon wants to help you.

The extremely bike-friendly state tourism organization has selected the Columbia Gorge for its “Tourism Studio Program” in 2016. This is “a professional bi-state development program designed to bolster the region’s tourism economy while maintaining its rich environmental and cultural assets.” After the same program was implemented in Clackamas County in 2011, that region witnessed a blossoming of bike-related tourism projects and initiatives.

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s continued connection and improvement of the Historic Columbia River Highway has been combining with enthusiasm by people up and down the Gorge who see their area’s huge potential for tourism that has low environmental impact but big economic impact. We’ve been covering all of this as it has come together in recent years, and it looks like we’ll have plenty more to cover in the years to come.

The workshop series will include hands-on skill-building, planning, and product development workshops full of information and networking opportunities. Community leaders, public agencies, industry associations, tourism entrepreneurs, tour operators, lodging property owners, restauranteurs, and anyone with an interest in strengthening the local economy through tourism are invited to participate in the program. Workshops run between January and April of 2016. The participation cost of $10 includes lunch. You can learn more here.

Pre-registration is required. For more information: 509-427-8911 or

In addition to this state-sponsored tourism development, the Gorge is also pegged for better transit. ODOT is hosting a survey about possible improvements to public transit along the corridor. To weigh in or share expertise, check it out. The Gorge is primed to jump on the statewide trend of bike tourism benefitting from transit improvements.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Salmonberry Trail to the coast hits milestone, begins fundraising effort

Salmonberry Trail to the coast hits milestone, begins fundraising effort

The Salmonberry Trail would connect Banks
to Tillamook on the Oregon Coast.
(Map by Oregon State Parks & Rec)

The proposed Salmonberry Trail, a path that would connect Washington County to the Pacific coast through the forest along a defunct rail line, has an official name and is about to get a full-time executive director.

Previously referred to as the “Salmonberry Corridor,” the trail also has an 11-member decision-making body with formal power to start raising the unknown millions that’d be required for the 86-mile proposal.

The Salmonberry Coalition will celebrate those milestones at its annual meeting next month. The public event is 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Oct. 9, at Stub Stewart State Park.

“We’ve been having steering committee meetings about once a month,” state trails coordinator Rocky Houston said in an interview Tuesday about the coalition’s progress.

The biggest upcoming milestone for the path is likely to be the hiring of its first full-time staffer. Houston said the hiring process is underway for a two-year job to lay the groundwork for a major and ongoing search for grants, donations and other deals that could make the project possible.


Rail-with-trail (above) and rail-to-trail (below) renderings from the Salmonberry Corridor Draft Concept plan released last year. It’s not certain that all segments would be paved, especially at first.

The Salmonberry Trail would run through Washington and Tillamook counties along the route of a mostly unused rail line that has repeatedly been washed out by floods. It’d connect with the existing Banks-Vernonia Trail and the planned Council Creek Regional Trail between Hillsboro and Banks to create a continuous trail network from the Portland metro area to the Oregon coast.

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Houston said the executive director will be a state parks employee and that the position will come with a budget of about “$200,000 over two years for salaries and benefits and all those things.” It’ll continue through at least the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years.


The money comes from the state Department of Forestry, from the Washington County Visitors Association, from Tillamook County, from the state Parks Department and from the nonprofit Cycle Oregon, which has been an instigating advocate for the project along with state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose.

The forestry and parks departments, along with Tillamook County and the Port of Tillamook Bay, are the four voting members on the Salmonberry Trail Authority.

That group’s official creation last week was reported Monday by the Tillamook County Pioneer.

The Authority also has seven nonvoting members: representatives for Washington County, the Washington County Visitors Association, the Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust, Cycle Oregon, the regional solutions representative from the state governor’s office, the office of the state representative for District 32 (currently Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach) and the office of the state senator for District 16 (currently Johnson).

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Another bike touring boost: Two nearby state parks get bike facilities

Another bike touring boost: Two nearby state parks get bike facilities

Bike camping at Champoeg St. Park-50

Bike camping at Champoeg State Heritage Area in 2009.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

It’s fun to report two separate bits of news about bike friendliness in the state park system on the same afternoon.

Milo McIver State Park and Champoeg State Heritage Area are both upgrading their bike amenities, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department said Wednesday. They’ll get new lockers for gear and food storage; phone charging stations; and bicycle fix-it stations, plus new group shelters. A third park, Bullards Beach State Park on the southern Oregon coast, will be upgraded too.

Here’s more from the state:

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A hiker/biker site is a camping area for people that are traveling by bicycle or foot without a support vehicle. Cyclists can set their tents anywhere in the area, and share communal picnic tables and fire pits. Reservations are not accepted or needed.

The Bullards and Milo McIver hiker/biker sites were re-located to better spots. Solar powered phone charging stations and fix-it stations were added in the move. The Champoeg fix-it station is located in the main campground so all park visitors have easy access to it. Fix-it stations have a bike stand, basic bike tools and a floor pump.

Most of the improvements at Milo McIver were made possible by a grant from Clackamas County Tourism. Scout Troup 107 volunteered hours to help build the new site. TE Connectivity through its work with the Oregon State Parks Foundation contributed funding and volunteer hours for the improvements at Champoeg State Heritage Site. Cycle Oregon’s grant program contributed funds for improvements at Bullards Beach State Park.

Milo McIver State Park is just outside of Estacada and adjacent to the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway. Champoeg State Heritage Area is 30 miles north of Salem and the northern terminus of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. Bullards Beach State Park is located on the southern Oregon coast near Bandon just off of U.S. 101.

The fact that two state parks within a day’s ride of Portland and one that’s far from Portland are all prioritizing this is a testimony to the work of nonprofits like Cycle Wild and Cycle Oregon to promote and support bike touring and of quasigovernmental agencies like Travel Oregon that have brought huge statewide attention to the trend toward bike-based tourism. Also, of course, to a state parks department that’s perceptive enough to know where to find potential patrons: in saddles.

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Possible cuts to Amtrak service raise stakes of Salem’s transportation limbo

Possible cuts to Amtrak service raise stakes of Salem’s transportation limbo

Bikes on Amtrak

The Cascades line is arguably the bike-friendliest
in the country.
(Photo: Will Vanlue)

One of the country’s most-ridden Amtrak lines could have its southern tail chopped off unless Oregon legislators find another $5 million to keep it whole.

The state-sponsored Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene and Portland, with stops in Albany, Salem, Woodburn and Oregon City, is likely to be eliminated unless the state is willing to cover the one-third of the line’s operating costs, $28 million annually, that aren’t covered by ticket revenue.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has already found $18 million from non-general funds, and the legislature’s working budget framework reportedly adds another $5 million from general funds. That leaves about $5 million left to find.

The Cascades line, which also runs north to Seattle, Vancouver BC and other cities, is maybe the country’s bike-friendliest train line; for $5, it lets you add a bike to any trip, rolling it on and off the platform yourself to hang it in the luggage car. This has proved popular; the line has been adding more bike parking hooks as its existing ones fill up on weekends.

The passenger rail service is just one of many transportation decisions caught in the crossfire of a fight between Republicans and Democrats over creating a low-carbon fuel standard in the state. Republicans have been blocking all action on a proposed gas tax hike unless Democrats kill the fuel standard, which would add an estimated 4 to 19 cents per gallon to the cost of gasoline by 2025.

The City of Portland, meanwhile, has put its own search for transportation revenue on hold in hopes that Salem will hike gas taxes.

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Three Cascades trains currently run south of Portland each day. The Coast Starlight, a different line that is less reliably on schedule, adds a fourth run.

On Monday, the Wallawa County Chieftan reported that State Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) was saying there is “no story here” because legislators would not fail to find $5 million.

Johnson suggested to the Chieftain that in order to get its state subsidy, the Cascades line should adjust its schedule to capture more commute traffic between Portland and Salem.

The Portland-to-Eugene route has been discussed as a future high-speed rail corridor, too. But ridership demand for that segment falls far short of those for the Portland-to-Seattle corridor, one of the nation’s most popular city pairings and the key segment on the Cascades line.

However, passenger rail advocates say that cutting Willamette Valley cities out of the network would hurt the entire line’s viability.

“If you think of it as a system, any change to one part of the system is going to affect all other parts of the system,” David Arnold, president of the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates, told KOIN last month. “So this line is really critical.”

Meanwhile, Amtrak Cascades has faced private competition from BoltBus, a low-cost bus line with runs to Eugene, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC. BoltBus relies on the Interstate highway system, which is paid for by a combination of gas taxes and general funds, including its exemption from property taxes.

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To promote biking on the coast, Travel Oregon looks for alternatives to US 101

To promote biking on the coast, Travel Oregon looks for alternatives to US 101

People's Coast Classic Day Five-1

Riding U.S. 101 in North Bend, where bike and auto
traffic often mix without signs or markings.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation has put a fair amount of effort into promoting a bike route near the state’s beautiful coast.

A map of the route along U.S. Highway 101 is one of just three major biking or walking maps the agency publishes. The route has its own special sign. The state has even created a simple graphic showing how average traffic volumes on 101 very widely by month, to help travelers understand what they’re getting into.

The state’s main bike tourism agency, however, doesn’t mention the route on its website and doesn’t expect anyone to ever nominate it for Oregon’s expanding roster of scenic bikeways.

“We don’t really heavily promote it,” said Nastassja Pace, a destination development specialist for Travel Oregon. “It just maybe isn’t always the best experience, we feel, from the tourism perspective.”

It’s not a deliberate snub, Pace explained when I called Travel Oregon to ask about the possibility of the coast route ever being honored. And it’s certainly not because Travel Oregon is unenthusiastic about helping people enjoy the coast on bikes.

On the contrary, the tourism agency is enthusiastic about finding alternatives to biking on 101: fat-tire biking on the state’s public beach, for example, and the long-term vision for a continuous Oregon Coast Pathway being developed by a Portland-based advocate.

The goal of both, Pace said, would be to help people “be more connected with the beach and not with the cars.”

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Travel Oregon is developing a campaign to promote fat-bike beach riding, seen as an attractive match between the state’s unique sandy public beaches and the increasingly popular off-road bikes. These two photos, which are next to one another in Travel Oregon’s current slideshow explaining the effort, pretty much say it all:

fatbiking beach

roadbiking 101

Which looks like more fun? Hmmmm.

“This could possibly be a cool type of destination for different types of riders,” Pace said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be people who want to ride all the way from border to border.”

The agency is currently gathering information about the coast’s best connected fat-bike routes in hopes of releasing a map that could support the activity.

Meanwhile, Pace is also enthusiastic about a far more ambitious long-term project: an Oregon Coast Pathway concept created by Portlander Dan Kaufman (and first shared by Kaufman as part of our “Big Ideas” contest back in 2010).

“The premise of the Oregon Coast Pathway is that there needs to be a path the entire length of the coast that can be traveled safely with human power by just about anyone regardless of age or ability,” Kaufman writes in his information packet exploring the concept of a continuous route from Astoria the California border.


Cover of Dan Kaufman’s Towards an Oregon Coast Pathway concept plan.
PDF here

Kaufman has created a nonprofit organization for the purpose and has been working since last fall to raise $15,000 for initial promotion of the vision (he’s already completed a 19-page concept plan). Pace said Travel Oregon loves the idea — based in part on the results of its surveys of users of the state’s current Scenic Bikeways.

The Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership (an effort hatched and hosted by Travel Oregon) likes the idea so much they’ve made it one of their top five priorities to focus on the next 5-10 years.

“A lot of people said even on the Scenic Bikeways that they didn’t want to be riding with traffic or they didn’t like the traffic,” Pace said. “So we’re definitely looking at more off-road sorts of opportunities for all sorts of riders.”

– Read more about the Oregon Coast Bike Route — including a day-by-day travelouge of Jonathan Maus’s 2013 ride down it — in our archives.

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Bike tourism your thing? Win a scholarship to the National Bike Summit

Bike tourism your thing? Win a scholarship to the National Bike Summit

National Bike Summit - Day three-108

This could be you!
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Once again Travel Oregon is taking their commitment to bicycle tourism to the next level: They plan to award five, $1,000 scholarships to the 2015 National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. The catch? You must be working on projects or policies that focus on rural bicycle tourism.

From their rural tourism studios to the RideOregonRide website, Travel Oregon has gone “all-in” on bicycle tourism over the past few years. And they’re no strangers to the National Bike Summit. Top-level staffers from the organization have been attending the event since 2007.

This year’s Summit is March 10-12th. The League of American Bicyclists sayss this year’s theme, “Bikes+” will, “focus on new ideas for exponential growth and build strong partnerships to get us there. We’ll zero in on how the bike movement can add value to other issues and find powerful champions in health, community development and the business sector.”

If you’re an Oregonian working to make rural bicycle tourism better and need financial help to attend the Summit, fill out the online application form. Submissions must be in by 5:00 pm on January 30th.

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Travel Oregon adds gravel routes to bicycling portal website

Travel Oregon adds gravel routes to bicycling portal website


Now you have one less excuse to not explore Oregon’s excellent unpaved roads., the awesome resource developed by Oregon’s tourism commission Travel Oregon, now includes a handful of the best gravel rides our state has to offer.

Treo Bike Ranch Day 4 - Hardman to Condon-8

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Nastassja Pace, a destination development specialist with Travel Oregon, shared the great news with us this morning. She explained that they’ve partnered with two locally-grown resources, and Ride With GPS, to vet the routes and display them on the site. was founded by Donnie Kolb, the man who has stoked much of Oregon’s current fervor for unsanctioned, logging and gravel road riding (we profiled him back in July). Kolb worked with Travel Oregon to feature six of his favorite routes, all of which he has personally ridden, studied, and photographed.

The rides are:

The routes vary in distance and toughness. The Old Dalles route — a 47-mile jaunt that begins in Hood River — is rated “moderate,” while the 241-mile Hart-Sheldon Hot Springs route is rated “extreme.” On the website, each route listing contains detailed information including: best times of years to ride it; recommended tire sizes; a detailed elevation chart; nearby lodging and services listings; a convenient link to GPS data via Ride With GPS, and more.

Travel Oregon launched in 2009 in response to advocates’ requests to have an online tool to promote Oregon’s best road and mountain bike routes. The addition of gravel routes is a result of the agency’s new focus on this increasingly popular type of riding, which is a hybrid between mountain biking and traditional road biking on pavement. In November 2013, Travel Oregon convened a gravel road working group to create a database of the best routes and explore various policy and advocacy issues around them.

Check out the new gravel riding section at RideOregonRide and start planning your adventures!

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Five bike projects earn Travel Oregon grant awards

Five bike projects earn Travel Oregon grant awards

Sandy Ridge loop-5

Tourism grants will help fund everything
from maps to a bike visitor center, to
new off-road cycling trails.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

In the latest sign that bike tourism is taking the state of Oregon by storm, a recent announcement of 11 grant awards from Travel Oregon (officially the Oregon Tourism Commission) worth a total of $120,000 included five bike projects.

From southern Oregon to the Columbia River Gorge, local governments, agencies, and non-profit groups are jumping on board the biking bandwagon and working hard to develop their natural assets into cycling destinations. This latest round of grants were aimed specifically at advancing projects that “improve local economies and communities by enhancing, expanding, and promoting Oregon’s travel and tourism industry.”

We asked Travel Oregon for details on all five bike projects. As you can see below, there are exciting things afoot for cycling all across the state!

Here are brief descriptions of the projects (taken directly from Travel Oregon grant applications):

Estacada Development Association – Estacada Station Cycling Plaza


Drawing by Fertile Grounds, LLC.

This cycling plaza will serve as the gateway to the new, 70 mile Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway. The plaza will provide necessary facilities and services to visitors that will enhance their cycling experience and encourage them to return… The plaza will provide an all-weather facility for cyclists to meet, plan, eat, repair bikes and gear up for their ride. With services such as water, bike repair, parking, security, and trail information, the city and cyclists will benefit from the plaza. Surrounding areas are beginning to offer bike-camping tours, making the plaza even more desirable.

Team Dirt – Alsea Falls Flow Trails
Team Dirt will construct a 1-mile black diamond trail at the BLM Alsea Falls Recreation Site. The trail will be located in the Advanced Trail Expansion area, east of Highballer… Over 2.5 million Pacific Northwest residents are within 115 miles of the system. This trail system is situated halfway between the growing communities of Corvallis and Eugene, Oregon. Both of these communities boast significant riding communities but lack the full complement of available riding options. Specifically, there is a regional lack of bike‐optimized and bike‐specific trails to keep the sport moving forward. This trail system has the potential to be 20+ miles of progressive trail including cross‐country, enduro, and downhill trails for beginner to expert.

International Mountain Bike Association – Mountain of the Rogue Trail System (Phase One Flow Trail)
This project will construct 1.5 miles of world-class mountain bike-specific flow trail 1.5 miles from downtown Rogue River… Building a trail system that accommodates hikers and trail runners while being focused around mountain bike specific trails will bring an enormous economic benefit to Rogue River retailers, lodging, restaurants, and other businesses.

There is a profound need for both economic improvement and access to nature-based recreation in Rogue River. Rogue River is a small town that is struggling economically. Despite the natural beauty of the area and the Rogue River itself, there is very little tourism. Restaurants, lodging, retailers, and other businesses are looking for a way to draw tourists to the community. Area residents lack trail access to the amazing beauty of the mountains that surround Rogue River. There are currently no publicly available, non-paved nature-based trails in the area. This project is needed to provide significant economic benefit by creating a destination for cycling tourists, while simultaneously providing much-needed access to nature-based recreation for area cyclists, hikers, and trail runners of all ages.

Discover Klamath Visitor & Convention Bureau – Klamath County Cycling Map
Discover Klamath will develop a large format tear-pad cycle map. The map will highlight mountain bike trails and road bike routes in Klamath County. The map will be available in digital/downloadable formats on the Discover Klamath website. The goal is to raise awareness that Southern Oregon / Klamath County is an area rich with road bike and mountain bike trails.

With cycling becoming a popular activity, Discover Klamath sees the opportunity as a strategic growth area with considerable upside. The map will begin to strengthen our position as an area for visitors to ride.

Travel Lane County – Eugene, Cascades, & Coast Bike Visitor Center
The development of a bike visitor center will be a human powered outreach program that allows our knowledgeable staff to be accessible in more places throughout the region to provide visitors with first-hand local information, tips and personalized trip planning. It will be the first bike visitor center in the country making it a unique and authentic representation of our destination which is home to three scenic bikeways, two IMBA Epic rides and countless miles of trails and roads for cyclists to explore…

Often when travelling, outdoor activities and natural sites are hard to find information about. The bike will connect people to the resources they need, eliminating barriers to engaging with activities. Combine our trained staff with access to technology and the Bike Visitor Center becomes a better trip planning tool than Google.

As per the grant instructions, these projects must be completed between September 2014 and September 2015.

— Browse our archives for more bicycle tourism news and stories.

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