Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock is a draw for visitors to the Oregon Coast.

Establishing a beach and trail ambassador program, improving signs and starting a new message campaign about protecting natural resources are some of the ideas tourism leaders are proposing to make the tourism industry more sustainable.

For the past year and half, business owners, government, tourism and nonprofit leaders from Clatsop and Tillamook counties have been participating in a North Coast Tourism Studio, a program coordinated by Travel Oregon.

At the program’s final event Wednesday, Jan. 16, participants designed teams to carry out projects related to solving congestion issues, overcrowding at popular destinations and visitor education over several years.

In addition to a $25,000 grant from Travel Oregon, business leaders from Clatsop and Tillamook counties are pooling together about $45,000 to help fund these initiatives as a region.

“The biggest benefit from this is that we ended working in silos,” said Nan Devlin, of Visit Tillamook Coast. “It’s not about just supporting one town, one county … it’s about supporting the North Coast.”

Encouraging stewardship

Many of the projects are centered around protecting trails, parks and beaches from misuse and overpopulation.

One team is set to create and share more photos of less-visited places to reduce pressure on popular destinations like Ecola and Fort Stevens state parks.

Another will invest more in communication about good stewardship, starting with an inventory of what is happening already.

“If we’re going to encourage people to recycle, we have to make sure there’s enough recycling containers,” said Claudine Rehn, of the Tillamook Estuary Partnership.

One team, led by Teri Wing, of Oregon State Parks, plans to create a Beach Trail Ambassador program that will help educate visitors about proper trail etiquette and safety.

“If someone is going up Falcon Cove and they have flip-flops on, they’ll turn them around and say, ‘It’s not good to wear flip-flops on this trail,’” Wing said. “The idea is to get them good info to make them safe as well as give them information about the area.”

Transportation was also a focus, with some aiming to educate hotel staff on public and alternative transportation options so more visitors are aware of how to get around without a car. The group, headed by Ken Shonkwiler, of the Oregon Department of Transportation, also plans to develop better wayfinding signs so people know where to park and get around once they get here.

The right message

Participants also decided it was important to educate and impress upon local residents how important tourism is to the region’s economy.

Pamela Wev, a Clatsop County commissioner and leader of the group charged with championing the value of tourism, said it’s important to address the distaste some residents have about the industry.

“Lots of people don’t see tourism as a part of our local economy,” she said.

With tourism spending at almost $2 billion on the Oregon Coast alone, Wev said it will take everyone embracing the industry to make sure it grows and is managed in the right way.

“That’s money spent by people from outside,” she said. “As an economic development person, I can tell you there’s nothing better for a community than people spending money that was earned somewhere else, because it really enhances your economic base. We need to help our citizens understand this reality.”

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