Prairie City is faltering in exploiting its perfect mix of natural and cultural attractiveness to profit from the shift now occurring in the public's recreational choices. Affordability is an important factor driving this shift, but impossible to account precisely is the extent this shift reflects a change in cultural ethos among the trend setters in Xurbia (where 90% of the nation's population resides).

To wit:

1) The public has become more health conscious; taking up fitness promoting recreation such as bicycling, kayaking, snow shoeing and X-country skiing.

2) Growing environmental consciousness is leading to “small footprint” mindfulness.

3) Metropolitan living density has left many with longing for escape to the contrast of wilderness and rural setting. (This reflects the tandem movement toward locally grown and free range, showing the broadening appreciation within cities for rural life more generally.)

4) Market demand is hastening away from the high costs of resort ski areas with chair lift tickets, condos, shopping malls, etc. Instead, trends have (more than a decade now) tracked in direction toward locales and settings that retain uniquely quaint authenticity. In other words, places that have defied the homogenizing extreme make-over that has robed so much of America of true regional character (sense of place), leaving instead a numbing sameness in its wake.

HUNTING & MOTORIZED RECREATION SHRINKING AS PROPORTION OF TOURISM ECONOMY

We residents of Prairie City need only to shift our paradigm: Recognize that hunting and motorized recreation represents a shrinking proportion of the overall (and rapidly growing) recreational population. No argument that those traditional pursuits will remain an important segment of tourism economic infusion; the point though is that such activities require expense outlay drawing ever farther beyond affordability of the average household income.

HUMAN POWERED RECREATION MORE DEPENDENT ON LOCAL SERVICES

Important also in calculating the economic promise inherent in these shifts; consider how human powered recreational activities are more dependent upon local merchants and services. Motor sports and hunting tourists more typically arrive, self contained -- RVs serving for lodging and pre provisioned from the urban “big box” stores.

HISTORIC LESSON ABOUT TOURISM PROSPECT

It is coincidence of history that our community finds itself in situation somewhat that of Alpine regions of Europe back in the latter half of the 19th century. The locals were reluctant at first when the trickle of upper middle-class “Brits” started arriving to make sport (recreation) of climbing their mountains. It took less than a generation though for realization that profit from tourism might be the difference between either loosing or saving “the farm” (literally). Anywhere in the Alps today it is impossible to not recognize that every villager and farmer has eagerly prepared to financially advantage from tourism.

MARKET TRENDS POINTING THE WAY

As evidence of our local potential for profiting from this recreational shift to human powered modes one needs only to tour some of the major human powered sports equipment sales outlets such as REI and study the ever mounting sales statistics available in market reports.

PRAIRIE CITY FAVORED WITH FOUR SEASON TOURISM POTENTIAL

Match that to our natural potential which offers year round recreation - not just bicycling but human powered snow sports. Prairie City is favored with SR26 and CR 62 as maintained roadways open year round to pass summits, availing vast range for establishing blue diamond marked trails within easy distance from town. Such a network of trails would serve alternate seasons; bicycling summer through autumn, skiing/snowshoeing winter through spring.

POTENTIAL YET TO BE CONSIDERED

Not yet realized as a tourism draw is the John Day River for kayaking or canoeing the distance down to Clyde Holiday State Park near Mt Vernon. “Whitewater” runs of rivers elsewhere in the state have been up against usage ceiling for years. Though our section offers no classed whitewater for rafting it is perfect for the more causal kayaking and canoeing that represents the larger share of tourism market.

STATE'S GENERIC APPROACH IS INADEQUATE

Travel Oregon and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department have been aggressive in focusing on bicycle tourism because prospect of more broadly distributed tourism dollars across the whole state lies more with that form of recreation. Taking advantage of what state help is available in promoting bicycle tourism in our area is prudent opportunism, but we should not allow our uniquely broader prospect be missed by such narrow focus.

Truly, our area has almost boundless expansion range for bicycle tourism of all type and class, but by focusing only on bicycling we're over sighting our regions potential for attracting year-round tourism.

Your response will be appreciated, pro or con. Particularly though I'm hoping for suggestions on how to campaign for support within the community, building from that organized action sufficient to elicit cooperation from the USFS and other agencies.

Storie Mooser can be reached at whozem@hotmail.com

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