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Keep the money local: biking, paddling and economic development in Washington County, which has it all.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Keep it local: Pam Treece recommends a staycation in Washington County.

We often hear the term "staycation," especially in the summer, but what does that mean?

To learn more, I looked up the definition in the Urban Dictionary, which states a staycation is "a vacation that is spent at one's home, enjoying all that home and one's home environs have to offer." With that definition in mind, I thought about exploring places, venues and events that are right here in our Washington County backyard. After all, the summer is the best time of year to get out and experience the outdoors. There is so much going on right here, what better place could I be this time of year?

To get more ideas and information, I called my friend Carolyn McCormick, who is the President and CEO of the Washington County Visitors Association. If you want to have a fun and be adventurous here on the Westside, the Washington County Visitors Association is a monumental resource. Carolyn is also a key leader in Washington County when it comes to economic development issues as well. She is a strong promoter of the link between livability and the economic vitality of our community.

During my recent travels in the state, I can't help but notice the number of RVs and SUVs I see packed with suitcases and camping gear. I remind myself these are people paying gas tax and helping contribute to the maintenance of our transportation system. According to a 2014 Washington County Visitors Association tourism study, 2.7 million travelers visit Washington county each year, spending more than $672 million at local restaurants, hotels and businesses. Tourism equates to almost 8,000 jobs, too. Hoteliers in the county have about 5,000 rooms, collecting approximately $11 million in local Transient Lodging Tax. Our tourism is an important gear in our economic engine, working especially hard during these summer months.

There is just so much you can do in Washington County. If you are a person who likes to kayak or enjoy the waterways, a personal favorite spot of mine is the Farmington Paddle Launch. It was just recently opened and created through a partnership between Metro and Clean Water Services. The launch provides visitors a safe and accessible location to set out on the Tualatin River Water Trail. You can learn more about kayaking on the Tualatin River Water Trail, like where to launch; where on the river to rent a kayak; and much more from the Tualatin Riverkeepers. Visit tualatinriverkeepers.org.

Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway

If you are a cyclist, you will find many options for beautiful rides in Washington County. The Washington Visitors Association provides a free map of bike rides throughout the county. You can get the map by visiting Tualatinvalley.org. The 50-mile Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway is a gem in the county; it starts at the Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro and ends in Vernonia. Twenty miles of the bikeway is on the car-free Banks Vernonia Trail. I would highly encourage you to take a break from work and spend some vacation time clearing your mind by riding parts or all of this scenic bikeway.

Of course, there are also other less strenuous activities to enjoy too — wine tours, concerts and numerous summer festivals. One interesting display in Washington County is the Quilt Barn Trail, which are large hand-painted wooden blocks usually hung on historic buildings. The traditional quilt patterns hold some significance to the area or farm where each is located. The quilt patterns highlight Washington County's agricultural and historical heritage, as well as creating public art by showcasing the art of quilting. Right now, there are more than 40 quilts located throughout the area and more are going up all the time. To learn more, see the detailed map on the Washington County Visitors Association's website: Tualatinvalley.org.

The longer summer days and sunshine will be gone in a blink of an eye, so take a break, catch your breath and take in a little of the scenery that is just a few steps or a short drive, walk or ride away. Hopefully, you'll come back renewed and ready to be even more productive at work. Happy and safe travels to you and yours.

Pamela Treece is the executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance. Her column appears monthly, addressing issues that are critical to the economic health of the Westside. Learn more about the WEA at: westsidealliance.org

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