Wy'east Book Shoppe hosts new information center
by: Peter Wylie, Sandy Palmer, manager of the Wy'east Book Shoppe and Art Gallery, hands some information pamphlets to visitors at the store.

Tourists who visit the Mount Hood area this summer be warned: somebody will be available to help you find the restaurant, lodging, recreation activity or whatever else you're interested in.

In fact, there will likely be a number of people more than happy to help. Visitor information services in the area will be readily available, thanks to expanded hours and a new player hoping to direct tourists to exactly where they want to go.

The newest center will open in Welches on April 1, when the Wy'east Book Shoppe and Art Gallery, 67195 Highway 26, starts limited visitor services, including informational pamphlets and binders for visitors. By Memorial Day, the shop will feature a dedicated computer for visitor information, weather printouts and more.

'A number of us … thought the community needed this,' said Palmer. 'I thought this business was probably the best match for it (and) it went from wondering aloud to more firm plans in a matter of days.'

That center will effectively take the place of the former Mt. Hood Information Center, run by Marilyn Peterson, which closed its doors on Feb. 28. Peterson - who continues to provide visitor information through the website and a toll-free number (888-622-4822) - noted that providing information can be a challenge for a small business.

'I think the challenge on the private sector side is you don't charge for your services,' said Peterson. 'You have to be fairly creative in your modeling.'

An information center at the Zig Zag Ranger District, 70220 Highway 26, and funded by the Clackamas County Tourism Development Council (CCTDC) will expand its service to seven days a week for the summer, starting May 12, according to District Ranger Bill Westbrook. That center will also include pamphlets and a computer for visitors to use, with the benefit of having specialists from the Forest Service on hand to offer more information.

'I think it's good for folks to come in here and have a Forest Service person in uniform providing real time information on forest conditions,' said District Ranger Bill Westbrook. 'They can get the extra knowledge of talking directly with trail crew or people who manage campgrounds.'

Westbrook added that he believes the two information centers can work together and exchange information to better serve visitors and described them as a 'win-win opportunity.'

The CCTDC supports three other area information centers at the Sandy Historical Society building in Sandy, Mt. Hood Adventures in Government Camp and at the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum in Government Camp.

Rick Applegate, a Welches resident and business owner who sits on the board of directors for both the Villages at Mt. Hood and the Mt. Hood/Columbia River Gorge Tourism Alliance, that centers at private businesses, such as Mt. Hood Adventure, make for a better model than those on government property, such as the Zig Zag Ranger District Center.

'It increases the foot traffic and they're going to be more successful,' said Applegate. 'That is huge.'

The Zig Zag center, however, is likely to see some dramatic changes in the near future. According to Linda Bell, Executive Director of the CCTDC, a new facility is in the works to replace the center by 2015. The new facility will likely include more space, indoor restrooms and more room for forest service interpretive programs and other displays.

'We've jumped through several hurdles, so we know it's going to happen,' said Bell, adding that they are waiting for funding.

Until then, visitors will have ample opportunity to get valuable information all the way from Sandy to Government Camp, but as Peterson noted, it's also important for each and every business to play their part in helping tourists out.

'I think that visitor information services work at every point of contact that a visitor has in the community,' Peterson said, including stores such as gas stations and grocery stores. 'Until the tourism community as a whole understands that, we'll still have challenges as a region.'

Area Visitor Information Service Locations

Sandy Chamber of Commerce/Sandy Historical Museum

Address: 39345 Pioneer Blvd, Sandy

Phone: 503-668-4006

Zigzag Ranger District

Address: 70220 Highway 26, Zigzag

Phone: 503-622-3191

Mt. Hood Adventure

Address: 88149 Creek Ridge Road, Government Camp

Phone: 503-272-3051

Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum

Address: 88900 Highway 26 Business Loop, Government Camp

Phone: 503-272-3301

Wy'east Book Shoppe and Art Gallery

Address: 67195 Highway 26, Welches

Phone: 503-622-1623

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