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Modest hubs cater to foot, pedal travelers

West Gorge chamber proposes bike hubs to local cities; Wood Village, Troutdale support idea

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: WEST COLUMBIA GORGE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE - Community operated hubs would offer maps, water, electrical outlets for cell phone charging and basic bike repair.As part of its mission to drive local tourism, the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce has big plans to make the gorge an international destination for bicyclists.

According to the 2013 Oregon Bicycle Travel Survey, recreational bicycle travel ropes in $400 million of Oregon’s annual $9 billion tourism industry. The study showed the impact is especially big in the gorge, where cycling accounts for 15 percent of all recreational travel.

Partnering with other gorge entities, the chamber pitched an idea to the Troutdale City Council on April 8 that it hopes will make traveling through the gorge not only more seamless for cyclists, but also for hikers and other travelers.

The plan is to open a 73-mile network of “bike hubs” between Wood Village and The Dalles.

For inspiration, the organizers are looking to similar famous town-to-town trail systems, such as Hadrian’s Wall National Trail in Great Britain or the Central Otago Trail in New Zealand.

“The hubs would be modest facilities where people can park, get water, cool off, take a break and use it as a base of operations for the richness of the area,” said Claude Cruz, president of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce.

Hubs would be equipped with bike parking, lockers, solar charging stations and bike repair stations.

They would also suit the needs of hikers, walkers and motorists by offering drinking water, shade, seating and restrooms.

“The hub system will ensure that these visitors are welcomed into every community, that these visitors know where and what local services are available, that they can easily locate local attractions,” said Karen Schaaf, board member and former president of West Columbia Gorge Chamber.

Scenic highway hubs

Locally, the chamber wants to set up hubs at gorge trailheads and the historic highway in Troutdale, Springdale and Corbett.

“The historic highway is an increasingly favored bike path,” Cruz said.

An increase of bikes in rural areas also has been a problem for farmers and locals who live there.

Many are concerned that the highway is not wide enough for both bikes and cars to travel safely. Most agree accommodations need to be made.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: WEST COLUMBIA GORGE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE - An option for a bike hub may include shade, bike racks and benches to offer travelers a place to rest.As the gateway to the gorge, Troutdale is in an ideal position to have a hub, Cruz said. He envisions guests using the hub as a starting or ending point for their trips up and down the gorge, he said.

The chamber proposes the hub would benefit businesses by attracting people to surrounding stores, restaurants, art galleries and other amenities in the area.

Businesses would also have the option of participating in a “bike friendly business program,” co- sponsored with Travel Oregon.

Owners could choose from a list of 25 things to supply cyclists for free (or cost), such as water or the use of a bike pump, or a place to recharge cell phones.

A cyclist would know a business participates by a placard in the shop’s window.

Troutdale’s in

Following the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce’s presentation, Cruz asked the Troutdale Council for the city’s endorsement, which they made clear requires no monetary commitment on the city’s part.

Cruz said the signing of the “partnership proclamation” required some urgency as other entities such as the Gresham Chamber of Commerce and Metro also are pushing biking initiatives.

Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust was all for the “bike hub” idea.

“I think this is something we need to capture,” he said.

While the city is involved with the county regarding bike infrastructure, Daoust said this would be something Troutdale could hang its hat on.

“Troutdale is a logical place for a bike hub,” the mayor said. “All you need to do is be downtown and you can watch the bicycles go by. There’s no doubt about it, this is a growing tourism business. We have our own evidence of it.”

The mayor asked the City Council to consider signing the chamber’s partnership proclamation.

Councilor David Ripma said, “I read the proclamation and I would support it.”

He said, “It doesn’t really commit us to pay any money yet. If cities up and down the gorge are doing it, I have no problem with us doing it.”

“This is great, I am in complete support of this,” Councilor Eric Anderson said.

The Troutdale council unanimously passed a vote to support the West Columbia Gorge Chamber’s project.

After receiving support of cities and the community, Cruz said the plan is to appoint a city bike hub representative and begin rolling out the bike friendly business program.

The city’s backing puts the chamber in a better position to apply for tourism grants that will help pay for the construction of the bike hub.

The chamber suggested Mayor’s Square as a possible place for a bike hub.

“Thank you for all your support. It really makes a huge difference for our chance of success,” Cruz said to the council.

Other cities jump into gear

Wood Village, Hood River and Cascade Locks also have decided to partner with the chamber on the bike hub project.

The Dalles City Council was scheduled to vote on signing April 14, and the chamber also is waiting to hear from the Mosier City Council.

Fairview has requested that a presentation be made at its April 16 City Council meeting.

Schaaf, one of the bike hub’s chief local proponents, said Fairview’s request is significant because it was not included in the Mount Hood-Columbia River Gorge tourism region when the state drew the lines.

Along with Gresham, Fairview is in “Greater Portland.”

Not to be left out, Schaaf said, “Our region believes that Fairview would be a good fit as a small city along the Columbia River. However, the request must come from Fairview.”


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