Adapting To the New Economy: The Impacts of Mountain Bike Tourism in Oakridge, Oregon

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Place: Oakridge

Overview

Mountain biking in Oakridge, Oregon contributes substantial economic activity to a small, isolated community deeply affected by the loss of timber jobs. Although the recent rapid growth in the area’s popularity has some residents concerned about cultural change, user conflicts, and environmental concerns, the author is confident these challenges can be overcome.

Relevance

This study is relevant to small, formerly resource-dependent communities that are seeking to develop trail-based tourism economies. The author provides detailed historical and policy context that would be particularly relevant in timber communities. Because Oakridge is a relatively new mountain biking destination and has grown quickly in the five years preceding this study, there are valuable lessons for communities that are just beginning to develop their trail networks, particularly related to outreach and building support within the community.

This report is also a valuable methodological reference for those interested in estimating visitor use and spending, but without the resources to collect primary data. The author uses a variety of sources, adjusts them to the local area, and cross-checks them for validity. Additionally, by reporting all values as a range he avoids the pitfall of overstating use and spending accuracy.

Location

This study was based in Oakridge, Oregon, population 3,201 in 2014. Oakridge is about 45 minutes from Eugene, Oregon and 2 hours from Bend, Oregon. It is completely surrounded by the Willamette National Forest.

Trail Type

This study addresses the 350 miles of mountain biking trails around Oakridge. Although the study focuses on a single user group, many of these trails are also open to hikers and equestrians.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to document the current impact of mountain bike tourism on a small, formerly timber-dependent community in Oregon to increase local support for mountain biking. This report was written after rapid, recent growth in mountain biking tourism, which had led to user conflicts and concern about economic changes from local logging interests.

This study is a Master’s thesis. No funding source was acknowledged.

Findings

  • Mountain bikers make approximately 10,700-15,900 trips to Oakridge per year.
  • Day trip expenditures range from $20-$44 per person and overnight trip expenditures range from $48 to $63 per person.
  • Mountain bikers spend an estimated $2.4 to $4.9 million in Oakridge each year. This accounts for five percent of the local economy, although three businesses estimate that at least 75 percent of their business comes from mountain bikers.
  • Based on resident interviews, there is a concern that mountain bike tourism is eroding the community’s identity as a timber town and a perception that city government and the Chamber of Commerce spent substantial funds promoting mountain biking, unfairly favoring certain businesses. Respondents also voiced concern that mountain biking is growing too fast, leading to user conflicts and trail erosion.

Methods

The author combined data from six published sources related to bicycle tourism, national forest visitation and spending, and traffic counts. These sources include three studies in this library from Oregon, British Columbia, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The author provides a detailed explanation of how he used these data to estimate visitation and spending levels for Oakridge area mountain bike trails.

Citation

Meltzer, N. 2014. “Adapting To The New Economy: The Impacts of Mountain Bike Tourism in Oakridge, Oregon” [Master’s Thesis]. Eugene, OR: University of Oregon Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management.