Cycle Oregon Blog
It’s grant season here at Cycle Oregon! Proposals for the Cycle Oregon Fund are coming in and we are eagerly anticipating rolling up our sleeves and reviewing them. We always get inspired and excited by the scope and range of projects being conceived around the state. Having made nearly 200 grants totaling more than $1.6 million, we are constantly reminded of not only how much potential there is in Oregon but also how great the need is. We know we can’t solve everything but we know we can make a difference.
Year-end reports for projects we funded in February are starting to roll in. Earlier this year we made twelve grants totaling nearly $70,000. This included projects funded through our philanthropic ride CO3 (we funded all of the projects that requested support). We also made a Signature Grant of $50,000 toward the Salmonberry project. Here are a few updates and highlights that we wanted to share.
Wallowa Resources in Enterprise is building the future one student at a time
Wallowa Resources is one amazing organization. They formed in 1996 in response to changes in national forest management resulting in shuttering local mills and 20% of the workforce lost their jobs overnight. In the back room of a bakery, a group of local citizens came together to create a new community organization to deal with this abrupt economic downturn– Wallowa Resources. Today they educate the next generation and put local people to work. Over the years we have supported a number of projects and this year we were proud to support a high school apprenticeship program where young people got hands-on experience in the field and learned not only about professional paths but also about their area and themselves. One of their participants, Briana, explained what the program means to hear, “Working for Wallowa Resources made me want to be more involved with the outdoors.”
For a community that has such strong ties to the land it still takes work to ensure that residents keep that connection. Briana explains, “Most teens would agree, technology is one of the biggest causes of why we spend the majority of our time inside. When I worked for Wallowa Resources and took their classes we did lots of outdoor projects. I didn’t even think once to look at my cell phone. I had lots of fun!”
She adds, “We did some hands on projects and collected data. I learned so much and I liked going out and doing field work with people I’ve never met before. It was a great experience! I learned that I liked working with adults and college students and it made me excited to go to college.”
Building Mountain Biking in Baker County
There are so many things that we love about bicycling in Baker County. And now there’s even more to love. A group of locals from Baker Loves Bikes and the Baker Area Mountain Bike Initiative (BAMBI) has been developing mountain biking trails around the area. According to Pat Thomas, one of the project leads, “2015 has absolutely flown by for us. We were awarded a Cycle Oregon grant in the early spring and hit the ground running. We were able to buy enough trail building hand tools to outfit a 30 volunteer work crew. We were also able to partner with our local ACE Hardware store, Thatchers’s, to buy the other half of our tools. Thatcher’s even matched our money and enabled us to double our tool order. As we stand now, we are fully capable of outfitting our volunteers with safe, quality tools for future works days to come.”
Word is that some of the best trails in the country are hidden in plain sight in and around Baker City. With a new map in the works it is even easier to spend some times exploring.
Pat saw the opportunity to help build this market and started Range Tour & Shuttle Company this year, the first and only mountain bike tour and biker/hiker shuttle service in this area. “We exceeded our projections and are looking forward to next season. Range feels that we are a very real asset to this community and we are so lucky to be able to do this in Baker County and the rest of Northeastern Oregon. We had a very busy week during Cycle Oregon shuttling riders to and from venues, thank you for coming out here this year, it was amazing to be a part of the Cycle Oregon experience with the riders, helping them out. Our other highlight of the summer was partnering with Eastern Oregon Visitors Association to bring a writer and photographer for several national mountain bike media outlets (Dirt Rag, Pinkbike, Bike) to Baker for a week and show him and ride with him on most of the best trails in the area. This trip will result in a substantial updating to photo assets for the county and region as well as some editorial material in national publications.”
The Cycle Oregon Fund, developed through event proceeds since 1996, makes annual grants to preserve special places in Oregon, promote bicycle safety and tourism and support community projects. Since its inception, the Fund has awarded 189 grants totaling more than $1.6 million to projects.
You can help us grow the fund by making a tax-deductible contribution! It’s an easy way to help us do more good for the special places and important projects throughout the state.
Whether you’ve been in town for five minutes or five generations you can expect a warm welcome in small rural communities throughout Oregon. And when these communities learn that Cycle Oregon is planning a route through their town, the reaction is even more enthusiastic. They get to meet people from around the world while earning an important economic boost. Still, many of these hidden gems around Oregon’s mountains, valleys, rivers and canyons continue to struggle economically.
On both of our events, we rely on locals to create the Cycle Oregon experience, providing services ranging from dinner service to recycling to rest stop support. Typically, these groups are civic organizations like the Lions Club, VFW, Future Farmers of America or the local PTA that have a specific purpose for the revenue they generate. On average, we support 15-20 groups in each community and together they earn between $15,000 – $25,000.
When a fire forced the tough decision to avoid Halfway, Joseph and Enterprise, we knew that those towns would feel the sting. That is why we honored our financial commitments to those communities for the services they were going to provide. These groups received nearly $50,000 and include school athletic teams, arts organizations, EMT providers, rodeos, fairs, historical societies and animal shelters. While we cannot replace the economic power of our riders, they were pleased to know that we would follow through with our commitment. In addition, when we backtracked to Baker City, and Farewell Bend, those community organizations pitched in and earned even more money for their local projects.
But we believe Cycle Oregon can be much more than just a shot in the arm for the communities we visit. Our short-term impact is important, but we also need to focus on long-term solutions. That’s why Cycle Oregon supports increasing bicycle tourism infrastructure and amenities throughout the state. We have been a part of the growing bicycle economy which now contributes $400 million to Oregon’s economy annually and generates 4,600 jobs. Let’s make sure that the places that have made Oregon cycling famous get their share. Here’s how:
Visit Rural Oregon: We encourage you to make your own Cycle Oregon and go see the places that make this state special. You can use our bike maps, check out the Scenic Bikeways or use bikeportland.org’s stories to get ideas of things to do and places to stay.
Spread the Word About Our Grants Program: Know any great bicycle tourism efforts throughout the state? Through our grants program, we invest $50,000 – $150,000 each year toward projects that improve communities and increase safety and infrastructure for bicycle tourism. Applications are due November 15, click here for details.
Help Grow the Cycle Oregon Fund: We are planning a fundraising campaign to support community projects along Scenic Bikeways and other bicycle-friendly places around the state. You can help strengthen and support people and communities that are working hard to promote bicycle tourism.
This year’s Hell on Wheels ride was full of magical moments and stunning vistas that begged to be preserved in pictures. Fortunately for all of us there is no shortage of people committed to making that happen. This time around we had three official photographers join the 2,200 unofficial photographers on the road, in camp and in all the other hidden places we manage to uncover along the way.
One of the most common questions we are asked after the ride is where people can go to view all the photos and relive the good times. Many also want to know how they can get copies or prints.
During the ride, some of the best shots from Greg Lee, Rohith Gunawardena and Dean Rodgers are processed and make their way onto the Cycle Oregon Facebook page, Instagram, The Cycle Oregonian and elsewhere.
After the ride, each photographer processes a superset of images, which they then post to their own individual websites. These sites provide quick and easy access to several hundred images, which can be viewed as thumbnails or as full screen slideshows. They are also where you can purchase high resolution downloads or prints.
If you haven’t seen them yet, you’re in for a treat. Greg’s images are at http://cycleorgon-photoguy.smugmug.com, Rohith’s images are at http://rohithg.smugmug.com and Dean’s images are at http://imagesbykoifish.photoshelter.com.
For the past several years, a flickr group has been created for each ride where everyone is encouraged to share their own work. This year’s is at http://www.flickr.com/groups/co2015.
Do you have images (or blog posts or video or any other type of content) you’d like to share? If so, please add them to the flickr group or post a link in the comments section of this post or on Facebook. If you post to Instagram or Twitter, don’t forget to use the #ridecycleoregon hashtag.
We are feeling especially grateful for the Cycle Oregon community as we wrap up Cycle Oregon 2015. We had been planning for more than a year and were excited about our Hell on Wheels ride through Hells Canyon and the Wallowas. We know these communities well and were looking forward to giving them the old Cycle Oregon economic boost.
We were scheduled to visit the scenic town of Halfway and then ride over the Wallowas to enjoy two days on the idyllic shore of Wallowa Lake, one of Oregon’s most iconic and important natural features. Then the Dry Gulch Fire erupted two days before we were scheduled to arrive in Halfway. We were faced with a difficult situation: could we find an alternate campsite so we could still make it to Wallowa Lake? We knew it was too far to ride in one day – 124 miles plus more than 10,000 feet of climbing.
Ride Director Steve Schulz brought a small team down Hells Canyon to evaluate whether we could move our camp. We typically need 10-15 acres for our campsite and services. Coppefield Park at Oxbow was simply not big enough for us – and that was the only possibility.
Steve and the team then visited Halfway to see for themselves what the conditions were like and to talk directly to Oregon Department of Forestry and County Commissioners. When they arrived in Halfway, hills above town were aflame and the air was heavy with smoke. While rain was forecast for the night, it was predicted to be accompanied by strong winds, which were expected to increase the fire.
After weighing the information at hand, Steve made the toughest choice. We had to cancel our plans to go to Halfway and – by extension – Wallowa Lake. We couldn’t risk interfering with fire-fighting efforts and we didn’t want to expose our riders to what we thought could be dangerously smoky conditions.
We gathered our community to stage in a soaking downpour and gave them the news. Then this happened: everyone felt some degree of disappointment – and then they got over it. The community – including staff, volunteers, host towns, community groups, vendors, service providers, state and local governments and agencies, speakers, entertainers and, of course, the riders – rallied and did what needed to be done (which was a lot).
We had an amazing week. Every day the smiles and well wishes just kept coming, and Come Hell or High Water, everyone was determined to just keep riding. While we did not make it to Halfway, Joseph and Enterprise, we did make it to Cove, Pondosa and Union along the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway – an utterly stunning route.
We encourage everyone to use our maps or the RideOregonRide.com website to create their own Hell on Wheels Ride. And we look forward to going back to Halfway, Joseph and Enterprise.
In the end, we all realized that Cycle Oregon is not a destination. Cycle Oregon is an experience. It’s about creating community with riders from around Oregon and the rest of the world and with the small towns we call home for a day or two. And it’s about seeing a different, slower, rural way of life. And along the way we got to see our mission in action: transforming lives and communities through bicycling.
So thanks again from all of us at Cycle O headquarters, where we are already hunkered down, working on our 2016 rides. Stay tuned. They’re sure to be epic. And memorable. Always memorable.
Cycle Oregon is widely known for organizing great bike rides and supporting efforts in rural communities. But Cycle Oregon also plays a vital role in helping Portland stay informed and connected through an event celebrating its eleventh year: the Policymaker Ride.
The Policymaker Ride was started in 2004 when Cycle Oregon was working to advance Oregon’s Scenic Bikeway program. The first year we showcased the “good, bad and ugly” of the proposed Scenic Bikeway and invited elected officials, agency directors, business leaders and nonprofit executives to experience it first-hand. This invite-only affair brought out 175 local leaders to see important projects, learn about upcoming initiatives, and get to know each other through shared interest in building a more connected community.
Working in partnership with Greenspaces Institute, Metro, PBOT, BPS and the Intertwine Alliance, the event this year focused on Portland’s Comprehensive Plan update, which integrates active transportation, environmental and community health and economic development.
After opening remarks from Cycle Oregon Chairman Jonathan Nicholas, US Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Executive Director Alison Graves at the Moda Center, the riders saddled up and cruised the Broadway Bridge, the Park Blocks, SW Moody Boulevard, Orange Line bike routes and the Springwater Corridor. We learned about Portland’s Comprehensive Plan, innovate approaches to playgrounds at Westmoreland Park’s Nature Play area and a one-of-a-kind active transportation-only bridge across the Willamette River and more.
The event is a simple and powerful way to get things done. Here’s what a couple of people had to say about the event:
“It’s a great opportunity for policy-makers, bureaucrats, and those who influence them to socialize and get on the same page. I always have valuable conversations and end up deepening connections.”
“… Connecting with others to help break down silos. For example, planners usually only talk with other planers so the ride provided us with an opportunity to talk with engineers and public health professionals that are working on similar projects.”
After the event, we learned that Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has been organizing bike commute events where he will learn more about opportunities to improve Portland’s bicycle facilities. We anticipate good news about how Portland’s leaders are connecting important dots and continuing to keep Portland at the forefront.