Planning staff participated in a series of events sponsored by Travel Oregon in 2016. This series was focused on rural tourism, and ways to improve outreach, coordination, marketing, and more in the Gorge and Eastern Oregon.
Wasco is split into two regions according to Travel Oregon. The majority of the county is in the Central Oregon region, which connects us to counties to the South, including Deschutes County. The Columbia River Gorge portion of our county is incorporated into the Mt. Hood/Gorge territory. Tourism is identified as a strength and a potential opportunity for the region according to Mid Columbia Economic Development District’s recent Economic Development Strategy document. This encapsulates not only recreational activities in our natural areas, but also visits to wineries, cideries, u-Pick farms, and historical sites.
Travel Oregon produced a series of documents that are available on their website here: http://industry.traveloregon.com/2016-industry-engagement-insights/.
We heard from the workshop series a lot of interest from residents and businesses in more opportunities for recreational and agricultural tourism in Wasco County. As an existing strength and opportunity for future growth and development, the Planning Department wants to make sure regulations allow for uses and activities that support tourism.
You may see the term agri or agro tourism pop up quite a bit during the Wasco County 2040, and that is in response to the interest expressed by community members. Currently, Wasco County’s land use regulations allow for limited agro-tourism activities. One of the things staff is focused on understanding is how to enable agro-tourism activities and uses without creating conflict from other uses including large-scale commercial agriculture.
Similarly, new recreation demands have indicated to partners a need to develop new facilities or enhance existing parks, trails, and campgrounds. We have heard from many residents that some activities, including biking and hiking, can have unintended impacts to emergency services, farming, and residences. In exploring how to continue to support recreation, Planning staff wants to hear about existing conflicts and impacts, and concerns for future impacts to help us better plan.