Planning staff attended the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance Summit yesterday to learn more about trends with tourism. The meeting included speakers from the agro-tourism and craft beverage sectors in Wasco County. There was also continued discussion on encouraging more traffic and tourism from Portland to head further east to reduce congestion and spread the impact.
Over the last several months, we have spoken to lots of community members about agri-tourism and how we may incorporate available land use provisions for events and activities into Wasco County 2040. We will be working to adopt some new language to Wasco County 2040 and make some recommendations for the Land Use and Development Ordinance early next year.
In the meantime, we wanted to provide some additional information and resources for farmers or others interested in agri-tourism in Oregon.
Oregon Policy Handout on “Growing Your Business with Agritourism”: http://industry.traveloregon.com/content/uploads/2017/07/Agritourism-Webinar_7-20171.pdf
Oregon Agritourism Handbook: http://industry.traveloregon.com/industry-resources/toolkits/welcome-oregon-agritourism-handbook/
During the 2017 Wasco County 2040 Visioning roadshow and public outreach, Planning staff and the Citizen Advisory Group asked community members, property owners, and stakeholders for input on amending land use planning regulations to allow for more opportunities for agri-tourism events and activities.
In 2011, Senate Bill 960 allowed counties to adopt new provision, in whole or in part (or not at all) to allow for additional types of activities and events, in conjunction with farm use. These were categorized as “agri-tourism” uses and designed to be related to and in support of agriculture.
These uses would be added to Wasco County’s Exclusive Farm Use Zones (A-1 (160) and A-1 (40) regulations in the Land Use and Development Ordinance. They are exclusive to state law, and therefore the National Scenic Area would not be eligible for these additional uses.
Staff has prepared the following white paper to help inform the public on the key issues related to agri-tourism and land use planning: Agritourism whitepaper WC 2040
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.