Joe Borrelli returns a volley to Katherine Shelburne during a pickleball game Oct. 1 in Durham, N.C.

Christine T. Nguyen, The Associated Press

REEDSPORT — Ocean? Check. River? Got it. Dune-riding paradise? Yep. Intersection of two highways? Right here.

So why isn't Reedsport's tourism industry booming?

The Reedsport Main Street program's economic development committee wants to make that happen, and at an Oct. 14 meeting, members reported on some ideas they've researched.

Committee chair Deb Yates introduced Jeff Wilmarth, a mountain biker and Coos Forest Protective Association employee, who talked about what it would take to create a network of mountain bike trails near Reedsport.

He said the committee's idea for a trail along existing logging roads between Loon Lake and Lakeside wasn't practicable because of the checkerboard of public and private ownership in that area.

A more doable plan, suggested by Reedsport city manager Jonathan Wright, would be to build a network of trails on city property in the Crestview area, the finger of hills between Scholfield Creek and Highway 38.

On steep terrain, many miles of trail can be packed into a few acres because of switchbacks, Wilmarth said. He suggested the city and CFPA could partner on the effort, possibly with labor from Shutter Creek inmate crews.

CFPA is a nonprofit that provides fire protection service on private and public timber lands in Coos, Curry and western Douglas counties.

Yates said a destination mountain biking trail would be a desirable tourist attraction because mountain bikers tend to be young men with disposable income.

Katie Lockard, a Reedsport native who's returned home as an Americorps Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) employee to coordinate the Main Street program, asked if the committee had done any market research about mountain biking. Pat Sullivan, owner of 1 Stop Sports Shop, said customers from out of town often ask him about mountain biking.

Committee member Ike Launstein, the city's former school superintendent, said he'd talked with Louis Gomez, a former Reedsport police officer who is now city administrator of Oakridge, which has become a mountain biking destination.

For 10 years, Oakridge has hosted an annual festival called Mountain Bike Oregon (http://mtbikeoakridge.com). Descriptions of trails are available at www.ormtb.com/Oakridge/Oak_trails. Volunteer groups, businesses and Travel Oregon have all pitched in to create a single-track paradise, then market it to enthusiasts year-round.

Yates suggested the committee form a subcommittee to look into the possibility of Reedsport's doing likewise.

Next, the committee batted around the idea of wine and cheese events, making use of the area's proximity to Bandon's Face Rock Creamery and the wineries of the Umpqua Valley.

Yates mentioned the idea of "pop-up" businesses, perhaps branches of established businesses, selling wine, cheese and chocolate, which would come into being for an event or a season.

Another proposal? Pickleball. 

This sport, described by the USA Pickleball Association as "A fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong," is played on a badminton-sized court with a solid paddle and a ball like a whiffle ball.

Apparently there are 2.46 million pickleballers in America, with more being produced every year, since the sport is increasingly played in physical education classes. 

Pickleball can be played indoors or out, and there's a robust tournament circuit to which players travel.

The committee pondered the idea of building destination pickleball courts, and possibly other exercise facilities, in the Jewett School in Gardiner.

Of course, tourism isn't Reedsport's only development option. But committee members agreed that it could provide a necessary cash infusion.

"We have a lot of cash driving through our town, and we have a lot of people here subsisting on very little money," mused Justin Feral-McWhirter, a website developer. Quick fixes to capture some of the money would be parking lots and restaurants — "somewhere to stop," he said.

"Then you have a little breathing room, and you ask, 'How can you make it better for industry?'"

Lockard said one way to spread the wealth from tourist businesses would be to institute a system of referrals. Tourist-related businesses would give visitors a coupon to other businesses in town, with the idea of encouraging them to stay a little longer and spend some money.

The committee agreed such a program would take coordination with the chamber of commerce.

During the meeting, Lockard, who's been on the job just a few weeks, made a point on economic development by contrasting Starbucks, which is the same everywhere, with The Missing Bean, her favorite mom-and-pop coffee shop from when she lived in Oxford, England. 

"A Starbucks town is always trying to catch other people, asking, 'What do they want?'" she said.

"A Missing Bean town says, 'What do we want?'" 

Reporter Gail Elber can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 243, or via email at gail.elber@theworldlink.com.