BANDON — A collaboration between Travel Southern Oregon Coast, Oregon South Coast Regional Tourism Network, Oregon Coast Visitors Association and the Port of Bandon has resulted in a new paddle launch being installed in the Bandon boat basin.

The launch can be used by kayakers and paddle boarders, as well as other similar recreational vessels. 

A ribbon cutting and celebration was held Sept. 27 by the Bandon Chamber of Commerce and was attended by dignitaries and representatives of local agencies that also helped make the new launch a reality.

"My job is all about collaborating and this project had it in spades," said Julie Miller, executive director of OSCRTN, whose job involves destination tourism collaboration from Reedsport to Brookings and as far east as Powers.

The new launch is located on the east side of the boat basin just past the gangway. It has a bar to help people steady themselves as they get onto or lift off their boards or kayaks. 

The paddle launch is the pilot project of 14 others planned throughout the region. The project will include updating existing paddle launches and installing new ones in Coos, Curry and Coastal Douglas counties. The next two launches will be built in Port Orford and Lakeside. Those may look a little different than Bandon's but will serve the same purpose.

In some communities, such as Gold Beach, people will be able to rent paddle boards or kayaks to use. The opportunity exists for an ambitious person to start a new business, Miller said. 

"We're really excited about this program and the state is looking at us as forward-thinkers in this area," she said.

Travel Oregon supports and helps fund OSCRTN projects through a granting process. In 2013, Travel Oregon developed the rural tourism program and helped the area develop a strategy for marketing the South Coast as a tourist destination. The area is rich with outdoor recreational opportunities, so those were developed over the past five years through collaborative efforts and funded through grants.

One of the first efforts was to create the Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway in Port Orford, which includes miles of roads suitable for biking with signage and stops along some of the most scenic areas of the South Coast. 

A scuba fill station was also installed in Port Orford for enthusiasts who take advantage of the local ocean diving areas.

The Farm Trail started with nine locations and has now grown to 42 businesses that offer locally sourced ingredients or products. The Farm Trail is now a model for other similar efforts statewide.

Fat tire biking is another activity suited to the coastal landscape and OSCRTN is helping create itineraries along the South Coast.

Whiskey Run Biking Trails was a collaborative effort with Coos County and is now a popular destination. The high-end sport brings people and dollars to the community.

"Coos County was brilliant about this as a draw to our area," Miller said. "The county has this timber land and figured out a way to use it while it's growing."

The first phase included 10 miles of off-road biking. The second phase is planned and has been funded.

The Coquille River Water Trail is another project that showcases the South Coast's waterways and is growing in popularity.

To help with these efforts, Oregon State University hired tourism extension service agent Miles Phillips, and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association also put an agent on the South Coast to help develop destination tourism in the area.

Travel Southern Oregon Coast, the Oregon South Coast Regional Tourism Network, Oregon Coast Visitors Association, Wild Rivers Coast Alliance and others are all working together, Miller said.

"We are selling the region together and we collaborate to enhance economic development through sustainable tourism," Miller said. "And outdoor recreation is the product we have to sell. People are looking for experiences on the South Coast and we want to focus tourism organizations in a direction to make it a regional destination."

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