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Task force aims to put Wilsonville on the map


by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce and its successful Oregon Horse Country initiative have kickstarted equine tourism in the Wilsonville area in recent years, one example being the popular series of competitions held each summer at Hunter Creek Farms. A new task force now is looking to expand the tourism industry in and around the city. Tourism is not an industry that is usually associated with Wilsonville.

But a concerted new effort joining both the public and private sectors aims to change that. Part of the city’s new comprehensive economic development effort, the new tourism development strategy starts with a newly appointed citizen task force and a pair of public workshops this month that will carve out the strategy’s basic outline.

Starting with a community workshop at 6 p.m. tonight at Wilsonville City Hall and continuing next week with a second workshop and the first task force meeting, the planning process is envisioned as lasting six months. It will conclude with the Wilsonville City Council formally adopting task force recommendations sometime next spring.

“The approach we’ll be taking here in Wilsonville will be highly consultative,” said consultant Bill Baker, hired by the city along with his firm, Total Destination, to facilitate the planning process.

Baker told the city council last week that 20 or more interviews with local citizens were planned, along with three to four workshops in the future. Combined with a more comprehensive online survey, he said, this would help provide the insight into local needs and wants necessary to gain consensus on a tourism strategy.

“There will be many open-ended questions, which surprised (Wilsonville Public/Government Affairs Director) Mark (Ottenad) very much,” Baker said. “But we find by providing open-ended questions we can find some hidden gems.”

The first community workshop runs from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, at city hall and is open to the public. A second workshop will be held at the same time and place next Oct. 23.

In the meantime, the Tourism Development Strategy Task Force will meet Oct. 24 at 1:30 p.m. at city hall. The 17-member group was put together by Wilsonville City Manager Bryan Cosgrove and is being asked to identify the best ways for the city to market itself to outside visitors.

The most visible effort of its type to date, the Wilsonville Horse Country initiative launched several years ago by the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce and provides at least one successful example for the task force to follow.

But it still remains a challenge to market a city that was built as a hub of high-tech commerce. That said, the task force is made up of members representing an even wider range of interests than the economic development task force that preceded it.

“We have a number of task force members representing everything from attractions like agri-tourism and outdoor recreation to family entertainment and hospitality,” said City Councilor Julie Fitzgerald, who will serve as council liaison to the tourism development strategy task force. “There are property managers, nonprofits and members from the residential sector participating, events such as farmers markets and sports tourism, and in the public sector the Clackamas County Tourism Development Commission and Washington County Parks and Recreation will be a part.”

“A lot of listening helps us a great deal,” Baker added.

Other members, he noted, “have a regional or state influence” and are being asked to oversee the task force.

“They’ll ask questions and keep us on the straight and narrow,” Baker said. “And I think that, combined, it will add a very good contribution to what we’re doing, which is harnessing the insights and opinions of local residents and then synthesizing that into the strongest approach for the city.”

A draft of the final strategy will be available for public input at the end of the process but prior to council approval.

For more information, visit: http://ci.wilsonville.or.us.

At a glance

Wilsonville Tourism Development Strategy

Public workshops are scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 16, and Wednesday, Oct. 23, both at 6 p.m. at Wilsonville City Hall, Willamette River room, second floor, 29799 SW Town Center Loop East.

Subjects and issues the workshops will cover include:

  • Exploring critical issues related to tourism in Wilsonville
  • Identifing gaps and opportunities
  • Articulating a draft vision and mission statement
  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses
  • The city has also formed a task force composed of business and resident volunteers to provide feedback and guide the overall effort. That group begins meeting Oct. 24, also at Wilsonville City Hall.

    The community workshops are open to business managers, residents and all members of the public who have an interest in growing the local area tourism economy.

    Details: Mark Ottenad, public/government affairs director, 503-570-1505; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..