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City's creation of a cultural affairs staff position might aid similar events in future

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - After the Salmon Cycling Classic drew in fewer than 40 riders last year, event founder Steve Van Wechel is looking to boost support for this year's ride. Salmon Cycling Classic founder and Wilsonville resident Steve Van Wechel was proud of the first annual bicycling event in Wilsonville, which took place last July. He said the attendees who showed up enjoyed the scenery, the challenging uphill treks and the salmon dinner.

But he acknowledges that the turnout, fewer than 40 riders, was underwhelming and that he needs more people to show up to keep the event pedaling toward his long-term vision of a nationally prominent bicycle event located in the Wilsonville community.

"Last year everything was perfect and we had an excellent event," Van Wechel said. "The only problem was we didn't have people."

This year, Van Wechel is starting a sponsorship drive for the second annual event to bring in more revenue for advertising and covering other costs and is also applying for a tourism grant with the City of Wilsonville. He is hoping to bring aboard Wilsonville businesses or related to the biking community in the Portland metro area.

"We're making a list of businesses we want to look at, the ones who might be interested, those who have people involved with bicycle interests to see if we can come up with donations," Van Wechel said.

Relatedly, soon after last summer's event, Van Wechel established a nonprofit organization around the bike race titled Wilsonville Bicycle Events so that donations would be tax deductible.

The ride will take place June 29 rather than July this year and will continue to promote the French Prairie Bridge — a proposed bike, pedestrian and emergency vehicle bridge that would cross the Willamette River from Boones Ferry Road — and the scenic course, which includes Memorial Park, Pete's Mountain, Parrett Mountain and has an elevation gain of 5,000 feet, will remain largely the same.

"It's not for casual Joe bicyclist. People finished the course saying that it was challenging, but in a cool, positive way," Van Wechel said.

This year's event will also support a nonprofit organization, Choice Adoptions.

"Choice Adoptions has a lot to do with foster placements and we need a lot more foster families and quality families," Van Wechel said.

Van Wechel would like to see the City get more involved in planning and promoting the event.

"They aren't uncaring. They just aren't getting that involved and this has so much benefit to Wilsonville," Van Wechel said. "I'd like to see them get more energized and into the project."

He also said that the fees the City charges for hosting the event are excessive and might hinder large scale events from occurring in Wilsonville.

"There's a lot of expense because we're in Wilsonville," Van Wechel said. "Right now we're dealing with it and moving on because we have bigger plans."

Wilsonville Public Affairs Director Mark Ottenad said that one of the recommendations from the community about the City's nascent Public Investment Strategy for Arts, Culture and Heritage was for the City to add a cultural affairs coordinator that could work with private entities to help spark tourism and plan events in Wilsonville.

"Right now we don't have a position created to do an extensive level of work with organizations and so the arts, culture and heritage strategy public input has been to recommend the council to create a position," Ottenad said. "That would ultimately be up to City Council and the budget committee if they want to advance that new position."

Some of the fees Van Wechel will pay to put on the event include a $200 special event fee, a $107.50 river shelter rental fee and a total cost of $547.50. Wilsonville Parks and Recreation Program Manager Brian Stevenson said the City's fees are not exorbitant in comparison to other municipalities.

"We periodically do reviews of like cities and surrounding cities and we always make an attempt to be in the cheaper half of local municipalities," he said. "The general philosophy (of the fee amounts) is the staff time it takes to prepare a facility or staff time that goes into approvals required that's part of an event."

Van Wechel's goal is to attract between 100 and 300 riders this year and to eventually build an event that brings thousands of riders to Wilsonville and is a boon to the local economy.

"The primary motor behind the entire effort is to drive economic development in Wilsonville. It brings a lot of money into Wilsonville and it can be done without increasing taxes or infrastructure or other public costs," he said.


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