Friday, April 22, 2011

Siskiyou Welcome Center Slowly Moves Forward

Ealier this week, Ashland City Council approved use of the city’s water and sewer service for the Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center, a big step forward for a project 16 years in the making. The proposal does come with a few conditions that must be met however: water use is limited to potable purposes only (not for landscape irrigation), welcome center facility must be built within 4 years and have adequate staffing and maintenance, and Oregon State Police must have a substation on site.

Additionally, for the project to move forward, the Jackson County Commissioners must approve an exception to a land use rule, allowing for an exception in city water use outside city limits. The Commissioners have made exceptions before and will bring this issue to the table in May.

As for funding the project, Oregon Department of Transportation must secure about $5 million to build the rest area, with intent to implement sustainable practices. Travel Oregon will be looking at federal funding to help secure the $2.5 million needed to build the welcome center.

Several industry partners were on hand to testify at the Council meeting including Scott West, Travel Oregon, Drew Baily, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, and Matt Folz, Xanterra Parks / Crater Lake. Carolyn Hill, CEO of Southern Oregon Visitors Association, shared travel impact data where the average visitor spends $158 a day in the Rogue Valley, illustrating how the availability of additional information on Ashland and area attractions will convince visitors to stay longer.

Although State Welcome Centers are only one component of the state's overall visitor information environment, they are key in helping to provide visitors with valuable information to enhance their experience in our state.

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