CORVALLIS, Ore. – How should Oregon showcase its unique outdoors opportunities and help communities benefit from the visitors who love them? A two-day Outdoor Summit at Oregon State University will explore opportunities and challenges of traveling to, living in and enjoying life in Oregon’s great outdoors.
Community leaders, public officials, outdoors enthusiasts, outdoors-related businesses, public officials, educators and students from across Oregon are all invited to participate, said Jeff Sherman, assistant director of Outreach and Engagement at OSU, which is cosponsoring the Oct. 16-17 summit along with Travel Oregon and Oregon State Parks.
“It’s going to be a two-day adventure,” said Sherman. “To anyone who’s passionate about the outdoors and wants to learn or add to the conversation, we’re saying, ‘Come join us.’”
Lindsey Shirley, associate director of OSU Extension Service, noted that 70 percent of Oregonians regularly get out to the woods, beaches and mountains to enjoy themselves and seek physical and spiritual renewal.
“The outdoors has always been part of the Oregon spirit,” she said. “But developing a sustainable outdoors economy doesn’t happen all by itself. With this summit, we hope to work with our partners at Travel Oregon and Oregon State Parks to identify needs and opportunities to close some of the gaps.”
Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon, added: “From backpacking in the Wallowas, to fly-fishing on the McKenzie River to cycling one of our 16 Scenic Bikeways, outdoor recreation is a primary driver of Oregon’s economy. Tourism in Oregon is a $11.3 billion industry and directly supports more than 109,000 jobs. Building strong, sustainable partnerships across the industry and across the state will help us leverage this momentum.”
The summit will be held at CH2M Hill Alumni Center on OSU’s Corvallis campus. Monday’s keynote speaker is Luis Benitez, who directs Colorado’s Recreation Industry Office. He will talk about developing a broad vision for Oregon’s outdoors economy.
Tuesday’s keynote speaker is Stacy Bare, director of Sierra Club Outdoors, who will talk about how outdoors experiences promote human well-being, and also about engaging diverse audiences.
Panel discussions will center on several topics, including supporting Oregon’s outdoors-related businesses and improving the state’s aging trails and campgrounds. The agenda includes a farm-to-table dinner on Monday night, hosted by OSU’s Food Innovation Center, as well as a farmer’s market-style display that showcases OSU’s food- and beverage-related research and products from local food entrepreneurs.
“It makes sense that OSU is convening this summit,” said Shirley. “OSU has been doing research and engagement around natural resources and outdoors opportunities for more than 100 years.”
The university has long offered a degree program in recreation resource management on the Corvallis campus. OSU-Cascades Campus in Bend offers a program in tourism, recreation and adventure leadership and is developing a new program in outdoor product development.
“Oregon’s stunning natural beauty and abundant outdoors opportunities are the stuff of legend,” said Dan Little, outdoor-recreation advocate, who will be a panelist at the conference.
“The outdoors is core to being an Oregonian,” said Little, who is also the husband of Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “I want to make sure everyone has the same opportunities that we who live here have experienced. Whether you are a long-time resident or a visitor from a faraway place, Oregon has an adventure for you.”
For agenda and registration information, go to Outreach and Engagement’s Outdoor Summit website. The two-day summit costs $10 per day; Monday night’s dinner is another $25. For more information or questions, contact Hollie Conger.