Learning from Successful Paddle Trail Projects

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Revenue, Reach and Responsibility:

A Presentation at Outdoor Retailer by Kate Williams,
Executive Director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

One of the most fascinating and relevant presentations I attended at Outdoor Retailer was Kate William’s talk on the partnerships between retailers and paddle trails. Kate represents the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740 mile stretch that links the waterways of New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine. NFCT has created maps, books and online resources to enrich the paddling experience with history of early Native Americans and European settlers in this area. Kate showed many examples of the ways in which the paddle trail helped to revitalize communities and businesses through partnerships.

Here in Bend, the relationship between Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe and the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance is extremely solid and supportive and, as Kate went through her list of recommendations on how to strengthen this connection, I was psyched to note all the things we are already doing right! She also offered up many ideas of things that we could think about implimenting in the future.

Things were are already doing:

Creating stories around the paddle trail that tie into history and healthy lifestyles.
The Deschutes River section that flows through Bend is itself a metaphor for the city’s transformation from a milltown to a recreational mecca.

Being the experts on your paddle trail.
We use the Deschutes Paddle Trail Guide that was created by the BPTA every day at the shop to explain sections of the river to our customers.

Creating events that bring the Paddle Trail and retailer together.
Pickin’ & Paddlin’ has been a huge success this summer bringing hundreds of people down to the river to try out boats, learn about the BPTA and enjoy live music. Both the June and July events raised nearly $3,000 each for the BPTA and had over 300 attendees.

Kate’s ideas for the future:

Create a “trail vacation” package.
Partner with Cog Wild and an area hotel (Pine Ridge Inn or Oxford Hotel) that offers a day on the river and another mountain biking and is promoted by all four entities (Tumalo Creek, BPTA, hotel, Cog Wild or other tour company.)

Spread the story nationally.
Network with paddling sites like Paddling.net etc.

Start a voluntourism program where people travel to Bend to clean up sections of the river.

Next Generation.
Create a flatwater youth paddling program where kids not only learn how to paddle, but learn about the geography of the Deschutes Paddle Trail.

Kate closed the presentation by directing us to a Trails and Economic Development Report that has just been published that quantifies the ways in which the NFCT has strengthened and revitalized trail side communities. One of the most interesting facts to come out of the study was that trails are the #1 amenity sited by homebuyers 55 and older as a reason to invest in real estate. It is pretty likely we’d come to some very similar conclusions here in Bend.