Scott Carroll

It may have flown largely under the radar, but make no mistake about it: the Oregon Trails Summit that took place this week in Roseburg was a big deal for a variety of reasons.

The summit spanned three days and brought together more than 200 professionals who, in one way or another, have a role in developing and maintaining the outdoor trail systems that help make Oregon the special place it is.

Those include local, state and federal land managers and parks officials, various trail organizations and dozens of groups like Oregon Equestrian Trails and the Oregon State Snowmobile Association. There was even an unplanned, impromptu talk by Sen. Ron Wyden on the importance of Oregon’s trail systems.

“This is our third year doing the summit and we’re thrilled to be doing this in Roseburg this year,” said Steph Noll, Coalition Director of the Oregon Trails Coalition, which organized the event. “We like to move around the state and we wanted to highlight all the great work that’s being done here.”

The summit was sponsored by two dozen influential and well-regarded government and private entities, including Oregon State Parks, Travel Oregon, Trailkeepers of Oregon and Travel Southern Oregon.

In addition to participating in typical conference-like activities like workshops and planning sessions, participants saw the beauty of the area during hiking, horseback riding and biking excursions. They also got a taste of Roseburg nightlife — not to mention terrific pizza and beer — during an “Offsite Networking Reception” at Backside Brewing Co.

Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks, who helped organize the event and even worked the reception area at the fairgrounds during the summit, said the event provided a tangible boost to area businesses.

“Think about it, 200 people at Backside Brewing, meals at other restaurants, all the hotel rooms. All that adds up and is great for the local economy,” she said.

There is also the less visible but just as important long-term ripple effect these kind of events have. People come here, like the area, and come back. They tell their friends, who also come. Some may even move here.

I lived in Southwest Florida where spring training baseball is big. I cannot tell you how many people came from Baltimore or Pittsburgh or Philly to watch their teams play and eventually ended up buying a home in the area. I’m not saying there will be a flood of Oregon trail aficionados buying homes here but this kind of exposure is significant and cannot be bought.

Kudos to Hicks and other Roseburg city officials like Community Development Director Stuart Cowie and Parks and Rec manager Kris Ammerman for helping pull off such a successful event.

Even if it did fly under the radar.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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