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With Games gone, time to focus on the Gorge

March 8

Now that we have determined that the Gorge Games in any form are washed out for 2003, it’s time that the community of Hood River begins to think about how we can invigorate the local economy in late July.

For six of the past seven years, the Gorge Games have infused millions of dollars into the Hood River economy, and now, in these troubled economic times, it’s up to us to figure out a way to get some of it back.

Ideas about a film festival or food-and-wine festival have been talked about. The possibility of a scaled-down kiteboarding or kayaking competition is still out there. Other events, like the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic and the Columbia Gorge Marathon have already ramped up their efforts for 2003.

But the number-one thing we can do to bring money to town this summer is bring people here to spend their money.

Instead of trying to promote one event for 10 days and rely on that cash influx to carry us through fall (and hopefully, winter), the whole town needs to get behind the vision of promoting the Gorge as a tourist destination.

Sure, most Northwesterners have heard of it. But many people think of the Gorge as a windsurfing/kiteboarding destination. They don’t realize all the other exciting things that happen here every day.

I’m originally from Seattle — just four hours up the road — and before I got a job in Hood River, I didn’t know the first thing about the Gorge. I had no idea that this region was just as much about hiking, biking and kayaking as it was windsurfing.

I never realized the majestic natural beauty of this place before I lived here, and I can assuredly say that I was not alone. People know it’s here; they just don’t know how it might appeal to them if they’re not an outdoors nut.

Or, maybe they are into the outdoors, but don’t know if they will fit in with the “extreme” crowd on all the local rivers and trails.

These are merely perceptions, and once we show people that the Gorge has something to offer just about everyone, we will be doing our job of infusing the local economy with “other people’s money.”

The most important thing to

remember is that we all have to work together to achieve the end goal. Every business in town — including Safeway, Rosauers, Wal-Mart, Les Schwab Tires, and the auto dealerships — must get behind this effort for it to be a success.

For the plan to work, the Gorge Lifestyle marketing campaign can’t be two divided camps, as it appears to be with the Gorge Games. No one is trying to call these businesses to task. We are merely trying to help them realize that their efforts are essential for this plan to work.

Basically, every business owner in this town must take into account that every dollar spent in Hood River comes back to them in one way or another. Every cent helps the bottom line.

So let’s make the best of this unfortunate situation and start promoting an endless Gorge summer. We have the rivers and trails. We have the mountain and the orchards. And we have the people to help make the Gorge a destination.

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