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Letters, Feb. 26

Support outdoor tourism

I applaud Travel Ashland Director Catherine Cato for promoting outdoor recreation as the future driver of Ashland’s diversified tourism economy. Mountain biking is a big part of that outdoor economy.

Outdoor recreation generates $16.4 billion per year in Oregon, and mountain biking is the fastest growing segment of that market.

Bike tourism contributes $400 million to the Oregon economy (nearly as much as the ski/snowboard industry).

While a number of areas nationwide are trying to tap into the mountain bike tourism market, Ashland has advantages other locations can’t match. Our temperate climate means many of our trails can be enjoyed year-round. Our unique blend of loam and decomposed granite drains quickly, so it can be ridden rain or shine. And few areas can match our shuttle-able terrain and some of the longest sustained downhills anywhere.

However, there are still a few holes in our trail network keeping Ashland from capitalizing on the mountain bike tourism economy. A dearth of beginner trails discourages many families from visiting Ashland to ride. In addition, a shortage of trails on both the lower, city properties and upper Forest Service land mean existing trails are overused and in frequent need of repairs.

Expanding Ashland’s trail network would expand Ashland’s visibility to all outdoor travel tourists — not just mountain bikers. More trails means more rafters, more runners, more wine lovers, more foodies — more economic sustainability.

Martin Stadtmueller

President, Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association

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