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Grants aim to aid Southern Oregon tourism

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is upgrading heating and cooling systems of restrooms and other indoor spaces at its outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre. Photo of 2017 performance by Kim Budd
OSF, Ashland Independent Film Festival among grant winners

Travel Oregon has awarded $354,419 in grants to aid tourism organizations in Southern Oregon that have been hard-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These projects directly support Oregon’s tourism economy, from iconic Oregon attractions like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to outdoor trail development, to retrofitting outdoor events to meet public health standards,” said Todd Davidson, chief executive officer of Travel Oregon.

Funded by a 1.8% state hotel tax, Travel Oregon is the state’s tourism promotion agency.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is getting $50,000 for heating and air conditioning improvements of indoor spaces such as restrooms and control booths at its outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, according to OSF.

OSF’s theaters were closed to live plays in 2020, although it ramped up digital streaming of past and new performances. This year, the theater company is continuing to stream digital content while aiming for the return of live theater in the fall.

The Ashland Independent Film Festival went virtual this spring but is planning a live outdoor festival of films, music and food trucks June 24-28. The film festival received $45,000 from Travel Oregon for COVID-19 safety measures to help keep the public safe during the outdoor festival.

Katharine Cato, director of Travel Ashland, said people have become increasingly eager to travel, but they still want assurances that tourism venues are taking safety and wellness into consideration.

“Our partners, businesses and community are constantly adapting,” Cato said.

Ashland-based Momentum River Expeditions received $13,500 to offer COVID-19 testing to guests who are heading out on multiday rafting trips. The company is also using the money to give regular COVID-19 tests to any unvaccinated workers.

The city of Grants Pass received $100,000 to improve the trail system on Dollar Mountain, a city-owned property with wildflowers, a woodland and views of the Rogue Valley.

The Safari Game Foundation received a $45,919 grant to improve the outdoor theater at Wildlife Safari, a sprawling tourist attraction south of Roseburg that features wild animals from around the world roaming in vast enclosures.

Travel Oregon gave $100,000 to the National Forest Foundation for hazard tree removal, parking lot improvements and trail restoration of the Fall Creek Falls Trail in the Umpqua National Forest. The trail and forest were damaged by the 2020 Archie Creek fire.

Statewide, Travel Oregon awarded $2.4 million through its Competitive & Recovery Grant Program.

“The infusion of dollars throughout our state is really key,” Cato said.

She noted organizations need to finish the funded projects by November, so the aid will be put to use quickly.

While Travel Oregon gave $2.4 million in grants, it received requests for more than $18 million for projects that support tourism and economic recovery, the agency said.

Oregon tourism was severely impacted by the pandemic.

From 2019 to 2020, travel-related employment dropped 22% and travel spending plummeted by nearly half, from $12.8 billion to $6.5 billion, according to a preliminary Economic Impact of Travel in Oregon report by Dean Runyan & Associates.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.