IN THE RING: Tourism in Keizer?

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This week’s question was:
“What, if anything, should be added to Keizer to promote tourism?”

Phil Bay, retired insurance agent and former city councilor:
“Public Arts-Keizer Rapids Parj, and Rotary Amphiteater-45th Parallel. But let’s be realistic. We are not St. Louis, we are not Seattle. And we do not need to be comparing ourselves to them, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. We have always had great youth sports programs, and of course we have the Volcanoes Baseball program.”

John Morgan, MorganCPS Consulting:
“Ever since I was Community Development Director I advocated for 20 foot tall fiberglass full-color Irises lining River Road. That would be both thematic and tacky which is sure to bring in the tourists!
 
“However, on a more pragmatic note, Keizer has only one real opportunity to be a tourist destination, and that’s not Keizer. It’s the surrounding central Willamette Valley with its wonderful landscapes, variety of landform and uses, and myriad examples of agricultural production. Keizer should serve as a central convenient location in the middle of a huge tourist attraction, not try to be the tourist attraction itself.”

Vic Backlund, former GOP state representative and retired educator:
“What comes to mind first is that we should promote the ‘liveability of Keizer,’ that we emphasizde that Keizer is a great place to live.  For example, Keizer is known for its volunteerism; Keizer has its annual Iris Festival and an outstanding parade to go with it; Keizer’s schools are top notch; Keizer has developed into a city that has excellent shopping opportunities; Keizer is noted for its friendliness as well.  In short, much can be made of how nice it is to live in Keizer.  And, we could be promoted as the gateway to many of Oregon’s best attractions:  an hour from Portland, an hour and fifteen minutes from the Pacific Ocean and a little more than two hours from Central Oregon and its attractions.”

Warren Franklin, KYKN radio personality:
“I don’t know if you can just add an event or tourist attraction and attract a large number of tourists without spending a lot of money.  Instead, I believe Keizer should look at its tourism oriented assets and promote them.  The Salem/Keizer Volcanoes provide a great tourist attraction with over 40 games played during the summer.  Keizer Rapids Park and its new ampitheater could prove to be a nice attraction to people visiting the area.  There are assests around Keizer that could attract people, too, like Willamette Mission State Park and Antique Powerland.     
 
“The challenge for Keizer is finding the funds to promote the tourism oriented assets it already has.  Most promotional money comes from Transient Occupancy Taxes charged at hotels and motels.  Keizer lacks hotels and motels.  I recommend Keizer begin looking for one or two motels to build near and around Keizer Station.  Once up and running Keizer would have a new source of revenue to market tourism.  This may be harder than it sounds given our current economy.”

Kimberly Strand, local business owner and real estate agent:
“I really never thought of Keizer as a tourism town like McMinnville or Silverton with all their shops and boutiques, however we do have the Iris Festival and the parade which does a great job showcasing Keizer and the community!  
 
“I am very excited about the bike rally that is coming to Keizer this summer.  This is a great opportunity to bring tourism dollars to our town.  Also, promotion of the  Keizer Rapids Park would be huge.  More concerts and art at the park.   Also, a dog show or obstacle course event would be a great way to promote the dog park and bring more people to Keizer for these events.”

JoAnne Beilke, local real estate agent:
“Paint your mailboxes.”

Art Bobrowitz, Compass Rose Consulting:
“I think Keizer has the attitude to create something great. Portland has the Rose Festival; Mt. Angel has the Oktoberfest, Ashland has the Shakespeare Festival. The one common ingredient is attitude. Attitude must come first. I don’t know what the ‘theme’ of a tourist attraction should be. That will come with time. The one main ingredient is the attitude of the community.

“What is it we want to do? Do we have the resources to get it started and are we prepared to pay the price? Careful consideration must be given to the demands of such an issue. As Walt Disney said with his vision of Disneyland, ‘do we have the creativity, dreams, and imagination to make people happy?’

“Whatever we may choose to promote for tourism the question becomes ‘do we in Keizer have the visioneers?’

Jeanne Bond-Esser, parks board chair and retired educator:
“Yes, we should promote tourism in Keizer. Why keep this lovely little town to ourselves? Here’s my half-dozen ideas.
“1.      Build facilities to visit. When the fenced dog park opened, a Silverton-based doggie-blog was filled with messages for “meet-ups” here. Similarly, once the disc golf course was finished, members of a Salem area club became regulars. Tennis courts/pavilion and playfields can build toward a possible ‘tournament town.’ Walking paths that go somewhere, trailhead facilities for the Willamette River Water Trail, reservable covered picnic areas suitable for large family reunions all can draw ‘day trippers’ into town.
“2.      Lay out a beckoning road. Picture a flower-lined entrance to town via Chemawa Road from Lockhaven. Shoppers, pulled off the freeway by Keizer Station, would exit the shopping center opposite a colorful gateway with signage inviting visitors to the museum, heritage center, city parks, spray park, or to follow a newly improved Chemawa Road N. all the way to the Willamette River at Keizer Rapids.
“3.      Create a sense of destination. Gertrude Stein complained about Oakland, “When you get there, there isn’t any there there.” Features such as the island plantings and marked cross-walk on Chemawa Road NE, the new Thomas Dove Keizur statue, the fountain at Lockhaven and River Road, the “focal point”  at Chemawa and River Road, the River Road improvements and public art all help create a “sense of place,” announcing to visitors that  “they’re here”; that Keizer is more than merely a spot on the way to somewhere else. Unfortunately, until pedestrians can conveniently cross River Road to shop,  I’m afraid our unrelieved five-lane thoroughfare through the middle of town announces just the opposite.
“4.      Provide a place for strangers. Highly visible and easily accessible parks and public spaces have “welcome mat” written all over them. Strangers do not feel “out of place” in parks when they arrive in town. Most of our neighborhood parks are tucked away, out of sight and difficult to find — but not Claggett Creek Park. Expand it. Make it beautiful. Make it the Central Park of Keizer.
“5.      Offer visitors a little wayfinding help. The possibility of a Visitors’ Center in the new transit mall is a wonderful opportunity to introduce travelers to Keizer and surrounding area. Follow it up by adding a web presence and making it the one-stop center for arranging garden tours, wine tours, river tours, cycle tours, geocaching tours, birdwatching tours, local festival tours  — with guides, limos, shuttles, bed and breakfast, all the support services that are present in towns with real tourist industry.
“6.  Show them a small-town welcome. When a quilt show came to town, I saw only a few reader-board signs on a couple of businesses. If the Good Vibrations motorcyclists come to town, let’s pull the stops out. Ever been to Sisters during one of their events (which, by the way, occur EVERY weekend during the season)?  Let’s hang banners on the light poles and wear “Welcome Good Vibes” stickers on our lapels as we go about town. Let folks know that when they come to Keizer, they’re honored guests and friends-to-be. Sweep the Civic Center porch, dust off the patio furniture, freshen the flowers around town. Make the place look like company’s coming.”

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