For years, Bend overnight visitors have paid a tax to help fund tourism marketing and pay for police, fire and other city services.
The Bend City Council on Wednesday voted to divert some of that tourism marketing money to maintaining the trails and other areas that bring so many visitors to the region.
“The community, who really is our tourism industry stakeholders, they were saying this would be a good time for us to be able to use some of these promotion funds and reinvest or invest in some of our natural amenities,” Carolyn Eagan, City of Bend economic development director said. “Which is what attracts visitors to our town.”
The 10.4% transient room tax generates about $10 million to Bend each year, with about $3 million going to Visit Bend’s tourism marketing efforts.
The remaining $7 million is distributed between police, fire, public safety and streets.
In Bend, natural amenities includes some of our many trails.
Changes would most likely be made to trails located outside of the city.
“Why not use this fund that’s available to us to provide better access,” Eagan said. “To provide better trails for everyone to enjoy.”
The change doesn’t split the fund in any formal way, and it’s still unclear how much of the $3 million would be put towards trails.
Visit Bend is contracted to handle the city’s tourism fund, and they’re ready for the change.
“If we want to look at the long term health and sustainability of the industry as a whole,” Kevney Dugan, Visit Bend president and CEO said. “I think it’s prudent like organizations like Visit Bend start to invest in tourism related facilities so remain desirable for years to come.”
Trail maintenance would likely be a part of the plan.
Emmy Andrews, Central Oregon Trail Alliance executive director, says that could include a variety of options.
“Cut out trees when they fall across a trail, we do drainage work to keep erosion down and keep water off the trail,” Andrews said. “And manage any kind of rider experience there is if there’s features like jumps.”
Transient Room Tax funds are used and reevaluated on an annual basis.
The proposed change would take effect in about two months.