Airport welcome center readies welcome mat

Imagine soaring through the sky, over the Willamette Valley, rivers, forests and spanning landscapes headed for Cottage Grove. You've heard it's a charming little community with restaurants, parks, museums and covered bridges. As you come in for a landing, gliding to a stop you're greeted by...a port-a-potty.

That's all the Cottage Grove Airport Welcome Center was comprised of. Until now. 

Coordinator Nadine Kelly is working on improving the space at the air field to make it more welcoming and lure visitors off the tarmac and into town. 

"My husband and I went to a 

meeting about promoting tourism and I told him, 'We really need a bathroom for the airport.' And it just grew from there," she said.

The Oregon Aviation Historical Society is constructing the building that Kelly raised $100,000 for. "I needed $105,000 for everything," she said. 

Donors stepped into to help including the Woodard Foundation, Faye and Lucille Stewart Foundation, Doyle and Donna Shepherd, the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce, the City of Cottage Grove, Busters and EBID. 

"People were flying in, seeing a port-a-potty and never coming back," Kelly said.

Her husband Sean has encountered pilots who note their wives don't make the trip to Cottage Grove with them because of the restroom situation and she tells a story of bikers who may have taken their business elsewhere if not for Sean. 

"He caught them and they were going to fly somewhere nearby but he told them about downtown and they ended up visiting Buster's and getting a repair on their bikes done at the bike shop," Kelly said. 

Plans for the new airport welcome center, slated to be completed in mid-July, are aimed at getting pilots to stay, shop and eat in Cottage Grove. 

Kelly said she plans on keeping the unmanned building stocked in brochures about the city, restaurant menus, hotel information and a binder full of the activities individuals can find within the city. 

"The city is also going to be providing a courtesy car," Kelly said. 

In theory, incoming pilots would fly in, have a code to a lock box inside the building and be able to access the car to travel downtown to a restaurant, hotel or local store. The specifics, though, haven't been ironed out just yet. 

The car won't be the only means of transportation, however. Kelly also houses two bicycles on the property that she's hoping will provide an easy ride into town for tourists. 

"Creswell, Florence, Newport, they all have a car. People see that and they will come back," she said. 

"We want people to see how much we have to do here in Cottage Grove. We're more than just a little town," Kelly said. 


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