Roughly 2,000 cyclists and staff descended upon Schwarz Park on Friday for their last stop on the Cycle Oregon Classic seven-day bicycle tour.
This year marks the third visit for Cycle Oregon, a nonprofit which has been organizing annual bicycle trips around the state since 1988.
The event at Schwarz Park resembled something of a festival, complete with vendors, food, a beer garden and a stage which hosted live music.
Local representatives from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Cottage Grove welcomed the riders from the stage while members of the Creswell Heritage Foundation shared the impact the Cycle Oregon’s grants have had on the nonprofit.
“I can’t think of a better place for you to have your last night,” said Mayor Jeff Gowing. “Please come back and enjoy our community.”
More than 250 volunteers from Cottage Grove were involved with aiding various aspects of the function including serving food and cleaning tables.
On top of supplying an influx of consumers, Cycle Oregon awards grants to local organizations who participate in volunteerism. The grants extend to community needs which fall under categories such as environmental conservation, historic preservation and bicycle-related projects.
A planned visit to Cottage Grove was canceled in 2017 due to wildfires, however Cycle Oregon honored that year’s grants to build two bicycle fixit stations and donated $650 to Bohemia Mining Days.
With a stated dedication toward “transforming individuals and communities through bicycling,” the nonprofit boasted awarding $125,400 in grants toward the communities they touched during their 2018 event.
As Friday marked Cycle Oregon’s third visit to the area, Cottage Grove ranks highly in favored destinations for the group.
“They tell us that when they survey their riders, that this is definitely among the favorites of the places that they stop,” Palmer said. “We would take them every year if they would like to, but we know that they can’t keep going to the same spot. We’d be happy to host them again if they’re willing.”
While a previous visit had placed riders in town scattered across various fields and parks, the city determined that because of the size and space demands of the event, the organization should set up in Schwarz Park for a second time.
This year, however, the city came up with a unique idea to show off the area.
“We were talking about how it would be really nice to try to get some of the riders into town to see Cottage Grove since they were staying out at Schwarz Park and we knew a lot of them wouldn’t have the energy left to ride into town,” said Palmer. “We have a good relationship with LTD (Lane Transit District) and we put in a request to see what they could come up with and they came through for us.”
The transportation authority lent a bus and set up a block of about six hours to bus people from the park into town and back, depositing visitors downtown across from City Hall. Though more than 1,500 cyclists were at the park, the hope was that syphoning at least a fraction of participants into downtown would have a positive economic effect.
“It took a slightly indirect route so that we could take them by a couple of things like Bohemia Park, the Chambers Railroad Bridge and the Swinging Bridge so they could see that’s being restored,” said Palmer.
Riders were also treated to a downtown deal similar to the Show Your Bib promotion during this year’s Gran Fondo in which select businesses offered discounts and deals to participants in the cycling event.
“Thanks to some help from Travel Lane County, they did a refreshed version of Show Your Bib,” Palmer said. “We gave a map and an insert and a list of all the different businesses that they could visit while they’re here and get discounts.”
Cyclists began their departure from Schwarz Park at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning to Oakridge.
Though the group’s time spent in Cottage Grove was fleeting, Palmer is optimistic that such events put the city on the map.
“The biggest impact are those ripple effects from an event like this where people are coming ahead of time and checking out the area. … Then they come afterward because they saw something cool or they had a great time,” Palmer said. “We want to leave those people with the best impression of Cottage Grove that we can so they want to come back and bring their friends and family.”