Tourism and Small Towns: Smart Growth in Prineville

Tourism dollars have a lasting effect in Prineville, a town that seems to have mostly small businesses

As the warmer weather begins and travelers start infusing our community, there are differing opinions on having outsiders come into the Prineville community. Yet economic growth and sustainability are important, and when we have an opportunity to grow an industry financially, we should take a close look at the benefits.

In 2018, figures for the Oregon travel industry came in at their strongest since the 2008-2009 recession. Statewide travel spending was more than $12 billion, with approximately $50 million coming into Crook County.

In Prineville, a town that seems to have a majority of small businesses, tourism dollars have a lasting effect. The money brought in via tourism will travel not only to the local restaurant or retailer, but it infuses money into the local community, which has a snowball effect of economic support throughout the entire local supply chain, including the City of Prineville and Crook County.

At the Chamber, we also take on the role of promoting tourism in our area. One of those goals is to bring people to our local events, such as the Crooked River Roundup rodeo, horse races and more. We also find ourselves promoting local activities.

As one of the well-renowned rockhounding locations in the nation, we are regularly giving maps and information on the many mines our county holds. Fishing is abundant on the Crooked River and brings in many anglers. With the designation of the Crooked River Scenic Bikeway, cycling is growing in mass numbers, and travelers are flocking from larger cities to enjoy the peace of our rural areas. And on occasion we get tourists just wanting to come experience the charm of a small town, the scenery of a ranch, and the smell of country air.

While we want to take advantage of the opportunity to bring tourism dollars to our local businesses, it is also important that we don’t lose sight of the roots of our area.

Prineville has a unique history, and it needs to be in the forefront of our minds to understand and protect — yet promote the people, geography and natural resources. We must look at why tourists enjoy coming to our region and grow upon those attractions.

We have a rich and abundant outdoor recreation area that can host most activities, from a simple walk, to a hardcore bike ride. Most locals know where the best outdoor spots are, but to capture tourists, we should also be looking at providing more information about our location attractions and the amenities to go along with it.

Signage and brochures are one elemental key, but do we have retailers that support all of the items needed for fishing, rockhounding, cycling, biking and birding? What businesses are our visitors already frequenting and what items are in demand?

Just as the Chamber is asked to inform the community on our goals and initiatives around tourism, it is also important that we seek input from the community so that we preserve and protect the uniqueness of our county. Here at the Chamber, we are constantly looking to engage residents, business owners and stakeholders to assist in creating a vision for our region’s future. We want to keep our small town charm, but we also want to share it with others and gain economically from the industry of tourism. With every dollars a tourist spends, those dollars go back into local goods and services, wages, schools, roads and more.

Prineville is already on the radar for vacationers, and although it is important that we preserve our rural character and protect our natural resources, we can also use tourism as a way to strengthen our economy by having those dollars go toward improving affordable housing, transportation and infrastructure. Smart growth, economic success and protecting our rural town from urban sprawl are the goals of the Chamber.