City, airport see tourism taking off

Taxiways are being replaced with new asphalt; it took about a year to get those plans approved and underway, which are 90% federally funded, said Alex Bird, resident engineer at WH Pacific, Tuesday.

CRESWELL – After the city council declined the renewal of the Creswell Chamber of Commerce’s contract to spend hotel room tax dollars for tourism activities, the City is looking to use that money instead to support tourism at Hobby Field Airport. 

The Creswell Chamber was projected to receive $31,225 from the transient room tax for the 2020-21 fiscal year, city finance director Jim Piper said at a February council meeting. The City’s prior contract with the Chamber provided the budget so that the business organization could encourage tourism through traditional events such as the citywide yard sale, Fourth of July parade and fireworks, and the December tree-lighting ceremony.

However, that three-year contract expired on July 1 and has not been renewed. City councilors in February stated an interest in more involvement and oversight of the tourism efforts and how the money was managed. 

Creswell city manager Michelle Amberg said that when the contract was set to expire, the Chamber office was closed and there was no opportunity to renegotiate the contract. This was the only contract the City had with the chamber for tourism services.

Chamber president Raina Napper did not reply to Chronicle inquiries about how the Chamber will move forward on planning events such as July 4. The status of the chamber’s annual awards banquet remains in limbo. 

The loss of the Super 8 motel also has impacted revenue from the tourist tax.

Hotel rooms in Creswell largely attract transient traffic off the freeway, visiting family and friends and leisure travelers looking to enjoy outdoor activities like cycling or wine tasting, said Andy Vobora, vice president of stakeholder relations at Travel Lane County. 

He said that hotels are part of a city’s ecosystem. “In and of themselves, they provide jobs and support utility usage” and generate transient room tax. Creswell hotels also serve as overflow from the Eugene-Springfield area.

“Overnight visitors support local restaurants, and a local restaurant could have as much as 30-40% of its revenue come from visitors,” Vobora said. “Local attractions and/or activities are going to be more successful if there is a hotel, and a hotel is going to be more successful with quality restaurants, activities and attractions.”

Comfort Inn & Suites on Melton Road is the only hotel in Creswell, after the Super 8 motel burned over a year ago at 345 E. Oregon Ave. is now being turned into apartments.

Maximum occupancy was at 540 for the Super 8, according to tax records. After it closed, the City saw a drop of approximately $17,544 in transient occupancy tax per year, Amberg said. The use of the transient room tax is governed by state law, and 70% of the money received has to be spent on tourism. 

It is likely that the City will budget the collected tax to support tourism at the Creswell Hobby Field Airport, Amberg said, which is the third-busiest general aviation airport in the state, next to Hillsboro and Aurora. 

“People fly in and out for tourism purposes; additionally, the airport attracts tourists with skydiving and flying lessons,” Amberg said. Hobby Field is home to Eugene Skydivers and G-Force Aerobatic Rides, as well as the Young Eagles youth flying program. The airport has two flight schools for private pilot and commercial pilot training. 

“Events that involve parties flying into a general service airport and heading to activities in the region can certainly play a role in economic impact,” Vobora said. “You see this with resort destinations like Bandon that attract golfers from all over.”

It is not anticipated that the airport will sponsor any special events this year, Amberg said. Instead, airport manager Shelley Humble said that, in addition to the $30,000 received in CARES Act money, the airport might use the transient tax funds that previously went to the Chamber. It could help pay for fixing the entrance to the airport and the road leading to it. Humble said the airport commission is looking into costs this week, and estimates the project will be about $60,500.

There is high demand for the airport, Humble said. There are 106 airplanes in the airport hangars, and “we are out of hangar space. We have a waiting list of about 35-36 people,” Humble said. “We’ve got the demand, just need to figure out how to get them built though funding.” Humble said several hangar users have moved to Creswell because of the airport, as have people from as far away as Oakridge storing their airplanes at the field. 

“If there is a strong desire to make the airport a hub for fly-in activities, (Travel Lane County) is going to support that in whatever way we can,” Vobora said. “What are the activities that will attract a pilot to fly to Creswell and then stay for a period of time? Golf? Wine tasting? Outdoor activities like cycling or hiking? Heading to a UO football game? 

“A part of what helps a community sell itself is something to hang its hat on,” Vobora said, listing mountain biking in Oakridge as an example. “If there are other activities that keep visitors engaged, then all the better. A question might be, ‘What does Creswell want to hang its hat on?’”



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