By Kym Pokorny
Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon State University Extension Service have hired an outdoor recreation expert from Texas to boost tourism along Oregon’s southern coast.
Now based in Bandon, Miles Phillips comes to OSU from Texas A&M University Extension, where he brought together elements of the agriculture, forestry, natural resources and adventure industries to create a cohesive and sustainable tourism program. He worked to broaden traditional tourism to encompass such diverse activities as hunting, visiting pumpkin patches, landscape painting and kayaking. He’ll use a similar approach in Oregon.
His top priority is to use Extension’s research- and outreach-based approach to combine the many arms of the tourism industry into one alliance to bring visitors to the southern Oregon coast, improve the economy and promote conservation of its natural resources.
“This is a great example of how Extension plays a role in the changing economy and changing demographics across the state,” said Phillips, who has been the chair of the National Extension Tourism Design Team for four years. “Outdoor recreation is a big part of the mix.”
Phillips will initially concentrate on the south coast from Reedsport to Brookings – an area especially hard hit by economic challenges – but may expand his reach with time. OSU Extension collaborated closely with Travel Oregon and local community partners to identify the region’s destination development needs as the new position took shape. Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, the philanthropic arm of the world-class Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, lent its support as well.
“It was clear that there was an opportunity to address business development issues on the south coast, and a focus on coastal tourism was a natural fit,” said David Hanson, Sea Grant’s outreach and engagement leader. “Miles’ experience in Texas was exactly the type of programming that we are hoping to replicate.”
Phillips, whose position was funded by the Oregon State Legislature, said his immediate goal is to pinpoint the needs of individual communities and to identify and connect resources offered by Extension and other organizations to meet those needs. Strategies include a website, seminars, publications and community meetings.
“There is a lot of information out there,” he said. “It’s a matter of getting it into people’s hands and helping them figure out how to use the resources to be successful.”
Phillips will also be working to bring community college and OSU students on board as interns, a step he sees as a vital part of Extension’s mission to increase destination development and improve educational opportunities. He will collaborate with the OSU’s College of Business’s new program in hospitality management as well as the outdoor recreation leadership and tourism program in OSU’s College of Forestry.
“As Oregon’s land grant university, OSU has a long history of serving the state’s rural and urban communities,” said Scott Reed, vice provost for University Outreach and Engagement. “Our new south coast Extension tourism and business development position is a prime example of our commitment to expand and mobilize the resources of the university to have a sustainable, positive impact on the economic vitality of the region and beyond.”
Jim Seeley, executive director of Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, said Phillips’ appointment comes at a crucial time when four tourism initiatives are underway in the area. They include a tourism work group that’s funded by WRCA and Coos County, and an upcoming rural tourism studio training program on the south coast, offered by Travel Oregon.
“Miles, who has a long and distinguished career in the education area of nature-based tourism, will be part of these and other ongoing efforts to help strategize the best approach to accomplishing our objectives,” Seeley said. “That’s what makes him so significant. We’ve got these four trains heading into the station and now OSU enters the station and that’s the biggest train of all.”