There’s more than one way to make money down on the farm. In many
places across the country and around the world, farms and related
businesses are turning themselves into first-rate tourist attractions.
NEW IDEAS: Agri-tourism proponent Dale Mammen (standing) makes some opening comments during last Thursday’s tourism summit at the Ag Service Center. Mammen, a member of Union County Tourism’s board of directors, chairs a committee looking into developing local agri-tourism attractions. Other panelists included Maurizio Valerio of Rural Development Initiatives (left), Karyn Bishoff of Stargazer Perennials and Ron Jensen, owner of Stange Manor Bed and Breakfast (right).The Observer/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
It looks as though that will happen, on a yet-to-be determined
scale, right here at home, according to a plan advanced by Union County
An artist’s eye and a love of history made Gene Hayes the right man
to paint murals at David and Lee Manuel’s Hot Lake Springs Resort.
THE WAY THINGS USED TO BE: Hayes displays the mural he did of Hot Lake’s surgical suite. He worked from photographs and antique equipment on-site to produce the painting, which reflects the days when Hot Lake was a busy hospital. Observer photos/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
Hayes, a remarkable fellow in more ways than one way, was busy last
Friday on the third floor of the resort’s main building, roughing in a
large-scale map of the Oregon Trail along one wall.
As he worked, he pondered the immigrants who took to the trail and headed east to west during the 1840s and 1850s.
It’s never easy walking away from a labor of love, and it’s harder
still when the work has gone on 25 years. But for Sharon Coalwell,
friend and helpmate for the community’s elderly, the time has come to
family legacy: Sharon Coalwell shows off the sign gracing the retirement center her husband built in the early 1980s. Victor Coalwell died shortly after the building was opened; Sharon carried on as manager. Observer photo/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
Coalwell, 64, steps down this month as the manager of the La Grande
Retirement Center, the 46-unit apartment complex for senior citizens at
the corner of Seventh Street and Washington Avenue.
She’s going to miss her job, but she has some catching up to do in her personal life.
Richard Hobbs drove by the Slater Building at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Fir Street many times before he bought it in 2004.
Hermitage Green: Owner Richard Hobbs looked long and hard for the right shade of green with which to paint the Slater Building at the corner of Fir Street and Jefferson Avenue. The color he settled on is a close match to that of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. - Observer photos/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
A lover of architecture, he had nothing but admiration for it. He especially loved the ornate facade on the Jefferson Street Side.
The local real estate market is showing signs of slowing down, according to statistics from the Multiple Listing Service.
La Grande Realtor Andy Lilly, who tracks the information, said some 93 houses were sold in Union County in the first eight months of 2008. In the same period during 2007, 128 houses were closed.
The average price of a home, meanwhile, has fallen from $158,560 in 2007 to $144,248 now.
La Grande was one of 10 communities recently selected by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to participate in the Oregon Main Street program.
Now, it’s time to muster volunteers and start taking some action on downtown improvements.
“We’re getting organized. We have a number of people who want to serve on committees,” said City Manager Robert Strope.
NORTH POWDER — North Powder Community Partners, a small group of local activists, figures that what a tourist sees from the freeway will influence the decision to stop or keep going.
PROUD OF HER TOWN: North Powder community activist Carolyn Flynn hopes that a spruced-up freeway exit will help attract visitors. Flynn is a member of North Powder Community Partners, a group of local activists planning a landscaping project at the exit. - Observer photos/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
A wind-blown, weed-choked freeway exit doesn’t do a thing for a little city hoping to attract a bigger share of the visitor trade.
Interested in opening or strengthening your business? The first step is to develop a business plan.
You can create a plan in seven weeks with the Foundations business planning course offered by the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District.
Dan Austin of Austin Tool and Machine in Elgin completed the course last year. He said the experience helped make him a better businessman.
The new executive director for the Union County Chamber of Commerce says her goals include more involvement in political decisions affecting small business owners, and improved communication with the membership.
New Hand at the Helm: Judy Hector of La Grande was recently named executive director for the Union County Chamber of Commerce. She replaced Judy Loudermilk, who resigned last spring. - The Observer/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
Judy Hector, who stepped into the director’s position Aug. 25, said in a recent interview she believes the chamber has a duty to participate in the political process, sticking up for small businesses.
“We need to get louder. I think we need to step up and be the voice of business in Union County,” she said.
The Oregon Tourism Commission got a glimpse of Northeast Oregon last week when it convened in La Grande for its quarterly meeting.
Travel Oregon Travelers: Oregon Tourism Commission members Chris Erickson (right) and Patrick Nofield, sided by Chairwoman Kari Westlund, listen to testimony during the commission’s quarterly meeting in La Grande. - The Observer/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
The commission is the governing body of Travel Oregon, the state’s program to support and stimulate tourism. It has held meeting at various locations in the region but this was the first time one was held in La Grande.