Three people walking along a mountain bike trail, surrounded by lush green forest. The volunteers are wearing hard hats and carrying trail stewardship tools, including a chainsaw.

Strategic Investment Fund

Budget: $28,262

In November 2019, the Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge RDMO launched its first Strategic Investment Fund (SIF). The SIF was programmed to be simple and nimble to surface great investment opportunities in the region, with the first round of funding capped at $30,000.

Guidelines encouraged applicants to apply for projects that supported one or more key priority areas: new/improved tourism product, wayfinding, arts/culture/heritage, fishing, biking, trail congestion solutions, transportation congestion solutions, agritourism. Once awarded, projects were to be completed within 12 months.

The region received a total of nine applications, totalling $119,307 in investment requests. A review committee of tourism stakeholders used a set of criteria to help narrow the list down to four final awardees:

  • $4,622 for Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance
    Support for the East Gorge Food Trail.
  • $11,600 for The HOP
    A co-operative shuttle service in downtown Hood River.
  • $9,760 for The Timber Trail
    Stewardship days and development of a new mountain biking route in the East Gorge.
  • $2,280 for Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition​†
    Trail Stewardship.
†​Funds redirected to Hood River Mountain Biking and Brave Endeavors for their work with the non-profit CultureSeed.

SIF awards were announced in February 2020. Just a few weeks later the COVID-19 pandemic hit, impacting the viability of many of the projects. The Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge RDMO responded by reaching out to each awardee, offering them time and flexibility to tweak their projects as needed to reflect the new pandemic normal. Changes included pushing back timelines by as much as a year later and adjusting objectives to fit new realities. The Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition was not able to move their project forward and did not have an alternative in mind so the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge region pivoted those funds to support Hood River Mountain Biking and Brave Endeavors for their work with the non-profit CultureSeed. Funds will support mountain bike outings for underserved youth in the Columbia River Gorge.

A few quotes/updates from partners who received SIF:

A couple poses behind the Runcible Cider tasting counter. A slightly obscured East Gorge Food Trail sign is visible behind them.
A man wearing a Mosier Market branded t-shirt poses with an East Gorge Food Trail sign.
Participants in the East Gorge Food Trail were offered the opportunity to showcase their products because of awarded funding.
In May 2021, CGTA hosted a virtual East Gorge culinary and agritourism experience with top travel writers from Portland and San Francisco. There were 8 journalists who attended, and the project manager put together boxes of products for each of them. The FAM tour box featured products from five food trail businesses and seven local businesses overall. Food Trail FAM tour speakers represented fish, wine, and farming.
Aliza McHugh, East Gorge Food Trail
The Hop was a huge success! I can say this definitively not only because of the feedback we received from our guests and partners, but especially because we were able to quantify the value of the program through our reporting. The energy around it was amazing! We had guests actually say that they booked the trip because of the shuttle service.
Ali McLaughlin, The HOP
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