A protected bike lane leading downtown from one of the city’s biggest parks opened in June. In the works along Lake Ewauna is a multi-use path, geothermally heated to stay snowless in a place with long winters and about three feet of snow a year. Geothermal energy also warms downtown buildings and brings the municipal pool, where the swim team practices year-round, to a cozy 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It’s a renewable resource, so the carbon footprint is minimal,” says Klamath Falls City Engineer Scott Souders.
A new parks master plan for the Klamath Falls urban area will be released in January, Bellon says. It will build on the momentum of the past few years, aided in part by community organizers and local health providers Sky Lakes Medical Center and Cascade Health Alliance. They’ve helped fund several parks and playground projects, including a commons under construction downtown and a new playground at Bellon’s old stomping ground, Mills-Kiwanis, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Oregon.
Throughout the county lie national wildlife refuges, volcanic peaks, Crater Lake National Park and other magnets to outdoor enthusiasts. Over the past decade, direct economic impact from tourism has grown from $135 million in 2009 to $154 million in 2017, and Chadderdon believes that annual number will soon hit $200 million.
“We’re bringing in people and they’re spending money,” Chadderdon says. Those dollars support jobs, wages and growth.
Another outdoor industry remains vitally important here. Farming and ranching bring in about $300 million a year. But most of the food grown in Klamath County goes elsewhere.
“I describe it as the people here don’t enjoy the fruits of their land,” says Katie Swanson, owner of Sweet Union Farm.
The past two years, Swanson and Blue Zones Project Klamath Falls, a health-promotion organization, have staged “Find Your Farmer” events. They link the county’s schools, restaurants, and grocery stores with local producers, like Flying T Salers ranch, which now provides beef to three county high school cafeterias.
Swanson also runs a website where farmers sell directly to consumers. She hopes efforts to develop a countywide food policy strategy will put more fresh, local food on residents’ plates.
When that happens, they’ll likely cook it outdoors because as Niki Sampson, executive director of Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank, says: “In Klamath County ... if there’s six inches of snow outside, you barbecue.”