Wildfires, smoke force Cycle Oregon cancellation

Wildfires are affecting the state's tourism

The Cycle Oregon route was squarely in the middle of smoke and wildfires in central Oregon, August 31, 2017 (Cycle Oregon)
The Cycle Oregon route was squarely in the middle of smoke and wildfires in central Oregon, August 31, 2017 (Cycle Oregon)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the first time in 30 years, Cycle Oregon, a cross-state biking event, is cancelled due to raging fires.

People from all over the country come to Oregon for the trip.

“We have 150 volunteers that dedicate their time to this, we have communities that are counting on us to help, so it hurts a lot,” Cycle Oregon director Steve Schulz said.

In a post on their website, Cycle Oregon officials said the heaviest fires in the state at this time encompass the 2017 Classic route:

“Currently, fires are impacting five of our seven days with smoke and air quality levels ranging from unhealthy to hazardous. Previously designed alternate routes are now affected with fire and smoke from both new and existing fires. Statewide weather forecasts for the foreseeable future are for more hot, dry and windy weather with an associated increase in fire activity and smoke production. …”

Organizers spoke with state officials with the forest service, the Bureau of Land Management, ODOT and others and reached “the most difficult decision.”

“This situation is unprecedented in Cycle Oregon history; we are in uncharted territory. As we work on next steps, we ask for time as we determine the best path forward. … Cycle Oregon is more than just a brand or a bike ride. It’s a way of being. We will move forward. We will embrace the environment that surrounds us – good or bad – find meaning in it, and remember that we are here to make a difference. And we will ride on.”

Following a major tourism boom for the solar eclipse on August 21, the smoke, fire and bad air quality are serving a serious blow to the state’s $11 billion tourism industry.

The Nena Springs Fire continued to burn in central Oregon, August 18 2017. (Oregon State Fire Marshal)

“We just got through this wonderful eclipse and thought we dodged a bullet with the wildfires and to have this erupt as it has is disheartening,” Travel Oregon’s Linea Gagliano said.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland cancelled several performances and even small town festivals have been cancelled due to the conditions.

While safety is important and visitors should definitely steer clear of areas affect by wildfires, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy Oregon.

“Go to southern Oregon, go to the southern Oregon coast,” Gagliano said. “It’s incredible and you don’t want to miss out. But make it some other time, continue your plans and maybe come to a different area in Oregon and then maybe come back and go to those areas because they need you.”