Letters to editor

How has Oregon Coast Railriders contributed to Tillamook County? In many ways. Oregon Coast Railriders has contributed directly to Tillamook county by establishing a wildly successful business and hiring locals for entry level seasonal summer job. For many of our staff, it was their first job. From 2016 thru 2020 we employed about 70 full and part-time jobs. Our customers pleasant experience on the rails prompted many smiles, laughs and joy and as we shared the out-of-doors with our guests. The joy our guests experienced spilled over to the businesses they visited once they left our sites in Bay City and Wheeler. Local businesses were pleased to serve our guests sugary treats, drinks, or a meal. Many a fellow business owner told us so with big smiling faces. We helped them to prosper. Oregon Coast Railriders is a small five month a year seasonal business. In five years, we paid about $346,000 in wages for mostly entry level jobs. In 2021 we would again have employed and paid wages for about 15 local people with an estimated five-month season payroll of approximately $90,000. We paid our bills in a timely manner, followed the rules, reinvested, and made improvements to our company. Our business expenditures trickled down to the local economy. Expenses such as local taxes, state, federal taxes, fees to the Port of Tillamook Bay and Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. We purchased goods and services from local businesses. Services such as welding, toilets, garbage service, site engineering, gravel, and excavation. We purchased advertising, parts, lots of safety vests, supplies, printed t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and other miscellaneous supplies. We tried to purchase a small, easy care parcel of ground but that disappointingly fell through. We were busy building our business with many goods and service purchased in Tillamook county. We served many guests, 51,000, in 5 years of operation. We think that is surprisingly good, we started with zero name recognition and were an unknown industry. If allowed to finish our 2020 season which was also marked by COVID, we would have served closer to a total of 54,000 guests since 2016. I would expect that our ridership for 2021 could easily exceeded 13,000 riders. Our ridership was expanding rapidly. We had many loyal repeat customers. Our guests purchased food, lodging, rode the train, visited museums, purchased souvenirs, fuel and many other things. Some of those guests may have decided to purchase a business, artwork, a house or vacation house, RV or whatever caught their eye that they could afford. Just imagine the multiplier effect of our customers in Tillamook county! You may not remember but, we were courted by the Port of Tillamook Bay, Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, Tillamook tourism, chamber of commerce, the economic development community, county commissioners and others. All those creative thinkers were correct, Oregon Coast Railriders in Tillamook County would create jobs, bring money to the county by providing one more reason for locals to stay and play at home and tourist to come and play. You will also remember that we were the first in the nation to offer commercial railriding as outdoor recreation. Our fledging business began as a vision with no business model to follow. Opening was a no go, until we found some insurance.

Railriding as a commercial business had no business model nor had it proven its’ worth in 2014 when we opened Joseph Branch Railriders in Wallowa county. Since those tense unknown times, we have an excellent safety record with our insurance company. More insurance companies are willing to sell liability insurance to commercial railriding businesses thanks to our excellent record. It is unfortunate that there are those who have lost sight of the fact that a simple parking lot, tidy railroad corridor, and the movable structures that comprise our office and storage facilities required significant planning and investment. Each parking lot required attendance to many meetings, approval by numerous officials, the paying of copious fees and several engineering site proposals before construction could begin. Thanks to Kim using a pair of loppers, tough gloves, and determination to physically remove the eight-foot-tall black berry vine barrier that covered ½ mile of track between Bay City and Tillamook, Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad can now run their locomotive all the way to Tillamook. It has been forgotten that the fine parking lot in Wheeler started as large lumps of overgrown brush, dirt and rocks, a large decaying stump and rocky outcropping. It took heavy equipment and a skilled operator to create that parking lot, but Molher Sand and Gravel transformed that wasteland into something usable. Our Wheeler parking lot is now coveted by others. Oregon Coast Railriders has supported the community. OCR donated free tickets to local fund raisers, hosted youth groups at a discounted price, shared our Wheeler parking lot with OCSR free of charge in 2019 and would have again 2020 if our working relationship had not abruptly ended. OCR is now in litigation with OCSR over contractual differences. Of course, it is easy to start a business once someone has blazed the trail. Rest assured there will be a great learning curve of trial and error just as we experienced for any future operators. We can only hope that someday Oregon Coast Railriders will again grace the rails with excited railriding fans. Our vision was to sell Oregon Coast Railriders to an energetic local person. We found that person who was on track to purchase OCR in the fall of 2020. The sale is on hold until there is a resolution between OCR and our former contract holder. Our long-ranged goal was to sell to a resident of Tillamook County. In closing it was such a thrill and honor to be asked to expand our two-year-old fledgling company from Wallowa county in Eastern Oregon to Tillamook county. It is more hurtful than you can ever image to not be allowed on the rails this summer. But there is no doubt that Oregon Coast Railriders has significantly contributed to Tillamook county. Who would ever guess that a five month a year business could impact Tillamook county to the estimated total of $4,539,000.00 in a five-year period? Who would guess that Tillamook county will be missing out on approximately $1,157,000 trickle down gain from Oregon Coast Railriders not operating this summer, 2021? Kim and I in our wildest dreams would never ever have predicted that our home grown unique railriding business could impact Tillamook county to such a large degree. Just imagine what Oregon Coast Railriders could do for Tillamook county if mother nature would allow us to run year- round! (Calculations based on Runyan 2013 tourism study.)

-Kim and Anita Metlen, Oregon Coast Railriders

Imbler, Ore. 

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