Summer smoke impacts local businesses

Grants Pass, Ore. – Southern Oregon is breathing a little easier these days, but some businesses around the region are now looking at their bottom lines to see the impact from fire season.

Some say the smoke in the valley this summer was the worst they’ve ever seen.

“For our company it’s imperative that there’s a solution in the near future, and for a lot of companies in this area that depend on that peak season to operate,” Hellgate Jet Boat Excursions President, Travis Hamlyn said.

“We, as the people, have to make the politicians understand that this is impacting our livelihood and impacting everything about this valley,” Southern Oregon Wine Tour co-owner, Robbie Ross said.

Southern Oregon has been known to have beautiful summer weather and plenty of fun, outdoor activities. However this past summer, fires burning across the region caused smoke to flood the valley. It forced many to stay inside.

“This year there was just no escaping it,” Southern Oregon Wine Tour co-owner, Tracy Hurst said.

Robbie and Tracy own tour companies that take people to wineries and other hot spots. This year, their business was down about 25 percent. They say that most of the loss was from people outside the valley cancelling their trips here.

“When we would normally run trips with the Hopper full, sometimes we would have a trip with only two or three people,” Ross said. “It doesn’t really even out, but we didn’t really want to say no to smaller groups.”

Travis Hamyln agrees the fires have taken their toll. Especially when the Taylor Creek fire burned near Hellgate canyon. That fire stopped any river operations in that area until firefighters got a handle on the flames.

“There won’t be anyway for us to make up that lost revenue, when you combine how early the smoke came in this year and the fact that the fire was so close to the lodge,” Hamlyn said. “It had just such severe impacts for us – we’ll never be able to regain any of that.”

Now Hamlyn says he’s just looking towards next season and hoping for better weather to bring in more visitors.

“Whether it’s fishing, rafting, hiking or jet boating it’s such a great area for us when the smoke’s not here,” Hamlyn said. “It’s just such a fantastic family experience.”

The Grants Pass and Josephine County Chamber of Commerce is conducting a survey on exactly this topic. Businesses are encouraged to provide feedback on how they were impacted by the smoke this summer. You can access the survey on their website: www.grantspasschamber.org.

Devin Gooden graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a Master’s degree in Sports Journalism.

She has spent most of her life in Atlanta, Georgia and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in Business Management.

When she’s not reporting, Devin practices yoga, reads thriller novels and loudly cheers for her beloved Georgia Bulldawgs.

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