Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2011 10:45 am | Updated: 11:14 am, Fri Mar 4, 2011.
SEASIDE — Where do you go if you want to see 377 species of birds? Or bike hundreds of miles of backcountry roads?
What place comes to mind for kayaking scenic streams? Or hiking a variety of paths that provide different views of nature?
But before you pull on the hiking gear or grab the mountain bike, check out the website called, of course, Seaside Naturally.
It contains 24 hiking, biking and kayaking routes, including maps, photos, descriptions, directions and downloadable GPS coordinates. Another section shows which birds can be found in Seaside and surrounding areas, what seasons they appear and what they look like.
Soon, however, the website won’t be the only place to find recreational opportunities in Seaside. There will be an application (app) for that.
For Seaside Chamber of Commerce Director Al Smiles, the Seaside Naturally website (www.seasidenaturally.com) is a way to show visitors and residents alike that, as Seaside’s slogan says, “It’s more than a day at the beach.”
“There’s a large, growing market for adventure sports and activities,” Smiles said. “Seaside has a fabulous opportunity to provide that. We haven’t maximized the opportunities.”
The idea for the website sprouted several years ago when local organizers were promoting the idea of a National Heritage Area for the North Coast, Smiles said.
“I thought wouldn’t it be neat if we could capture in it all we have within that area. We could build a database on all the assets we have.
“I felt it could be done electronically, but it was a matter of waiting for technology to catch up,” Smiles said.
Eventually the global positioning system (GPS) became available for outdoors enthusiasts to navigate unknown territory. The chamber applied for and received funding from the Tourism Advisory Committee’s “Five for Five” ($5,000 for five years) grant program. The website was under way.
At about the same time, Tom and Gini Dideum moved to Seaside from Colorado, where Tom had become a self-described “mountain bike nut.” He learned about the local logging roads on the hills east of Seaside that the Campbell Group has opened for public use, and he started mapping the routes.
Smiles told Dideum about the website, and Dideum collected his notes, maps and photos.
“I wrote up three turn-by-turn descriptions, with detailed maps so people shouldn’t get too lost,” Dideum said. “My wife said I have to find other interests besides biking, so I write up the bike rides I take.”
“There are lots and lots of rides someone can do from Seaside,” Dideum added. “Sometimes I encounter elk, deer and, occasionally, coyotes. I once encountered a bear. But you get lots of fresh air and a great view of the coast you don’t usually see.”
Others who have contributed to the website content included HLB/OTAK, which helped develop the maps; Kathleen Peterson, of KP Graphic Arts; Patricia Murphy, from the Seaside Visitors Bureau; the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District and several local photographers.
Some of the trails on the Seaside Naturally website are cross-referenced. Birders, for instance, who want to know what they might find on Tillamook Head, can click on that section and read a long list of birds that have been seen there. Photos of some of the birds are posted, along with a description, including their scientific name and classification, habitat, food and other details.
Suppose those birders want to hike Tillamook Head to see the birds close-up. Then they click the “hiking” section and “Tillamook Head.” A map pops up, then a satellite shot, a trail description and photo. The trail is 5.69 miles long, has an elevation of -9 to 1,169 feet and the difficulty is moderate.
Other routes in Seaside and surrounding areas are displayed in the biking and kayaking sections as well. Bikers can ride around Beerman Creek on several different routes or take a trip to Youngs River Falls, travel 20 miles to Twin Peaks, take a loop from Seaside to Fort Clatsop or just take it easy and bike around Seaside.
Kayakers have the option to head from Sunset Lake to Camp Rilea, spend time on the Necanicum River, travel from 12th Avenue to the estuary or explore Neawanna Creek from Broadway Park south to the Mill Ponds.
In addition, a calendar shows local events planned in and around Seaside, including nature lectures, wetlands restoration projects and even some nonenvironmental events, including Seaside’s monthly art walk.
Each of the activity sites also includes an “etiquette” section. Etiquette for hiking, for example, includes walking in single file on a trail “even when wet and muddy.” Kayakers should wear lifejackets and become familiar with likely hazards. Bikers on logging roads are asked to stay on the roads and forego cross-country biking because logging is still going on there.
“The wonderful thing about eco-tourists is that it’s not all ‘take,’” said Jeanne Clark, the chamber’s events coordinator. “They take care of the environment, so there’s some ‘give.’”
Visitors who don’t have their computers handy but want to see the trails and other activities can visit the building shared by the chamber and the Seaside Visitors Bureau, where a giant map of Seaside is mounted on a wall in the lobby. The routes contained on the website are outlined on the map. A computer screen is adjacent to the map and provides a quick visit to the Seaside Naturally site.
A GPS navigation system also is available for visitors to borrow, Smiles said.
But, soon, the trip will be made even easier.
The Seaside Naturally site impressed the folks at EveryTrail, an international online trail site, so much that they e-mailed Smiles and asked if they could offer a free iPhone application for Seaside, using the Seaside Naturally website.
Smiles, in turn, contacted Laurie Oxley, executive director of the Seaside Downtown Development Association and John Rahl, director of the Seaside Visitors Bureau. They readily agreed.
By April, anyone who has an iPhone can download an app in the shape of a starfish and find abundant information on the trails, as well as hotels, vacation rental businesses, restaurants, entertainment options and natural points of interest, including a newly developed “North Coast Ale Trail,” featuring places that serve hand-crafted beer. However, stores and other commercial outlets won’t be included.
The value of Seaside’s free iPhone app could be $40,000, the amount recently quoted by other companies to business operators in Cannon Beach.
With the EveryTrail application, not only will the information on all of the trails be available, but photos along those trails can be downloaded as well. Hikers and bikers who want to know how steep they may have to climb will be able to watch a little dot move along on the screen and follow every rise and fall with an elevation graph.
“It will encourage you to explore more,” Smiles said.
Besides bringing more visitors to town, both Seaside Naturally and the new iPhone app could encourage the development of new business, said Clark.
“From this, people may want to start their own small business as a hiking or kayaking guide. Or they may want to develop a booking system for local tours.”