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Ventura County region seeks to lure cyclists with its beauty and 'Grand Loop'

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Ventura County region seeks to lure cyclists with its beauty and 'Grand Loop'

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Efforts are ramping up to improve bicycle riding and tourism in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Under a new tourism initiative, cyclists from around the world would be drawn to the businesses and beauty of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Private and public interests have started the Cycle California Coast organization to market and develop the concept. They say it's a natural for the region some bicyclists compare to the garden spots of Europe.

"When I come home, I think we have it all here," said Sonia Sandomer, a Ventura nurse who has taken bicycling vacations in six countries in Europe.

The tourism effort is rooted in a bicycle path that opened in 2014, ending a harrowing ride along Highway 101. Built with a barrier between the beach and the freeway, the path linked the two counties.

Gallery: 'Grand Loop' beckons tourists to peddle into Ventura County Fullscreen

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Buy Photo Cyclist place their order after arriving at Rabalais' restaurant in Santa Paula. The Cycle California Coast organization has been formed to promote the concept of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties as a cycling destination. FullscreenBuy Photo Mike Carlson, left to right, Jon Wallace and Brian Pennington make a stop at Rabalais' restaurant after their morning ride in Santa Paula. The Cycle California Coast group is hoping to promote Ventura and Santa Barbara counties as a place for cycling tourism along the "Grand Loop," a 160-mile route spanning both counties. FullscreenBuy Photo Ken McKie locks his bike after arriving at Rabalais' restaurant in Santa Paula. A new tourism initiative is promoting Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to bicyclists. FullscreenBuy Photo Cyclist arrive at Rabalais' restaurant after their morning ride in Santa Paula. Cyclists regularly stop at the restaurant famous for its beignets. FullscreenBuy Photo Bicycles are seen outside Rabalais' restaurant in Santa Paula. The bike-friendly restaurant is a popular stop for cyclists, including some from out of the area. FullscreenReplay
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That made it feasible to promote the two areas as premier international destinations for bicyclists, Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett said.

"It meant we could pull the synergy of two gorgeous counties together," he said.

A few months after the path opened, Bennett and Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal convened a meeting of interested parties to discuss the potential for bicycle tourism. The group of business, recreational, environmental and government representatives embraced the idea and began work, Bennett said.

So far members have raised about $15,000, developed a strategic plan and signed up close to 50 "bike-friendly" businesses located on various bike routes. Governments of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties each pitched in $5,000.

'Grand Loop' introduced

The group's website, www.cyclecalcoast.com, went liv e in mid-2016 and has been upgraded by a retired software writer over the past year. The site offers information on close to two dozen rides including grades on the degree of difficulty, maps and videos. Tips on places to visit are also shown.

Members of the organization focused initially on mapping and promoting the "Grand Loop," a 160-mile route spanning both counties. It swings south from the Santa Barbara Airport to Ventura, then heads west to Santa Paula before circling back through Ojai and up an inland route before returning to the airport.

Almost any bicyclist could manage the loop in multiple rides, said veteran bicyclist Kate Faulkner.

"You would just break it into shorter sections," she said.

Brian Brennan, an aide to Bennett, said he hopes to get 100 businesses registered as "bike-friendly" establishments this year. Included are hotels, restaurants, bicycle shops and retailers who sell bike gear. These spots welcome bicyclists and provide restrooms, safe storage of bicycles, refills of water bottles and electrical outlets to charge cell phones.

One early entrant on the "bike-friendly" list was Rabalais', a bistro, bakery and coffee shop in downtown Santa Paula.

Bicyclists stop by the spot known for fresh beignets. Owner Tracy Lippert said most come from out of town, including a group from the Channel Islands Bicycle Club that shows up every other Thursday morning.

Bicyclist Brian Pennington, a member of the Channel Islands group, said it's "great fun" to stop there.

"For the most part we hang out on the patio and watch Santa Paula people go by and soak in the culture," he said.

The Oregon model

Organizers of the local tourism effort looked to Oregon as a model.

Starting in 2004, the Travel Oregon state agency joined with other organizations to advance the cause. The work is funded with a 1.8 percent state tax on lodging.

"We knew bicycle tourism was important and a growing niche market," said Scott Bricker, who oversees the bicycle tourism program.

Officials found that on average they spent 20 percent more than a typical visitor. Two-thirds were men, 78 percent had a college degree and 58 percent had household incomes exceeding $75,000, a 2012 study showed.

Travel Oregon has identified scenic bike routes, funded research, developed a listing of roughly 600 bike-friendly business and sponsored workshops in local communities. Officials diversified their base of support by reaching out to small towns and rural communities as well as cities. They also hold an annual bicycle summit where participants can talk specifically about bicycle tourism.

Bricker sees no outright opponents of this brand of tourism. It's considered light on the land, good for health and a benefit to business. But some conflicts have arisen, he said.

Farmers don't want bicyclists riding by their fields while they're spraying crops, he said. That conflict has arisen with local bicycling in Ventura County, where farming interests stopped the construction of a bike trail in a field east of Piru.

Nor do people who have built trails for mountain biking want them to get crowded with tourists.

"When you build a really great asset like a mountain bike trail, people are going to want to use it," Bricker said. "How do you prepare for that?"

Read or Share this story: http://www.vcstar.com/story/news/2018/01/05/ventura-county-region-seeks-lure-cyclists-its-beauty-and-grand-loop/829459001/Sumber: Google News | Liputan 24 Piru

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