Teamwork. It’s taught in pre-school classes. It’s encouraged in sports. Most people add “team player” to their resume.
And it’s this simple idea of working together that turned an intern’s plan into a month-long festival of outdoor activities.
Olivia Welke spent this past spring interning at the City of Issaquah and working closely with Economic Development Manager Dan Trimble. During her tenure, the two collaborated on ways to use the city’s close proximity to outdoor recreation as a marketing tool.
“You can do almost anything out here — paragliding, kayaking, mountain biking,” Welke said. “We wanted to bring businesses together and bring people to Issaquah.”
After researching what other communities had done and what the city could offer, she turned the idea into a tangible plan called Issaquah Outdoors, a series of events produced and promoted by a diverse group of businesses.
In its inaugural year, Issaquah Outdoors offers free events, discounted activities and regularly priced classes throughout July, including mountain bike skills classes, a five-day kayak camps for kids, and yoga instruction and fly fishing seminars.
“Issaquah will be well served by this program,” said Trimble. “I see it as having a positive economic impact. If more people are out here doing activities, then they will obviously spend money here. But it can also have a positive impact on our quality of life, which is the long-term impact.”
The idea of Issaquah building an economic framework around recreation is not new. In June City of Issaquah Councilors Tola Marts and John Traeger announced their intention of making the city a renowned mountain biking destination, with Traeger describing the opportunity of making Issaquah “the adult version of Boulder.” But the Issaquah Outdoors collaboration is the first real step in this direction.
Mayor Ava Frisinger showed her support for the initiative at the July 6 city council meeting, when she formally declared July as Issaquah’s Parks and Recreation month.
Her proclamation, made in conjunction with the national observance of parks and recreation month, touted all the groups and organizations that make Issaquah an outdoor destination. She drew special attention to the efforts of those businesses who have partnered to create Issaquah Outdoors.
“There are numerous opportunities for all interest and skill levels,” she said. “We want to encourage people to be outside and do things that this beautiful environment allows us to do.”
The businesses that Welke contacted put forth great effort to make Issaquah Outdoors a success, and though they were working under a tight timeframe and with limited funds, the group developed a full calendar of actvities.
“It was quick planning, but thankfully most of the programs were already set up,” explained Barbara Gronseth of Kayak Academy. “We also had to figure out how to market by word of mouth [and] keep costs down.”
In addition to press releases and updates on the group’s individual web sites, social media was a key promotional tool. Front Street bicycle shop Veloce Velo established, and has continued to maintain, a Facebook account for Issaquah Outdoors. After only a few weeks in operation, the site was well on its way toward hosting 400 friends.
The people who run these businesses are passionate about what they do, and it’s this enthusiasm that will help the program grow. Brett Wedeking, who teaches at Creekside Angling, enjoys bringing new people into the sport.
“It’s great to see people come back after the class excited about what they learned,” he said. “It’s also fun to see the kids come in. If they only have $15 to spend, we work to get them what they need.”
Everyone involved in Issaquah Outdoors sees it as a long-term project, and Trimble hopes that it helps create stewardship by building a network of people who care about the community and want to volunteer to ensure that it stays a great place.
While the businesses are not yet able to say that the program is a marketing success, most believe that it will benefit them in the long run. “I’m confident that as we do more events, we’ll get better at reaching the community,” said Gronseth. “It’s businesses promoting businesses.”