OROVILLE – The Okanogan County Tourism Council held their quarterly meeting last Friday, Sept. 16 at the Old Oroville Depot Museum.
Borderlands Historical Society members Dorothy Petry and Tillie Porter gave a report on their organization and about the Visitor Information Center which was operated by the Society in its new location at the museum this past summer.
“The Visitor Information Center has been a real asset for the museum… people come in for information and stay and look at the museum… it has really added to the tourism in the area,” said Petry.
She added that records from 2009 show that 1600 people visited the information center when it was still operated by the Oroville Chamber of Commerce on Main Street. She said this year the museum had 3285 visitors by the end of August.
The museum gets questions from those studying the local history and looking for other history, like family genealogy. Among the interesting facts about Oroville and the county on a fact sheet the museum gives out was that Oroville had the first gold strike in Washington State at Rich Bar on the Similkameen River; that the first commercial orchard in the state was planted by Okanogan Smith on the east side of Lake Osoyoos and that the first U.S. Flag was flown in Washinton State at Fort Okanogan near the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers.
“Some might have come in for the museum and stayed to get other information, or visa versa, but it shows that the center is getting a lot more use,” she said.
In addition to operating the museum, the old U.S. Customs cabin and the Visitor Information Center, the Historical Society also gives tours, according to Petry and Porter.
They talked about the tour the Society gave of the basement of the old Peerless Hotel and how it was supposed to be haunted. They even passed around a copy of a photo that seemed to show an unexplained object that Porter said was not there when she took the photograph.
Petry said there were five known buildings that were supposed to have ghosts, or some unexplained “energy” in them.
Don Brogan, chairman of the organization Destination Osoyoos, talked about that groups formation and duties. He said when it was first formed by the City of Osoyoos it was to tasked with both economic and tourist development. Since that time a new city council has taken the economic piece away and now they are primarily in the business of promoting tourism.
“I grew up in Oliver, my dad had the Super Valu there. I now live in Osoyoos,” said Brogan who manages Walnut Beach Resort. “I’ve been coming to Oroville since I was eight-years-old.”
Prior to managing Walnut Beach Resort Brogan he managed the Holiday Inn and it was there that the developers came to him about building a resort.
He points to former Mayor Tom Shields as one of the people that had the foresight to organize Destination Osoyoos and task it with economic development. He said DO helped to bring $300 million in property development to the town.
“I am really happy with all the changes that have taken place in Osoyoos which were steered by Destination Osoyoos… the town is truly a resort community,” said Brogan.
The organization, in partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band and Region A do much to promote tourism to the area. Brogan said the financing for the organization comes from a two percent tax that is levied on accommodation rentals. With this tax the city generates $200,000 to $250,000 a year for tourism promotion, he said.
His organization has done such things as give seed money to the Osoyoos Celebrity Wine Festival and sponsor a Curling Tournament that was broadcast on national television.
“Although I might not want to watch curling, it was great to have our own brand emblazoned on the ice for 65,000 viewers to see,” he said.
He suggested that Oroville’s museum and visitor information center inventory all they had to offer because many of the tourists that stay with him at Walnut Beach Resort and elsewhere in Osoyoos are looking for things to do and that places like the museum and other historical sights could bring more tourists to Oroville and Okanogan County.