Oakridge: An Outdoor Recreation Paradise

Oakridge City Hall

 

Oakridge’s story begins in 1852 when pioneers looking for a new route from Central Oregon to the Willamette Valley began exploring the area. Originally a mountain ranch called Big Prairie, a post office was established in 1888 and the community was then named Hazeldell. In May of 1912, the Southern Pacific Railroad opened a new railway station named Oak Ridge. Later in 1912, the city officially changed its name to single-word spelling of Oakridge.

 

In recent years, recreational activities in the area have seen a revival. Located on State Highway 58, a corridor linking the Willamette Valley to Central Oregon, Oakridge is nestled in the foothills of the Western Cascade Mountains. The City is completely surrounded by the Willamette National Forest, making it a popular location for outdoor enthusiasts. Often referred to as the Center of Oregon Outdoor Recreation and the Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest, the city is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. Hiking, mountain biking, fly-fishing, birding, mushroom hunting, huckleberry picking, watersports, the Willamette Pass ski lodge, and the Huckleberry Flats ATV area are just some of the popular activities the city and the area has to offer. The local trail system truly has something for everyone.

 

Having been with the City since 2000, Louis Gomez was appointed city administrator in 2012. He also serves as the Public Works director, Economic Development coordinator, and the Community Services director, which primarily deals with planning. He shared a few of the City’s upcoming projects, which include:

 

  • A new water storage tank. The construction of a 1 million gallon water storage tank is in the works. Additionally, a new well and new water transmission lines are to be constructed. The City hopes to go to bid in May of this year.

  • A new crosswalk across Highway 58. In partnership with Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), the City plans to begin construction of a new pedestrian crosswalk.   

  • A new Community Events Center. With a 250 person capacity, the new community center will offer an industrial kitchen, basketball court, and classrooms where breakout sessions, classes, and meetings can take place.

  • An improved sewer infrastructure. The City has recently submitted an application for loans and grants to remedy the excess surface and stormwater seeping into the City’s sewer plant.

In addition to these exciting developments, the city boasts annual events, like the Fat 55 Mountain Bike Marathon. (Oakridge isn’t called the Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest for nothing!) The Fat 55 is Oregon’s #7 Off-Road Series race and, as its name aptly implies, is a 55-mile long biking marathon that takes place in June. The race covers the world-class Oakridge trails network, and offers three variations of the race for every skill level: the Fatty (50 miles), A-Kicker (21 miles), and the Throwback (11 miles).  

For those not interested in a race, riders can visit the Alpine Trail. Commonly referred to as ‘The Crown Jewel’ of the world-renowned Oakridge mountain bike trails, the Trail offers a little bit of everything. Take a group ride along the singletrack through lush forest, visit skill clinics, or partake in community trail building and mechanics workshops. Other fun community events include car shows, a ukulele festival, a "Pioneer Picnic" and even organized mushroom hunting. There will also be a “Side by Side” event in July, where at least 90 participants will camp out at the Oakridge Industrial Park and take organized trips through the Willamette National Forest. The annual Tree Planting Festival, held the first weekend in May, hosts a parade, craft fair, usually a horseback poker ride, and other fun family events.

For musical entertainment, visitors can attend the Oakridge Concerts in the Park series, which runs from June to September. Oakridge Concerts in the Park is a nonprofit organization working to increase tourism in Oakridge. This free outdoor concert series features a number of local and regional bands brought in for the events held at the Banner Bank Amphitheater in Greenwaters Park.

For a truly exceptional outdoor experience, Oakridge is a must-see city. From outdoor activities to cultural events, Oakridge offers the best of what Oregon has to offer. For more information visit Oakridge’s website.