60 years ago, the Chamber began as a political action group formed by local businesses and residents to fight a dam proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would have formed a lake from mp 33 to mp 47.5 (Vida to Blue River). As a group of dedicated, hard working volunteers, they were successful in their efforts.
Since that time in 1957, the Chamber has grown and gone through many changes. Although data from the 1960’s is very sketchy, in the 70’s documentation was more available.
During the late 1960’s the office was a small recreational trailer that was moved up and down to different sites along the valley. Volunteers who handed out tourist information to highway travelers during the summer months manned the “portable office.”
During 1971, the Chamber moved into its first real office, an unused U.S. West phone company switching station in Leaburg and acquired its first staff person, a volunteer office manager.
In 1994 an agreement was worked out by the board with Lane County to receive a percentage of the room tax monies generated by lodging along the McKenzie corridor. This enabled the Chamber to implement a small marketing plan to increase overnight stays in the valley and to hire an office manager to respond to visitor requests about amenities in the valley.
In 1996 the Chamber, in partnership with Lane County, USFS, BLM, Army Corps, EWEB, State Parks, ODFW, and the US West Pioneers (retired telephone workers) moved the office to the Old McKenzie Fishery Hatchery on Leaburg Lake. The Chamber opened the first permanent Visitors Information Center at this location. This was all made possible by a USFS grant of $212,000 to Lane County and the Chamber to refurbish the historic buildings on the site.
By the year 2000 the hatchery site was in full operation with a paid office/tourist information manager and volunteers who worked on the site. By 2001, when the Lane County Parks Dept. became involved, the site was able to be open to the public year ‘round by the addition of volunteer camp hosts during the summer months.
Lane County room tax monies have also been helpful in providing many projects to increase overnight stays in the valley: These include indoor visitor annexes in Blue River and Rainbow; and outdoor kiosks in Walterville and the hatchery site; community “Welcome” signs in Leaburg, Rainbow, and McKenzie Bridge; hospitality training for employees at local businesses; advertising in state tourism campaigns, as well as Lane County and local recreation/traveler’s guides; full color geographical maps of the area; and an events calendar for McKenzie Valley community fairs and festivals.