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Lean, green Lane County

Courtesy Travel Lane County

Ten years ago, we profiled Lane County, Ore., in our December “Town Meeting” feature. Here’s a look at what has happened there since then.

Lean and green succinctly sum up the focus in Lane County, Ore.

The county is a large one, encompassing the cities of Eugene, Springfield and Florence and stretching from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Coast. Lane County’s profile has been elevated in the past few years as it has repeatedly popped up in national publications.

Men’s Health proclaimed Eugene one of the 50 best places to live in the United States. Organic Style said Lane County has the cleanest beaches in the country, and the American Lung Association pegged it the nation’s sixth least-polluted area.

In terms of green efforts, Eugene has been ranked No. 1, No. 5 and No. 6 among U.S. destinations by National Geographic, Popular Science and Country Home, respectively. It’s the home of the nation’s No. 1 bike trail (McKenzie River Trail), according to Bike magazine online.

To those who are or aim to be healthy, Lane County sounds like heaven on earth. For meeting and event planners who want to run greener meetings, it has become a go-to destination.

Sue Harshbarger, Travel Lane County’s senior sales manager, handles two markets — sports and sustainability. “Believe it or not, there is a lot of overlap between those two markets,” she said.

By Denise Wendt, courtesy Travel Lane County

For example, Lane County has proved so adept at decreasing waste generated by the Eugene Marathon that Runner’s World proclaimed it one of the top 10 green marathons in the country.

The Olympic Track and Field Trials, held in 2008 at Eugene’s Hayward Field, was a near-zero waste event thanks to a massive recycling and composting effort. Power for the event was generated from green sources, including a solar-powered stage and stationary bikes that spectators could pedal to produce energy. Valet parking for bikes and free bus shuttles also were provided.
For its work, the local host committee received one of the first-ever Sport and Environment awards from the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.
Other major sports events Lane County has landed is the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which came to town in 2009 and will return in 2011, and the 2010 Pan-American Maxibasketball Championships, which will bring about 800 basketball players, 80 percent of whom played college ball, to the city in July. It is the first time the event has been held in the United States.

“Many planners have commented that if we’re able to host events of that magnitude, we have the ability to host their group as well,” said Lisa Lawton, director of community relations.

Sports events and other large groups will soon have some new venues to consider. The 12,500-seat Matthew Knight Arena at the University of Oregon, to open in December 2010, will be used for conferences as well as basketball and volleyball. The second phase of a new baseball stadium at the university will include a 3,500-seat stadium.

Almost 800 new hotel rooms have been built in the past decade, and two more properties, a 149-room Hilton Garden Inn, and a 54-room boutique Fifth Street Market, are on the way.

An International Mountain Bike Ride Center (IMBA) to be built an hour east of Eugene in Oakridge will be the sixth of its kind in the country and serve as a social and educational hub for cyclists.
In Lane County, being green has become a way of life and a natural extension of meetings and conventions, said Harshbarger.

“It is more than just recycling paper now. It is more of a lifestyle,” she said. “Green meetings have morphed into problem solving and better business practices.”

Travel Lane County Oregon hopes its clients will constantly ask it to do more in terms of helping meetings be sustainable and green.

“In general, people are demanding it,” said Harshbarger. “The more they ask for, the better the services will get. We support this, we care and we want to offer it.”

Travel Lane County
(800) 547-5445