The 2017 Cycle Oregon Classic Ride was cancelled due to forest fires across the state, announced Cycle Oregon Executive Director Steve Schulz on August 31. In an email to participants, sponsors and volunteers, Schulz said, “This is an enormous disappointment for all of us.”
According to Cycle Oregon’s predictions, five out of seven of the event’s days would be severely impacted with smoke and hazardous air quality. This year’s cancellation is the first in 30 years. The 2017 Classic Ride would have marked Cycle Oregon’s 30th anniversary.
Cycle Oregon was started in 1988 as a bike route between Salem and Brookings, approximately 320 miles. Over a thousand participants rode in the original bike ride, and Cycle Oregon’s number of participants steadily rose over the next several years. In 2017, Cycle Oregon limited the number of participants to 2200, and it cost $999 per rider.
There are currently over a dozen wildfires spread out across Oregon. There are several wildfires that are very close to the 2017 route. Large wildfires like the Milli Fire and the Horse Creek Complex are near Sisters and Bend, which are two main cities along the route this year.
Oregon has been plagued with several massive and destructive wildfires this year. The largest wildfire in the United States right now is the Chetco Bar Fire in Southwest Oregon. The fire has already consumed 182, 284 acres, and crews do not think they will have it contained until mid-October.
The Eagle Creek Fire has also been a notable wildfire this year, burning over 33,000 acres in the Columbia Gorge. Many of these wildfires are human caused, including the Eagle Creek Fire, which was caused by a 15 year old boy from Vancouver. Deborah Kafoury, the Multnomah County Chairwoman, spoke last week about the Eagle Creek Fire, “I think I can speak for all Oregonians when I say our hearts are breaking,”
Cycle Oregon is not the only example of the repercussions of the wildfires in Oregon. Thousands of Oregonians have been told to evacuate their homes as fires loom closer. Over 140 hikers were also stranded on the Eagle Creek hiking trail after the wildfire spread rapidly. The ill-equipped daytime hikers had to spend the night outside before being walked to safety by rescuers. There will also be a severe financial cost for the wildfires. It was estimated that it would cost the state and federal government well over a $100 million as of August 30. This number is expected to rise as long as the fires continue to grow.
Cycle Oregon will be offering a $500 refund to riders. Riders are able to opt to have their $500 refund redirected to the Cycle Oregon Fund, where it will the be distributed to communities struggling with wildfires. Participants that were affected this year will also be given first priority for registration next year.