Crater Lake license plates raise more than money
Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
January 27, 2004
By LEE JUILLERAT
CRATER LAKE – License plates featuring Crater Lake are doing more than raising money. They’re also raising awareness about Crater Lake National Park as a tourist destination.
“These plates are driving all across the country. They’re marketing the park, promoting Klamath County,” says Michael Justin, the park’s management specialist and, until recently, long-time member of the Oregon Tourism Commission.
After expenses, including the repayment of a $150,000 loan to Klamath County, which supplied the money to develop the plates, the park has received about $750,000.Special Crater Lake license plates, issued in conjunction with the park’s centennial, have been available to Oregon motorists since September 2002. So far, Justin estimates that more than 60,000 plates have been sold, or about 3,700 a month.
Some of the money has been used to help develop a new park video, “The Mirror of Heaven,” by Southern Oregon Public Television that will debut this spring.
Most is being used for an endowment fund for the future operation and maintenance of the Crater Lake Science and Learning Center. Construction on the $1.7 million center, which will be used by teachers, students and researchers, will begin this summer.
Justin said it’s hoped the endowment can eventually grow to $3 million to $4 million, from the sale of license plates and other donations, to ensure the center’s ongoing operation.
Justin and park superintendent Chuck Lundy are coordinating plans to assure that sale of the plates, the most popular speciality plate in Oregon history, continue.
“It is without a doubt the strongest selling license plate,” Lundy said. “Our purpose is to continue to raise awareness about the availability of the plates and awareness on where that money will go. We’re trying to hit all of the areas in Oregon.”
Park staff have worked with automotive dealerships so that purchasers of new vehicles are informed about the special Crater Lake license plates, and told how the money is used, when sales are finalized.
The National Park Service Foundation has an ongoing working relationship with Ford while Crater Lake staff have developed ties with Lithia Motors, which has car dealerships throughout Oregon, including Klamath Falls. Karen Deboer, the wife of Lithia owner Sid Deboer, is a member of the newly formed Crater Lake Trust, which is working to develop long-range financial programs to benefit the park.
The Crater Lake licenses cost a one-time fee of $20, with about $17.50 from each plate going to the park. The state is also selling blank Crater Lake speciality plates for people who live out of Oregon.
Last summer, members of the Friends of Crater Lake sold and provided information about the Crater Lake plates at the Rim Village Community House.
“We’re interested in making sure the program stays viable,” Justin said. “There are up to 3 million vehicles in the state that could display Crater Lake licenses, so we’re working on marketing and stressing the benefits.”
There is no “sunset” date for ending sales of the Crater Lake plates, which will remain available for purchase as long as demand exists.
Justin’s term on the Oregon Tourism Commission recently ended but he remains active in national tourism organizations. Beyond raising money for the park, he says the plates promote the park and, indirectly, Klamath County, the “Gateway to Crater Lake,” when they are seen around the state and nation.
“The Crater Lake license plate program is probably one of the best tourism devices we have,” Justin said. “It’s a great program for Crater Lake and for our region.”
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