Volume XII | Issue 1 | Spring 2012
Profits from a new golf course in Bandon fund the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance. A Leadership Program graduate helped get the program off the ground. Photo: Courtesy of Bandon Dunes Resort

Economy and ecology

Leadership skills put to work helping coastal farms, forests and fish

Not too long ago, Bandon Dunes Resort developer Mike Keiser saw an opportunity to enhance both the economy and ecology of his beloved southern Oregon Coast.

To that end, Keiser asked Chicago-based Arabella Advisors to help him develop a group called the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, to be funded through profits from a new golf course, Bandon Preserve. The alliance’s work would be aimed at improving tourism and conditions for farms, forests and fish, from Bandon to Brookings.

we’re trying to hit that sweet spot to use our resources wisely

Arabella, a firm that aids philanthropists, sought local leaders to develop the alliance’s mission and get the program off the ground. Ford Institute Leadership Program graduate Harry Hoogesteger was quickly nominated to the committee.

“It didn’t take us very long to get to Harry because he’s an acknowledged leader on conservation issues on the South Coast. He, in short order, became one of our go-to people and the chair of the steering committee,” says Bruce Boyd, principal and managing director at Arabella Advisors. Tom Gallagher, former director of the Ford Institute, worked with Arabella during the start-up phase. “The 300 plus graduates of the Institute’s leadership classes in the region have helped make sure the alliance fits local needs and engages local people. Further, many class graduates are involved in local businesses that can grow with support from the alliance,” Gallagher says.

picture of a plant with white blossomsThe golf course offers fertile ground for the silvery phacelia, a coastal sand dune plant.

An evaluation of the Ford Institute Leadership Program prepared by Oregon State University suggests more organizations are becoming more effective, community-oriented and collaborative because of program alumni. Participants told researchers they have become more effective members of their organizations by implementing new skills learned from the program.

A natural fit

Take Hoogesteger. As the South Coast Watershed Council coordinator, Hoogesteger was a natural fit for the WRCA. The 62-year-old Gold Beach man credits the Leadership Program with helping him work more effectively. He and two other graduates are working on two additional projects for the coastal region.

Hoogesteger says Keiser’s investment in the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance is significant and will go a long way toward building the program’s sustainability. “Having a generous funder who’s committed for the long term is remarkable,” Hoogesteger says. “Mike Keiser absolutely loves the coast. It’s a wonderful, magic place, and he wants to invest in it.”

Hoogesteger and others on the steering committee have worked with Arabella for the last 18 months, already awarding seed money to a few ventures, including specialty wood craftsmen and community-supported agriculture.

“Start-up investments are hard to come by to help local businesses get up and get going, so we’re trying to hit that sweet spot to use our resources wisely and pass businesses down through the generations,” Hoogesteger says.

Boyd says WRCA committee members experienced in leadership, like Hoogesteger, are helping make the alliance a success. “One of the reasons that WRCA has been able to move ahead as quickly as it has is because of the strong alliances and leadership already there,” he says.

Significant impact

Jim Seeley, the new executive director of WRCA, says Hoogesteger makes a significant impact in the group. “He understands what’s going on and understands the people, and he will be a great resource for the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance,” Seeley says.

The 13-hole, par-3 Bandon Preserve is set to open by early summer. The course, which overlooks the ocean, offers fertile ground for the silvery phacelia, a coastal sand dune plant threatened by the encroachment of non-native beach grass. 

“It’s drop-dead gorgeous. When you first see it, your jaw drops,” Seeley says. “We’re anxious to see how our players react to it.”

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