News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Just stop it!

About a month ago I was kibbitzing with our editor, Jim Cornelius, and telling him that I had just come off the trail – the Peterson, where I happily find myself four or five times a week. We were chatting about yet another person or persons being ticked off about one thing or another in town. There seems to be a lot of that going around these days.

It had to do with growth as I recall, or the homeless issue, the two being the most current things on which to take exception with each other. In the conversation I told him that I had just met a woman on the trail who was red hot about the new Sisters Trails Alliance logo - the one that simply says STA.

She was more than agitated that the new brand no longer included the word Sisters in its badge. Like in the little decals on all the junction marker posts, one of which marked the spot where we met each other. Her stance was that our highly regarded trail system was bought and paid for by the hard work and good intentions of the decent folks of Sisters, not some nondescript “STA.”

Her position was well articulated and I mused that she was just the kind of person we used to look for in focus groups back in my advertising days. Somebody not afraid to speak up and phrase her thoughts in cogent terms.

Just as quickly as she had entered the conversation she disappeared. That was, until last week when Scott Penzarella, the new executive director of Sisters Trails Alliance reached out to tell us that somebody was systematically removing the decals with the new design, which had been applied over the original version. Thus making the old look visible again.

Really? Somebody is so unhappy with a marketing decision that he/she/they would go to the considerable trouble of peeling off the new logo so as to reveal the old one? In Sisters? Are you kidding me? This is how we resolve our differences of opinion now?

In this age of rage, I was naïve enough to think in Sisters we were at least somewhat immune to public rants. Silly me. I left room for, say, protesting more consequential things like arming Ukraine as an example, but the name of a nonprofit…

Penzarella and I spoke at length about it he hoping that the issue, would get publicized. We speculated that this is not the work of teens nor bikers but an older hiker or hikers with a fierce, albeit misplaced, loyalty to the trails. He told me that the decision was not unanimous among those influential with the Alliance, and some vocal opposition was in the record. That said, we agreed that Sisters is better than this outburst.

The reason behind the new branding is Penzarella’s and the Alliance board’s vision that their trail stewardship model goes beyond Sisters, and the “S” in STA is also interchangeable with Sustainable.

A reader with whom I was sharing this affair was somewhat sympathetic to the woman’s distress, remarking that STA sounds more like an airport security program. You have to appreciate the good humor folks in Sisters can muster on short notice, eh?

Abbreviating the name to STA is not without precedent with similar groups, e.g. COTA – Central Oregon Trail Alliance in Bend —who have more than once imagined their reach expanding into Sisters. Likewise, Penzarella appears to have ambitions that extend beyond Sisters.

Expect STA to market our trails more assertively. The executive director is particularly keen on attracting larger numbers of younger bikers, hikers, and equestrians to our expansive trail grid. That seems to coincide with the thinking of a number of merchants like Brad Boyd, owner of Eurosports, who has long believed that we should be spending more money and focus on the appeal of Sisters as an active lifestyle destination and less on pushing the old Western town theme.

“Trail stewards are tiring of the nuisance. Some decals have been replaced three times now. It’s a cost to the organization and its donors and an affront to the many volunteers who protect the trails and keep them safe and accessible,” Penzarella laments.

There’s no way to know who is the culprit. But know this. There is an appropriate forum — several, in fact, to air your grievance. Some right on the pages of this newspaper in the form of a letter to the editor or a guest column or commentary.

Meanwhile, just stop it.


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