City acts to limit visitor numbers

Sign at entrance to Cannon Beach.

The Cannon Beach City Council on March 22 passed a resolution that orders certain visitors to evacuate the city and not return to stay for a period of time.

City Manager Bruce St. Denis this week explained the reasoning behind the evacuation resolution:

“The governor had issued a statement asking people to stay home to avoid the potential for exposure,” St. Denis said. “Then, the following Saturday, the city was crowded as if it were summer. It appeared that most of the visitors were here just for the day.

 “Folks from Cannon Beach were pretty good about maintaining physical distance and avoiding exposure, but the crowds made that hard to do.

“In addition, the city only has two small stores to serve our population.

The people coming into town pretty much cleared the shelves.

That put the council in the position of discouraging day trippers which is the reason for asking them to leave and to close up the town so the appropriate downtime could occur in our town.”

Cannon Beach Mayor Sam Steidel stated later on the city’s website that, “We were caught behind the game Saturday. Who could have guessed so many folks would look to our beach as the salve for their own concerns?

“As Mayor and your neighbor, I ask you to “Hold On!” Follow the practices suggested and be safe.”  

The Gazette asked Cannon Beach Chief of Police Jason Schermerhorn if the weekend’s visitors left the city without incident. “Visitors definitely left peacefully and there were no issues,” the chief said.  

“So far, it has remained quiet in town, with everyone abiding by the rules put in place.”

One of the exceptions to the resolution is visitors who are invited here by a resident or property owner, as stated in a city Q&A press release on its official website.

The resolution states that a visitor is “any individual who is spending time in the City for pleasure, recreation or nonbusiness reasons and is not a resident, property owner or business owner,” as stated in the release.

The city’s Q&A states: “Despite orders and recommendations by state and federal health authorities to reduce travel, limit congregating in large groups and abide by social distancing guidelines, during the weekend of March 21-22, 2020 the City of Cannon Beach experienced a significant influx of visitors from outside the immediate area.

“These visitors congregated throughout the City without following social distancing guidelines, and caused a depletion of critical resources such as food and supplies at local vendors.

“Because many of the local residents of Cannon Beach are retired, the demographics of the City skew older than the rest of the population, and therefore our residents are more vulnerable to the deadly effects of COVID-19.

“Moreover, the northern Oregon coast has limited medical resources, which further endangers the local population when there are large influxes of visitors during times of declared emergencies.

“The City of Cannon Beach is concerned that without additional action, the City will remain a destination for travelers during spring break and while schools are closed for an extended period.”

Jim Paino, executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce, said in a press release sent to The Gazette that, “We want to report to everyone the results of the Emergency City Council meeting this evening. This will help us keep our community safe and healthy.

“We understand the economic hardships that all our members are facing during these difficult times. The best way to get through it is to work together.”

Meantime, the evacuation order states that Clatsop County residents may travel to Cannon Beach for essential services such as grocery shopping.

“Under the City’s code, if a facility is subject to the local transient lodging tax, it is subject to the order to close,” as stated in the release. “This includes all traditional hotels, lodging houses, RV sites, and short-term rentals.”

Visitors were asked to leave “no later than 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 23,” the release stated.

“The restriction on hotels will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency. The visitor evacuation order is in effect until April 6, 2020, when it will be re-evaluated.”

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