A recent Corgi event the beach

A recent Corgi event the beach was the busiest in years.

At the Aug. 15 “Coffee with Councilors” Cannon Beach City Manager Bruce St. Denis discussed possible solutions to overcrowding in Cannon Beach and the impact of so many visitors.

Those attending also expressed concerns about the lack of garbage cans at certain beach access points, dealing with traffic back-ups at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Hemlock Street, and the need to get ahead of the expected influx of people migrating north due to climate change.

St. Denis said he sees overcrowding as a long-term problem that is only going to get worse, with the ever increasing population of cities to the east, and suggested that paid parking could be used as a solution to overcrowding. Visitors are no longer allowed to park on the shoulders of Highway 101, so they now park in the nearest city. The number of vehicles parked on neighborhood streets sometimes poses a problem for emergency vehicle access.

St. Denis noted that “it’s always been the assumption that the people who live on the coast have an obligation to provide parking and bathrooms to the people who don’t live on the coast.” He added that the State of Oregon does not step up, with the responsibility falling upon the cities. St. Denis said that the city spends $70,000 a year just on toilet paper for the town’s three public restrooms. That figure does not include the expense to clean the restrooms, along with water, wastewater treatment, or garbage pickup and disposal.

St. Denis made several additional comments concerning overcrowding: if you look at other places that are getting ruined by having too many people, it’s important to try to preserve the area and not get overrun. He added, visitors are not enjoying Cannon Beach if it is too crowded. The community should be given back to the people who live here; many residents avoid going downtown during the summer and “there’s something wrong with that”. “There are no more beach communities being made... and you can go to one of the 100 most beautiful places on the planet and stay all day for free” St. Denis said.

St. Denis brought up parking enforcement using license plate recognition technology, where traffic aides could scan license plates. He mentioned that parking in Portland can be $75 a day. Charging $20 to $25 for parking might be an option to deter people from coming here, with some choosing to go other places. Paid parking would be required in all areas of the city. Residents and employees would get free parking permits and the details could be worked out.

Councilor Nancy McCarthy mentioned that the Municipal Court judge for Cannon Beach had told her that 70 to 80 parking tickets were contested during a recent court session. The current parking fine is $50 and there are more tickets being issued, with Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn saying people want to avoid the consequences for their behavior.

In response to concerns expressed by a citizen about a lack of garbage cans at beach access locations, public works director Karen LaBonte replied that there are a total of 30 garbage cans in place at the 45 beach access locations, with a total of 79 cans spread throughout the town. The city recently paid almost $9,000 for four additional garbage cans along with two benches, and the city has ordered an additional 10 garage cans. These are made of galvanized steel and redwood so they won’t rust or tip over, and must be installed on solid, level ground.

Supply chain and labor issues have caused a delay in getting these cans made and delivered, but they are expected in September. These cans were approved by the Design Review Board and Council many years ago, so just ordering cans from a waste supplier is not something city leadership wants. LaBonte expressed appreciation when residents let her know about any issues, and she welcomed feedback on where new garbage cans should be located.

Councilor Robin Risley asked if the garbage could be picked up three times a day on busy days, instead of the current twice a day. LaBonte explained that the company contracted for garbage collection is having a difficult time finding enough employees, and there would be an increased cost to the city for additional garbage pick up.

Schermerhorn talked about the stop sign at the Sunset-Hemlock intersection and the resulting back-up onto Highway 101. The police would like to have someone directing traffic on busy days, he said, but they sometimes have other calls and are unable to be there. St. Denis explained that even with someone directing traffic, the two closely-spaced pedestrian crosswalks at Sunset and Hemlock make the traffic problem worse.

Local resident Rick Gray commented that “we are in a world that is changing rapidly, and the changes are resulting in more and more people coming here for the day”. He said that to control the number of people that come here every day, the only tool is to control the number of available parking places and enforce the parking rules, or it will just keep getting worse. He went on to say places like Phoenix and Las Vegas are becoming unbearably hot; the Great Salt Lake is drying up. “10 or 15 years from now, if the climate keeps changing, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, this nice, moist, cool part of Oregon won’t just be overrun with day-trippers, it will be overrun period. We need to start getting ready for the fact that we’re standing here on this beautiful piece of land and we are going to be overrun by environmental migrants”.

Coffee with Councilors is held the third Monday of every month from 10 am to 11 am. It is an open forum where residents can ask questions of McCarthy, Risley and St. Denis. Other city officials, including Shermerhorn, LaBonte, and Emergency Services Director Rick Hudson are frequently available to answer questions.

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