City to review tourism and arts grants

Colin Murphey/EO Media Group The Fat Bike Festival is among recipients of Tourism and Arts Commission dollars in Cannon Beach.

The Tourism and Arts Commission allocated more than $298,000 to fund a dozen events and projects for next year.

Many familiar faces were funded, including the Cannon Beach Museum Cottage and Garden Tour, Savor Cannon Beach, Get Lit at the Beach and the relatively new Fat Bike Festival for either full or partial amounts.

About $86,000 was allocated into a reserve.

But four new events and projects pitched generated the most discussion, with some causing commissioners to question and reevaluate the structure of what should qualify for the revenue generated from a lodging tax passed in 2008. All requests will be either approved or denied by the City Council in July.

Here’s a look at three new events that were approved — and one that was denied ‚ and the conversation that surrounded them.

The commission was split down the middle over a proposal to develop a network of bicycle trails based 4.5 miles from Cannon Beach at Klootchy Creek County Park off Highway 26 on private industrial timber land owned by GreenWood Resources. Commissioners awarded about $12, 243 — about 49 percent of what was asked.

A divided council voted to either not fund or fund the project minimally based on legal concerns presented by City Attorney Tammy Herdener. Herdener raised questions about whether or not the trail project fit the definition of a tourism facility, which an Oregon statute defines as “real property that has a useful life of 10 or more years and has a substantial purpose of supporting tourism or accommodating tourist activities.” Because the agreement is only five years between the association and the landowner, this fact could come into question.

Matthew Weintraub, vice president of the Northwest Trail Alliance and grant applicant, said multiple cities and counties have used state dollars to fund similar projects without issue.

Herdener also said the project was a legal gray area when it came to Cannon Beach’s local ordinance, which states that an additional emphasis should be given to grants where the tourism is tied to the arts community. The project is sits right on the boundary of Cannon Beach city limits. Weintraub said other arts projects, like the Fat Bike Festival, were funded last year and that nothing in the ordinance requires it to be art related.

Some commissioners voted against it, out of fear of possible legal challenges and whether or not it was “the right fit” for tourism and arts money. Others worried about how room nights would be counted since it isn’t a formal event.

Weintraub responded that many events — like the art festivals — don’t have formalized ticketing and can’t prove “heads in beds.”

The City Council held similar concerns in a preliminary review, with questions about the purpose of the funding in the big picture.

“Is the council shifting its focus from arts to outdoor activities?” Mike Benefield asked at a work session.

Those who fully funded the project, like Swedenborg, saw a trail system as a year-round benefit to the tourism industry, and that as long it was promoted as a tourist destination, the gray area “isn’t so gray.”

“It’s an investment in the future. I liken it to surfing. Twenty years ago, you just saw a few surfboards on cars. Now they are everywhere, and we have multiple surf shops to support it,” Swedenborg said. “That’s where biking is going.”

For $10,480, the Cannon Beach Arts Association is fully-funded to start a Music Festival the last weekend of September. It is an expansion of the Manzanita Music Festival, according to the grant application, and will be held in the Cannon Beach city park. There will be music-related workshops, lectures and performing artists throughout Friday and Saturday.

Commissioners overwhelmingly supported this event. Commissioner and owner of Ice Fire Glassworks Jim Kingwell commented that it’s an event the town needs, and that the grant would be a “small amount for an experiment with a lot of potential.”

The longtime event of Plein Air & More Arts Festival was also funded, but with notable conceptual changes like moving the date to be out of the town’s peak season of June, and pivoting the focus to environmental activism by changing the name to “The Earth to Ocean Arts Festival.” Some commissioners objected to the change, believing the Plein Air Festival has built a brand, and argued changing it could hurt attendance. According Jeffrey Hull, who submitted the application, the gallery group believes the June date is inconvenient and doesn’t fit the criteria of the “off-season”, and September could offer better weather and a chance to rebrand with environmental themes.

A culinary festival, pitched for a weekend in April, was given $23,143 ­— about 58 percent of the funding requested. Sponsored through the Chamber, EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School owner Bob Neroni is organizing the event, which intends to feature four visiting chef’s to be each paired with a chef from the Cannon Beach area to celebrate, educate and appreciate the culinary offerings available in town. On Saturday, a larger festival event at the Surfsand is imagined, highlighting a variety of cuisine.

The event was only partially funded, however, because some commissioners took issue with the timing of the event being so close to the wine-tasting event, Savor Cannon Beach.

“I like the concept, but I don’t like the timing,” Steve Sinkler of The Wine Shack said. “I fear it will cannibalize Savor.”

But others, like Linda Beck-Sweeney and Claudia Toutain-Dorbec, voted to fully fund the event, arguing that the festival would ultimately be an asset to the restaurant community.

“Bob (Neroni) is focused on preserving the restaurants. I don’t think it’s taking away ­— it’s adding to,” Beck-Sweeney said.

A proposed environmental film festival, which would be called Rockdance Ecofest, asked for $48,735 in funding but received nothing. For 10 days, the festival would have been held in March around spring break, and showed a number of environmental activist films and hosted videography workshops.

While every commissioner supported the idea of an environmental film festival, most felt the proposal was still in the conceptual stage, and needed more revision before awarding funds.

“We’ve long needed a film festival, but I didn’t feel comfortable with where this group was in the planning,” Toutain-Dorbec said.

Commissioner Greg Swedenborg also took issue with the timing around spring break, which is when the lodging community usually is already booked.

Cannon Beach Arts Association — workshops: 24,051 — 96 percent of funding.

Cannon Beach Arts Association Music Festival: $10,554 — 100 percent of funding.

Culinary Festival: $23,143 — 58 percent of funding.

Chamber of Commerce video project: $16,500 — 97 percent of funding.

Fat Tire Bike Festival: $16,804 — 97 percent of funding.

North Coast Partnership: $16,714 — 48 percent of funding.

Cannon Beach Gallery Group for three art festivals: 56,750 – 100 percent of funding.

Cottage Tours: $25,429 — 99 percent funded

Savor Cannon Beach: $44,419 — 95 percent of funding

Coaster Theatre: $36,457 —90 percent of funding

HALO: No funding.

Klootchy Creek: $12,143 — 49 percent of funding

Get Lit at the Beach: $29,143 — 97 percent of funding

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