Despite an assumption by at least one leader of the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes that the tribe would join the city of Cannon Beach in owning Ne Cus’ Park, the City Council has made it clear that the city will be the land’s sole owner.
The discussion arose when Dick Basch, vice chairman of the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes, once again broached the subject of a possible joint ownership agreement between the city and the tribe at the council’s meeting Aug. 5. Although the council had stated in previous meetings that joint ownership of the park is unlikely to happen, Basch asked that discussion of the controversial topic be suspended for 90 days, implying that joint ownership was still on the table.
The council, however, said straight up that it wasn’t.
“I don’t think that joint ownership is on the table, or has been over the last few months,” Mayor Mike Morgan said. “There’s a consensus of the council ... that joint ownership is kind of a sticky wicket that we really don’t want to get into.”
Councilor George Vetter, the council-appointed liaison to the tribe, said he recently told Basch that he could not support the idea of joint ownership.
“I would need to be convinced that that would not create more problems than it would solve,” Vetter said, adding that, when there’s disagreement between joint owners, legal disputes tend to crop up. Such agreements “typically have a good reason in the beginning, and then later those reasons aren’t there and become problematic.”
Ownership issues aside, Basch said the tribe would like to have a “management agreement” with the city that maintains “open communication” when it comes to the on-ground, day-to-day development of the site. The tribe, he said, wants to be notified before the city makes decisions affecting Ne Cus’ Park.
The council decided that an ad hoc committee of the city’s parks and community services committee, called GENA (Greater Ecola Natural Area) will work with Ne Cus’ stakeholders, including the tribe, to develop a master plan for the north half of the school site, with an eye toward what should become of the south half in case it falls into the city’s possession. The north site is owned by the Seaside School District.
“The tribe will be involved at every step of the way through GENA and the parks committee,” Morgan said.
“What they don’t have is veto power,” Vetter said.
The council directed Jennie Messmer, the interim city manager, to draft a memorandum of understanding between the city and the tribe to spell out what “open communication” will mean in practice.
The city first acquired the one-acre parcel last January, seven months after the Seaside School District closed Cannon Beach Elementary School. The parcel originally belonged to Clatsop County and reverted back to the county after the school closed. The county, then, turned it over to the city.
However, the tribe had also been eying the north parcel and had even entered into loose negotiations with the county. Although the tribal members, who had made it clear what the school site means to them and the role it played in the Clatsop-Nehalem’s history, eventually chose to let the city take sole ownership for the time being, they said they did so with the belief that, one day, the city would bring the tribe into the ownership agreement.
The council later decided to turn the parcel into a city park named Ne Cus’ — or, “the place where the tide flows swiftly out” — after the Native American village that flourished there for centuries.
‘I don’t think that joint ownership is on the table, or has been over the last few months’