As the chapter of 2018 comes to a close, the Cannon Beach Gazette takes a look back at the stories that made this year’s headlines.
Water quality issues and solutions
This summer, after high bacteria readings at Cannon Beach storm outfalls at Gower Street and Chisana Creek, the city revived a water testing program in search of a solution. According to the Surfrider Foundation, which has tested outfalls around Cannon Beach for 10 years, 25 to 50 percent of readings have exceeded state standards, depending on the year. For years the cause has stumped city officials, who have been unable to identify a pattern or any relationship with cross-connections with the sewer system. This year an answer could be in sight. The city hired an engineering firm to explore ways to redesign the Gower Street and Chisana Creek outfalls to reduce bacteria readings in the water. With DNA testing showing bacteria is not coming from human waste, the city believes bacteria from animal waste and fungi are building up inside the pipes, a majority of which are underground. Engineers are looking at installing ultraviolet light filters at the outfalls, which would kill the bacteria before it goes out to the beach.
City Hall bond
Discussions of building a new City Hall and Police Station have also dominated headlines this year. Issues surrounding City Hall have been documented for more than a decade.
Conversations about replacing City Hall resurfaced this spring at the urging of City Manager Bruce St. Denis, who has concerns about the building in a tsunami or earthquake. The building would be vulnerable to a minor seismic event or a medium-to-large sized tsunami, St. Denis said. The new building would be seen as a central location for emergency response and communications. Councilors are currently considering whether to for a bond issue in November, which could vary between $14.5 million to more than $27 million, depending on whether the new structure is built at its current location on Gower Street or the 55-acre site east of U.S. Highway 101 known as South Wind.
Over the course of a year, Cannon Beach City Hall saw complete staff turnover of the city’s three department heads. City Manager Bruce St. Denis came to the city last December, filling the position left open by former manager Brant Kucera in June. In January, both former Public Works Director Jim Arndt and former City Planner Mark Barnes announced their retirement. Karen La Bonte as assistant public works director acted as an interim until she was chosen to fill the job long-term in May. In October, new Community Development Director Jeff Adams came from Georgia to take the reins upon Barnes’ November retirement.
After more than a year of work sessions and public testimony, the Planning Commission this November recommended an updated Foredune Management plan to the City Council, which guides how and where dunes can be graded for views, as well as how they should be monitored after the work is done. Dozens of homeowners testified for months to the planning commission about the effects of sand inundation, and how those who bought homes at Breakers Point were sold property under the idea code allowed the ability to maintain beach access and view. The recommendation came however with a last-minute condition — that the City Council should question whether grading for views should be done at all — which could significantly shift the tenor of future public hearings on the matter.
Former elementary school site
Four years after Cannon Beach Elementary School closed, Seaside School District in November announced it was seriously considering selling the former school property to the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum to make it a cultural center. Though other offers have been made in the past, this is the first time the district has publicly expressed intention to commit to a sale. The building has long been an object of desire for the city, which has discussed buying it as some form of event or community center on and off for years. If the sale is finalized, the museum hopes to work with the Greater Ecola Natural Area, a group that has long advocated for the school to be a cultural center, to renovate the space to honor the history of both the tribes and the elementary school, introduce new trails adjoining the park and creating more parking.
Though hardly a new phenomenon, the prevalence of the Cannon Beach bunnies took over headlines this year after some residents in Tolovana asked the city to do something about the large rabbit population, which neighbors have said have left lawns covered in thick layers of rabbit pellets and burrow holes and bring health concerns. While the city has chosen not to get involved at this time, the story garnered the attention of people across the country, even inspiring a “Save the Cannon Beach bunnies” petitions on Change.org. For now, the bunnies are still presumably nibbling on the grass near Tolovana Inn.