Mayor Sam Steidel spoke with The Gazette recently about the former Cannon Beach Elementary School site purchased by the City of Cannon Beach.
The mayor has a message posted on the city’s website as to his hopes for development of the site, and how he thinks local residents can work together to find the best use for the property.
The Gazette earlier this week asked Steidel about the historical nature of the site …
“There is deep Native culture connected to the mouth of the creek,” he said in an email. “Tribal history speaks of a long and thriving life surrounding the site. This location is mentioned in the Lewis and Clark journals in detail, and is understood as the physical end of their travels.
“As well, the old school is held dear by many who grew up going to school there, attending the holiday and summer school events. It has (a) strong cultural connection to our becoming an arts-oriented community.”
“What may happen first?”
“Hopefully, several things at one time. Yes, the buildings do need repair. They are being assessed for strength and code. This will entail some planning and design process,s which will be annoyingly slow and costly.
“Meanwhile, my hope is the community will have many long and fruitful conversations about the future uses and prospects. A lot of understanding and differences will need to be stuffed into those old buildings if we are to make this a gem of history, culture and commerce.
“When? I see two initial ‘whens’ - when we may start working to revive the place, and when we will hold the first concert or dance. I suggest we avoid setting a specific date for now, believing it will happen.
“Side-along ‘whens’ are to be looked forward, too - the first grant, the first fundraiser, the friends-of group is officially founded, and every first-type of event under the refurbished roof. A lot of fun first will be forthcoming.”
In the mayor’s message, he said room tax dollars will fund the “restoration and operations of the old school project. Essentially, these are the only funds the city has available to fund this type of project without involving real estate tax dollars.
“The room tax dollars do come with restrictions. Specifically, the intended uses for the facility must include the ability to draw visitors from outside of our region. Not necessarily the only purpose, but it must be a significant factor.”
“What is the reason for the purchase?”
“After many years of trying, after knowing the history both recent and distant, after seeing the simple size and utility of the old gym, I can only ask how can we not.
“Any community would, let alone at a location on the beach, beside a creek, open and natural at the entrance to our town.
“Then, falling into our lap comes the county adding a bit to the transient room tax, which the city is bound to use for either marketing or facilities. This is a facility, if we do it right.
“Mind, there will be a lot of work and fundraising yet to come. We will have this trickle of funds to help get started, and now that the property is in community hands we are free to hassle out how to start in our own manner.”
The mayor talked in his message about his hopes for the site in connection with the community.
“The old school gym has the potential to be the centerpiece of our gathering place, once it is allowable to fully gather comfortably and safely again.
“It is the only space in town where distancing indoors makes sense and could be possible. Time will come when gathering under one roof may be safe. What better roof?
“Think of the future. Concerts, dances, receptions, the holidays and special events. Cold winter nights, when the rain is sideways and the kids need a place to run, or us seniors need to walk.
“We could hear lectures on native songbirds and speeches from ‘wannabe’ politicians, or swap meets and game nights.”