Can a city be too successful? Courtland Carrier is well aware that there is a fine balance between a thriving downtown and a madding crowd. As the executive director of the Chamber, he has spent the last eight months developing a philosophy and an agenda to help the city navigate the complex waters of keeping Cannon Beach busy while maintaining its livability and off-the-grid sensibility.
Where else can you find a place that is gridlocked on summer weekends, yet so quiet that you can often have a world-class beach to yourself? The push and pull between people who want privacy and those who want to make it a destination. How do you manage that?
Carrier, who has spent decades in the hospitality industry as a hotelier, restaurateur and educator, came to Arch Cape five years ago, struggles himself to answer those questions.
“I’ve spent my whole life in the hospitality industry,” Carrier says over a sandwich at the Driftwood. “I appreciate how the locals feel about their wonderful city, and their beautiful place, and not wanting to over-love it to death with a lot of visitors. You can literally over-love it to death.”
“During the value season during the winter season, and during the shoulder season during the fall and spring — in between peak and off-season, half-way between a very busy place, and a slower time period,” he says. “The challenge Cannon Beach is you have a small town of 1,600 people who cherish the beauty and the community that they love very much.
Then the wave.
“When you get a peak summer season, it’s a lot of people competing for parking, competing for services, being able to get into a restaurant, getting out to see an attraction,” Carrier says. “When my wife and I first moved here, I said. ‘Let’s take a hike to Ecola.’ We took our car, went up Ecola Park Road — then we hit a line of cars. It was already a parking lot, and you can’t get in until someone gets out.
“We do have to maintain a fine line and a balance between doing good business and keeping people employed, and keeping business people healthy so they can survive from peak season to peak season. There are lot of businesses that make a lot of money during the summer, but they don’t do as well as in the off season.”
Carrier seeks to build business where business does not exist. “You need to build on it when it may not be pretty outside, it may be rainy, windy, or blustery, and sometimes, once in a blue moon, it’s snowing,” he says.
After a mild winter and ongoing California drought, some residents are both tantalized and terrified by the prospect of a warmer, drier future.
“I think if I were to take a snapshot of time, I’d say from January to March, we’re going to be the California of the future,” Carrier says. “I’m not saying that will be the case, but I’m not going to ignore it. We will still be one of the most moderate places in the country. Everybody else is getting warmer too. Will there be an impact? There will be, which means we’ll need to do a better job conserving water.”
Carrier says he believes Cannon Beach needs a new school. “I know as for education it really struck a nerve when I saw they closed down the local school and the kids had to be bused,” he says. “I understand if you’re a high school student, that eight miles is not a huge deal. But the fact that they closed down the school caused a ripple effect that make it harder for people to come and work here.”
He supports the arrival of Cannon Beach Academy charter school in Cannon Beach. He advocates greater housing opportunities that allow workers to remain in the city.
He says the best advocates for the community are those who live and were raised here. “I’d like to see our city and business community work together to find a creative solution to the affordable housing solution. A person that’s local takes pride. He says, ‘I grew up here, the best place to have a picnic is over here.’ The residents are by far the best advocates of the city.”
“I see a city that’s open and welcome that there are other things that need to be done to invest in our only industry,” Carrier says. “I’m heartened that the city and council have agreed to reinvest to the marketing and promotion of Cannon Beach.”`
Most residents would whole-heartedly agree with his goals. They would just warn him — don’t be “too” successful.