From the looks of it, it was another day of public service that sometimes involves being a punching bag for angry constituents who, in this case, decry the end of Yachats as they know it, and vowing not to go quietly into that new plan.
“You’re destroying Yachats,” “you’re not listening to those who voted for you,” “you’re going to destroy business owners who have their very lives at risk,” “you’re destroying the very essence of what it means to live in Yachats,” and other forecasts of doom should traffic flow improvements materialize, promenade sidewalks proliferate with street lamps, flower baskets and easy access to convenient parking.
There is a great deal of fear in Yachats. It’s been very loud and persistent. But there also appears to be a growing acceptance among other townspeople that communities can’t survive on fear. They run on hope, cooperation and innovation – on courageous visioning for improving a close knit town instead of putting off inevitable change. They know that if they do nothing, one day a far away bureaucracy will make the changes for them because ODOT owns the highway. And they’ll do as they see fit because the town was too busy fighting to offer constructive alternatives.
Mayor Ron Brean says there are those who continue to call for the status quo despite persistent reminders from ODOT that it needs to end angle-in back-outs onto Highway 101, to create safer ways of pulling onto 101 or off of 101, and to make 101 and other town streets safer for pedestrians, hikers and bicyclists as well as for those with disabilities.
Mayor Brean says he and others have had frank and honest conversations with a number of merchants and business owners which have produced design changes to ensure they have the same number of parking spaces that they have today, but configured in a more efficient manner. There is also a ballot issue coming up for the town to acquire more land for clearly designated off-street-parking. Such parking, he says, will assure visitors that they have a safe and secure location to park their vehicle so they can get out of their car, pickup, motorhome or fifth-wheel and leisurely walk about Yachats’ downtown and discover all that it has to offer. Instead of an impulse buy for just an ice cream cone (and then back on the road in five minutes) they can explore and enjoy a pleasant walk through all of downtown Yachats and drop a few more dollars than they expected, because they found Yachats to be more than they expected.
Brean says it’s been an arduous journey, but that he knew it would be difficult. But he says he has faith that with persistent outreach from the council and sincere and honest dialog with townspeople, they will agree on a plan that will grow Yachats tourism and income for it’s business owners and workers without sacrificing the character of the community. He said “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.”
With perhaps that note of optimism the council decided to hire a design engineering firm out of Albany to evaluate the current layout of the downtown and to offer recommendations with an eye toward better traffic flow, maintaining adequate parking, accommodating the variety of traffic that moves through the community and to make it more safe and pleasant for everyone. ODOT recommended a number of engineering firms to take this first step in making Yachats more inviting.
Mayor Brean said the council agreed to hire Reece and Associates of Albany who will spend the near future familiarizing themselves with the complex array of issues and preferences of the town’s diverse interest groups. Brean says he intends to continue the momentum that he believes is building toward a community-wide consensus. He again reiterated that the $1.16 million project is largely funded by ODOT – that it is their highway BUT that they are sincerely interested in providing a streetscape that will improve traffic flow and movements through and around Yachats while making the downtown more prosperous by making it more attractive.
If Democracy works best when noisiest, Yachats is one of the most democratic cities in Oregon.