Salmon as a tourist draw
The Newport City Council Monday night declined to write a check to the group that is trying to establish a new Spring Chinook run in Yaquina Bay. The council said there is no doubt that the project would be a big tourist draw in the form of recreational fishers, but there are management and legal issues that must be worked out first.
City Manager Spencer Nebel said that there appears to be a legal question whether net rearing pens for young salmon qualify as permanent facilities capable of lasting ten years, as required by the rules of the tourism facilities grant program. The council decided that such a legal question will have to be settled by the city’s new city attorney who doesn’t start work until later this year.
Secondly, the council wants to make sure the net pen facilities and their operations are adequately funded – that the program is robust and will survive financially for many years to come. And the council wants assurances in writing that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is “on board” with the whole Salmon for Oregon master plan and that a financial support commitment from ODFW will be forthcoming – an issue coming up before the next state legislature.
Salmon for Oregon’s Jim Wright assured the council that all those questions will be answered to the council’s satisfaction. The council gave him until April of next year to get everything in writing and delivered to council.
Representatives of the city’s tourism facilities grant award advisory committee blasted the council for offering such, as they called, special treatment for Wright and his group when no such treatment was been offered to other applicants who were not chosen to receive funds. City Councilor David Allen took issue with the allegation saying that the city council sees great value in the salmon project and that councils are, by nature, allowed to be flexible depending on circumstances.
So Mr. Wright will be back before the council next April with his finished paperwork and evidence of long term commitments of financial support for the Spring Chinook fishery.
Where to put a new bicycle pump track
Those sponsoring a new bicycle pump track was similarly disappointed in not getting formal approval of their own project – the track proposed to be located at the southwest corner of Coast Park near the Performing Arts Center. City Manager Spencer Nebel said that after meeting with surrounding tourist accommodation property owners, and hearing their concerns about excessive noise and after hours activities (even though outlawed), it would be in everyone’s interest to have the pump track group find another location.
Nebel said the way the project came forward without any comprehensive review by city-wide staff, property stakeholders or council involvement indicates a need to have projects such as these to be first reviewed by committees advising the council. Nebel said sponsors of such proposals should first make their pitch to the city council where it likely would be referred to a citizens advisory committee to fully examine it – in this case the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. The committee will review it, make any adjustments to operations or location, and then forward those recommendations to the city council. Nebel said it’s a much open and transparent process that really should be standard procedure for the city. In this case, Nebel said, it wasn’t.
Hearing all that, the council voted to send the pump track proposal to the city’s Parks and Recreation and Advisory Committee for their review and recommendation. Two alternate locations were mentioned: as an add-on to the city’s skate park at Spring and 8th – the other possibly south of the bridge. Track supporters made it clear they would prefer to have the facility north of the bridge because they don’t want young kids riding across the Yaquina Bay Bridge on a rather narrow sidewalk.
The matter will come back to the council in early December.
Making sure Agate Wayside improvements fit in with the neighborhood
The council also responded to some Agate Beach neighbor complaints about being “left in the dark” about plans to use state grant money to build new bathroom and shower facilities, better parking, and trail improvements to the Agate Beach Wayside, just south of Lighthouse Drive. Neighbors were especially critical of the idea of building boardwalk-type access to the beach from the intersection of Gilbert and Agate Way.
City Manager Spencer Nebel explained that there had been a lull in progress since the original ODOT permission to use state funds for the improvements to the wayside. But now everything is moving ahead rather quickly. New deadlines for spending the grant money have been set and the city is trying to hurry things up while not shortchanging the public, surfers, swimmers, and not the least of which are the neighbors. Nebel pledged to fully engage the neighborhood at a November 18 meeting. ODOT officials will be also attending. Based on what the neighbors express and discussions on what physical constraints are in play, the design consultants will go back to work for a month and reconvene another public meeting in mid-December to hopefully hammer out design options.
Community Director Derrick Tokos said depending on how things go, actual construction on the upgraded wayside could be underway next fall with completion by late 2015 or early 2016.