Mayor Carol Connors dropped some bad news on her city council Tuesday night. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department will not allow any more fireworks launched from Pirate’s Cove because “the fireworks are disruptive to Pacific Flyway Treaty protected sea birds that nest in the area.” What’s worse, a suggestion that the fireworks be moved to Fogarty Creek Park as an alternative site “has been quashed by State Parks and Recreation due to non-illuminated dangerous areas after dark, making it unsafe for pedestrians and observers on the beach,” said Mayor Connors.
Mayor Connors told her council that there is probably nothing that can be done about the rulings adding that despite a plea to the state’s congressional delegation, the city has heard nothing back. “So now, it’s pretty much up to the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce to scope out another site, possibly south of the Depoe Bay Bridge to a bluff face along the south side of the bay.” Connors said whether Depoe Bay will have July 3rd Fireworks is strictly up to the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce which runs them. She said she expects to meet with chamber officials to see if the city can be of any further assistance. She added that there has been talk of loading the fireworks onto a barge and pulling it out into the middle of the bay, but Connors said that’s not likely to happen because of the high cost.
So, we’ll see what the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce can come up with. Depoe Bay merchants have benefitted substantially over the years from beating other areas to the punch over fireworks, running them the night before on the 3rd of July. Mayor Connors and the council has made it clear that the town’s business community derives a substantial portion of their tourism income from the event. So to lose it would be a terrible loss to the town in terms of commerce.
After lengthy presentations by Newport’s Oregon Coast Aquarium, The Pacific Heritage and Maritime Museum and the Newport Performing Arts Center, the Newport City Council awarded tourism promotion dollars to help all three upgrade and expand their offerings.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium was awarded $250,000 toward giving visitors a more intimate and interactive experience with the Aquarium’s seals and sea lions by building better viewing areas of their habitat and daily routines. The quarter million dollars will be matched with grants and other funds the Aquarium will secure from other sources in the future, according to Aquarium officials.
The Pacific Heritage and Maritime Museum was awarded $200,000 to help them leverage other funds to move toward the grand opening of their renovated facility overlooking the Bayfront so that locals and visitors alike can appreciate the exhibits that celebrate the area’s natural history and long human dependency on the sea for sustenance and livelihood.
And finally, the council awarded $250,000 to the Newport Performing Arts Center to improve the sound system in the main theater as well as the acoustics. In addition, what is now a rehearsal space on the east side of the building will be transformed into a 150 seat black box theater for smaller scale performances. OCCA Executive Director Katherine Rickbone told the city council that they will use the quarter million to leverage other matching grants to fully complete the project.
Frank Geltner, Chair of the Lincoln County Fair Board, asked the council if it would consider other applications for tourism facility money at a later date. The council replied in the affirmative, even making a borderline commitment to add to the $300,000 that remains in the fund after Tuesday night’s awards. An advisory committee that made Tuesday night’s recommendations to the council found the Fair Board/Lincoln County application substandard in light of a lack of a firm business plan for the facility; a multipurpose event center for the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. The council Tuesday night said that they would invite the Lincoln County Fair Board to reapply for consideration of a grant award after July 1st.
Some Newport Bayfront business owners told the city council Monday that the sea lion dock on the Bayfront cannot be allowed to simply disappear or tourism will suffer along the Newport waterfront. Bayscapes Gallery and Coffee Shop owner Stan Pickens said whether intended or not, the sea lions have become a major tourist draw throughout the region and that the deterioration of the docks they carouse and sleep on is a threat to their continued easy access by tourists. Pickens told the council that the Bayfront Merchants Association has raised six thousand dollars over the recent past toward preserving the animals’ perch but have been told by the Port of Newport that to replace the docks will take upwards of $75,000. Pickens asked the city for the money. In response city councilors said they acknowledge that the sea going mammals are quite a draw for the Bayfront but that the property belongs to the port and that the original intent on those docks was to provide easy access to the Bayfront by transient boaters who moored across the bay at the South Beach Marina. However, the access never caught on and eventually the sea lions took over.
Pickens said the Port of Newport does not appear to be willing to fund new docks for the sea lions, so it’s imperative that the council help preserve one of the most popular tourist attractions on the Bayfront.
Reactions were mixed, with councilor Jeff Bertuleit suggesting fundraising among Bayfront business owners. Councilor David Allen suggested that the merchants apply for a grant from the city’s tourism facilities fund which currently has a million dollars in it, although three major tourism institutions may have three-quarters of it nailed down. Pickens was told that an application for funding would be welcomed and that the city council may consider adding to the fund with more hotel/motel room tax dollars. Allen said the issue may arise in the upcoming city budget process for next fiscal year.
Spring Break Highlights in Newport: Whales, Lighthouses, Special Events
Provided by Newport Area Chamber of Commerce
(Newport, Oregon) – Spring Break on the central Oregon coast is a fun-filled variety of things to do and see in the natural world. The area hosts more Whale Watch Week vantage points than any other on the coast, the Hatfield Marine Science Center and Oregon Coast Aquarium put on quite a show, and the outdoors promises unending fun for all ages with crabbing, fishing, lighthouses and more.
Spring Whale Watch Week. From March 24 to 31, volunteers will be out in full force to help you spot whales meandering past. They will be at 26 high vantage points along the Oregon coast – but seven of those are in the Newport area. Just north of Newport, in the Depoe Bay area, there are Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint, Whale Watching Center at the Depoe Bay Sea Wall and Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint. Just outside of Newport are Cape Foulweather and the Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area. Within Newport are Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and Don Davis City Park in Nye Beach. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
March 26. Fantastic Floaters. If you’ve ever wondered how tiny organisms get around in that massive ocean, the Hatfield Marine Science is helping you explore these mysterious wanderers. They will collect plankton using nets, examine them under a microscope and try to find out what they will become as adults. Learn how plankton adaptations help them sink or swim, then design and create your own plankton model to race against other families. Pre-registration is recommended, but walk-ins are welcome. 1 – 3 p.m. Cost: $7.50 per person. Hatfield Marine Science Center. 2030 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon. (541) 867-0233.
March 30. Estuary Investigations. Spend time exploring the different zones of the Yaquina Bay estuary and the unique organisms found there. You’ll discover awe-inspiring things about current research and use sampling equipment to collect animals and investigate their unique adaptations to life in the mud. Boots and raingear recommended. Pre-registration is recommended, but walk-ins are welcome. 1 – 3 p.m. Cost: $7.50 per person. Hatfield Marine Science Center. 2030 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon. (541) 867-0233.
March 31. SOLV Annual Spring Beach Cleanup on Oregon Coast. Oregonians from all over the state will be hitting the coastline to help scour the beaches of tons of litter and ocean debris. There are various meeting spots in Newport, including Agate Beach, Nye Beach and Beverly Beach. Register online. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. www.solv.org. 800-333-SOLV.
Oregon Coast Aquarium hosts a large variety of events for children, especially some of the younger ones. See their full schedule at www.aquarium.org. 2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd. Newport, Oregon. 541-867-3474 x 5224.
Ongoing activities in Newport include two lighthouses which you can tour, the scenic wonders of Yaquina Head, and crabbing and fishing in both the Yaquina Bay and in the ocean via a variety of charter businesses.
For more information, see www.discovernewport.com. 800-262-7844
Lincoln City City Council and Visitors and Convention Committee
At a joint session of the Lincoln City City Council and the Visitors and Convention Bureau Committee, Mayor Dick Anderson said Tuesday that the department’s more than one million dollar budget appears to be getting the job done at boosting Lincoln City’s local economy, but he wondered if it couldn’t operate even more effectively if VCB staff could link dollars spent with measurable benefits among the town’s tourist businesses like hotels, motels and restaurants.
VCB Director Sandy Pfaff told the gathering that drawing direct lines between ad dollars spent and economic benefits produced is as much art as science. She said that they can track tourism activity through the amount of hotel/motel room taxes that are collected but added that the city’s lodging industry has been discounting their rates lately due to the recession, so total dollar amounts per quarter don’t compare well with pre-recession figures. However, Pfaff said, they do count cars, and use certain multiplier figures (day trippers versus over-nighters) to get a sense of the drawing power of various events. They also tally ticket sales, but for things like the Kite Festival and July 4th Fireworks and other “drop in” events, it’s much harder to say, with absolute certainty, that “this number of visitors were here due to this amount of advertising.”
It was pretty much agreed around the table that the best way to clarify the effectiveness of various events or attractions is to get a detailed compilation of how many visitors rented hotel and motel rooms over a specific period of time. Right now, those numbers are a closely guarded secret as proprietary information. Mayor Anderson and City Manager David Hawker said to get those numbers would take a vote of confidence by the lodging industry that the numbers would be used strictly for tourism effectiveness purposes and that the numbers would never be used except for that purpose.
Other suggestions to pump up Lincoln City’s tourism surround Devil’s Lake, like kayak and sailing races. Others called for better coordination of special events so they don’t collide with each other on the calendar. But Pfaff surprised the group by saying that Lincoln City probably needs fewer events but more attractions. Debate followed about whether those attractions should be provided by the public or private sectors. Pfaff also pointed out that articles written in travel magazines and in travel sections of newspapers and on TV are often more effective than standard event advertising.
In the end what seemed to stick with everyone was the idea of fewer events in favor of more attractions, getting actual hotel/motel occupancy rates (with protections for proprietary information), and heavier advertising emphasis on electronic media associated with Facebook, Twitter and tourism-driven websites. Each city councilor said they are in general agreement. They also agreed that they want to review more tourism information provided by Pfaff and to meet again soon to further engage in developing tourism promotion strategies to complement what Pfaff and City Manager David Hawker think are smart promotions to attract more visitors to Lincoln City.
Newport City Councilors Monday night offered a financial helping hand to a number of local non-profits, some of whom may use city grants to leverage their applications for even bigger grants from other agencies or larger foundations.
Agencies winning a share of the ten thousand dollars was the Newport Food Pantry at $1,600 for water and sewer hook-ups for their facility near the First Presbyterian Church on NE 12th. Lincoln County Children’s Advocacy Center was given $1,000, Habitat for Humanity was awarded $1,000, Samaritan House was gifted $3,000, Progressive Options was given $1,800, and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) received $1,600.
Meanwhile, the council balked at awarding upwards of $700,000 to split between three well known tourism operations in Newport, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, The Marine Museum and Heritage Center, and the Newport Performing Arts Center. City Councilor David Allen indicated he wanted more time to fully review the notes and information from the citizens task force that reviewed and closely examined proposals from five local groups that applied for funding and who recommended the aforementioned agencies. The council set a follow up meeting for March 20th, 6pm, at City Hall to make up its mind.
At the moment, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is recommended by the task force to receive $250,000, out of the million dollars available, for upgrading their seal and sea lion exhibit, the Maritime Museum is favored to receive $200,000 to help them finish their facility and finally open above the Bayfront, and the Newport Performing Arts Center for a bit of remodeling that would see a small black box theater be created out of what is now a rehearsal studio on the east side of the building. The project would involve a push out into the parking area so revamping traffic circulation and parking would also be required.
Two other projects, the Lincoln County Fair Multipurpose Pavilion ($1 million) and the Oregon Coast Aquatic Park ($650,000) were judged by the task force as being not ready for serious consideration in that neither had business or finished construction plans for their projects.
Should the tentatively approved projects be given the city council’s blessing, the funds would be issued only when determined by the city that the projects are ready to move ahead. Each has a different time line and there is the likelihood that one or all will be using those city room tax funds to leverage much larger grants from other funding sources.
It was noted by councilors Jeff Bertuleit and Lon Brusselback that after these awards are made, it will still leave $300,000 in the fund and that it might be a good idea to augment that amount, with additional room tax dollars, to build other facilities that would make coming to Newport all the more attractive. Councilor Berteleit is on the Board of Directors of the much heralded but not-yet-funded Oregon Coast Aquatic Park.