For the city’s centennial year, Gearhart residents came together with a celebration to remember. The centennial — honoring the former town of Clatsop’s incorporation as the city of Gearhart in 1918 — brought festive gatherings, parties, memorabilia and a downtown street dance in July.
In other top stories, the City Council began to take action on invasive species and cutting of dune vegetation, an issue that had concerned both residents and naturalists.
Gearhart took the first step to initiating rules to increase safety around the elk population with approval of a “no feeding” of the elk and other wild animals. Others called for more drastic actions: forced relocation of the animals or even culling of the herd by sharpshooters. A competitive City Council race brought heated words on the campaign trail.
And a plan to relocate the Gearhart firehouse to the city’s park at North Marion and Pacific Way — considered by many experts to be the most viable site in a tsunami emergency — faces an uphill fight in months to come.
Mayor Matt Brown welcomed back Dan Jesse, Kerry Smith and Paulina Cockrum. Reita Fackerell was selected to the council after the departure of Sue Lorain, who moved to Portland.
In the city’s one contested election, challenger Jack Zimmerman sought Smith’s Position 1 seat. The candidates split on issues of elk management; the new firehouse location; and approaches to fiscal management. Smith prevailed in the November vote.
Cockrum and Smith took the oath of office in December, with the goals of improving the city’s emergency infrastructure and resilience in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone event.
Voters also showed support for the county’s jail bond measure, and enacted a 3 percent city tax on the retail sale of cannabis.
After a failed bond a decade ago, the multiyear process of bringing a new firehouse to Gearhart lingered. A new building is sought with a design to be operational in all but an “extra-large” Cascadia Subduction Zone disaster scenario.
Three locations are under consideration, the current site at 670 Pacific Way; the park at North Marion Avenue and Pacific Way; and Highpoint Station at the corner of North Marion and 13th Street. Criteria include elevation, soil and building cost. Future conversations will be held with a citywide forum in February.
When Gearhart resident Margaret Marino put into motion a discussion on dune vegetation in early 2017, she was picking up on a conversation that had bedeviled the city for years. Rules for cutting invasive species were unclear or nonexistent, and the proliferation of Scotch broom and other nonnative species threatened the health of the dunes — and the views of the owners.
The ordinance, written in 1994, was a leading discussion item among committee members. The panel reached out to state departments and ecologists for assistance. With consensus, the City Council drafted rules about removal or trimming of trees and nonnative species.
In late July, Gearhart city councilors approved the ordinance.