A town hall meeting Monday night was the final opportunity for anyone interested in Seaside’s future to craft a comprehensive vision that will guide the city over the next two decades.
If all of the desires expressed by the 50 people attending the meeting are put into action, the city could have more hiking and biking trails, new schools that double as multipurpose centers and a citywide focus on being a “happy, healthy and inspired” city.
“This is the biggest and most important piece of what you people have given over the months,” Mayor Don Larson said to the group
Since the project was started last October, the city’s visioning committee has conducted several surveys and community meetings based on key topics, including family features, environment, business development, arts and culture, public safety and parks and outdoor recreation.
“Our visioning ... is extremely thoughtful, it’s inclusive and it has really been engaging,” Larson said.
The project aims to predict the needs and expectations that Seaside residents and visitors will have in the next 20 years. That goal is reflected in the project’s name: “Seaside 2034: Building a Bridge to Our Future.”
Matthew Landkamer, of the Portland-based Coraggio Group, which facilitated the meeting, said the participants will be able to keep track of their suggestions when the visioning team wraps up the information gathered so far and posts it on the city’s website and other outlets.
The visioning process will guide the City Council in deciding what projects to do, as well as what not to do, for many years to come, Landkamer said. To be effective, a vision must be relevant, timeless and connected, he said.
Trever Cartwright, also a consultant with the Coraggio Group, said the town hall was a chance for people to collaborate and turn their insights into something tangible.
“The purpose of the evening is to get more perspective from all of you who care so much about your city,” he said.
The meeting was meant to be interactive. Participants were split into groups. The groups developed statements to express what they would like to see happen in the city.
Participants first were asked to focus on one of the six key topics and suggest how they would enhance that area, then connect the group’s suggestions with those presented by the other groups. The business subgroup, for instance, suggested that more year-round jobs were needed. They connected that idea to another group’s idea for new schools. New schools would promote jobs or youth, and that could lead to another connection: providing more events for teens and families. With more activities, the outcome could be improvements to city’s infrastructure, as well as the workforce “infrastructure.”
In a third exercise, participants completed preconstructed statements with words specific to their desires and goals.
One group determined it would like Seaside to be a place where families can live and thrive, businesses can prosper and contribute and visitors can enjoy the city’s affordable recreational and cultural activities.
Unlike other Oregon coastal communities, Seaside is a place where vacation feels like home, the group decided. For people who value an authentic small-town feel, Seaside is an ideal place to relax, renew, enjoy nature and create memories, the participants said. The group’s overall theme was “happy, healthy, inspired.”
The second group, which underwent an identical process at the Seaside Public Library, came up with a different theme: “We value a safe and livable community.”
Seaside is different because it provides both residents and visitors with multiple opportunities to nurture families and enjoy nature in a safe community environment, the second group decided. The difference is evidenced by the way Seasiders work, play and live and also in the way they honor the natural environment, the group added.
Nitya Wakhlu, a visual strategist, created large posters decorated with drawings and symbols to encapsulate the discussions of both groups and the visioning process as a whole.
After each group had finished its individual work, everyone gather together for a final joint discussion. Participants talked about issues they would like to see emphasized or considered during the visioning process. Those issues included traffic, public safety, eco-tourism, family activities, Seaside’s heritage, parking, quality of life and outdoor recreation.
Both groups said they wanted more biking, hiking and walking trails to be created. Several people said they would like the schools to be built outside of the tsunami inundation zone. If new schools are built, though, they would like to see those schools belong more to the entire city by fashioning them to have multiple community uses.
Preparing for the danger of a tsunami was a concern for the participants. Local resident Angela Fairless said the vision should guide the city to be spiritually, economically and physically or, literally, “elevated,” referring to tsunami preparedness.
The perspectives crafted at the meeting will go before Seaside City Council in August and September. Councilors will put the two perspectives and other data collected through previous surveys and meetings into one cohesive vision to guide their strategic decisions as they set goals for the city.
The next City Council goal-setting session will occur early next year.