The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department started its outreach effort to get the community involved in choosing a title for the unnamed trail at the Necanicum Spit near the southwest end of Gearhart.
The state department has organized a contest to find an appropriate name for the trail, which is adjacent to the Gearhart Ocean State Recreation Area at Little Beach. The trail starts near the parking lot on H Street and goes along the dunes near the ocean and the Necanicum Estuary.
To get the process for the contest started, the department turned to some of the area’s youngest citizens.
Park Ranger Brian Fowler gave several presentations to the students at Gearhart Elementary School students, calling on them to give their 2-cents worth.
“We need your help with this trail, because it’s brand new but it doesn’t have a name,” he told students in Chuck Albright’s third-grade class.
The National Audubon Society has labeled the Necanicum Estuary an important bird area. Fowler shared with students how the trail is designed to help keep pedestrians from traipsing all over and disrupting the designated shorebird conservation area while still providing them access to the beach and a nice recreational path.
“This trail was a perfect way we could still get folks out to this wonderful beach, without completely eliminating that recreation use,” Fowler said.
During his presentations, he talked about the western snowy plover, one of the several species of migratory birds that use the conservation area for nesting or resting during their trips up and down the coast. The area near the estuary provides a suitable habitat for those birds, which make nests right on the shoreline, he said. The western snowy plover is the keystone species in awareness and conservation efforts as it is listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as threatened.
Because the trail is right in the Gearhart Elementary School students’ backyard, Fowler said, they are ideal candidates for giving it a proper name.
“This beach, this trail is in your guys’ home,” he said, adding, “We felt you guys were the best ones to take this contest on.”
The department decided to only have Gearhart Elementary School participate in the first phase of the process because of its proximity to the trail, but also to have a specific group take ownership of the project and to “establish some future stewards of the area,” Fowler said.
“We wanted to be able to have them be that voice,” he said.
During the month of the contest itself, the department plans to set up a community weekend walk on the trail. The goal is to establish a partnership that will serve as a venue for continued community outreach.
Gearhart Elementary School Principal Juli Wozniak was happy for the school to be chosen for this responsibility.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for our students to participate in and be involved in the community,” she said. “It sounded like a great partnership between their program and ours.”
The students also expressed excitement about their special role in the contest and a desire to walk the trail.
“The main focus right now, we discussed getting out on the trail,” Wozniak said. “They’re excited about it and want to name it, but it’s hard to name something if you haven’t seen it.”
She worked with Fowler to set up a field trip to the trail for the students so they could get “a really good feel of what it should be named,” she said.
The students were given until Oct. 14 to generate and submit name ideas to their teachers, who then passed on the entries to the state parks and recreation department. The city and department now are whittling down the list of names to generate the top 10 or 15.
Then the department will set up a final public vote through Survey Monkey in the first week of November so the rest of the community can participate in choosing the new name. The vote only will be advertised locally, but anyone can participate.
The survey will be open for about two weeks and available on the Gearhart city website and the main page of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department website.
The winner of the contest will be announced in mid-November. Once the new name is selected, the department will produce maps that feature the designated trail title and have a plaque or sign established at the trailhead. At a time to be determined, the department also hopes to have a grand opening for the trail and a community hike, as well, Fowler said.