On April 13, the Gearhart Planning Commission ignored pleas from several Gearhart citizens to postpone passing an ordinance allowing the clearing of vegetation on two 60-foot swaths of the Gearhart dunes, beginning at the Necanicum estuary and extending northward. We are two of the citizens who encouraged the commission to postpone passing the revised ordinance until after a Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST) led citizen committee could study and recommend action.
We are also two of the many Gearhart residents who enjoy walking the dunes and observing the wildlife that resides there. We have observed 45 species of birds on our walks, as well as elk, deer, coyote, bats, bees and butterflies. Quiet walks in this area including enjoyment of the wildlife is greatly enhancing our quality of life and the “Gearhart” experience. It is an experience that is readily accessible to all, visitors and residents alike.
The amount of allowed clearing being proposed — a minimum of 60-feet plus at both the Neocoxie right of way and the fire road — will alter the habitat to the detriment of the wildlife utilizing the vegetation for foraging and breeding and therefore greatly reduce viewing opportunities. This is not a small amount of clearing. These animals will need to move elsewhere to meet their needs. The Birdy Beach Path, named by local school children, will no longer live up to its name.
The city of Gearhart has hired CREST to form a volunteer citizen’s committee to develop a dune management plan including dealing with vegetation issues. At the time of the Planning Commission meeting, this committee had not met for the first time. It does not make sense to finalize a revised ordinance before the citizen committee is allowed to study the issue.
Rushing the process has the potential for damaging results. The Gearhart City Council will be considering the revised ordinance on May 3. We certainly hope citizens who have concerns for this issue, show up to let the council know their feelings and thoughts and we hope the council makes the wise choice of waiting for an alternate plan that melds citizen safety and quality of life issues.
Margaret and John Green