How much is too much of a good thing?
That’s the question being asked about tourism in Cannon Beach and other areas along the North Coast, and area leaders are looking for answers on how to better manage it. They have set a goal of making tourism sustainable without sacrificing the area’s natural resources or residents’ quality of life.
As we reported last week, the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Haystack Rock Awareness Program were awarded a $20,000 grant from Travel Oregon, the state’s tourism agency, to start that effort. The money will be used by Clatsop and Tillamook counties to develop an ecotourism strategy to incorporate in their master plans, and to conduct workshops that will offer guidance on making tourism sustainable — economically and environmentally.
Given the region’s tourism numbers and the impact visitors have, that’s crucial.
A study by Dean Runyan and Associates shows tourists spent $779 million in 2016, nearly double from the year 2000, and more than 100,000 people visited Haystack Rock just this year. Those living here or visiting any of the region’s coastal communities know the impact well, routinely wrestling with daily parking problems and traffic congestion.
Farther north, at Fort Stevens State Park, the volume of visitors during the summer keeps the park constantly at capacity, putting a strain on parking, maintenance and infrastructure, according to Oregon State Parks North Coast District Manager Teri Wing. Overuse of trails at some of the parks also leads to additional hard-to-combat problems like erosion.
Achieving sustainable tourism won’t be an easy task and will take time. The North Coast has developed into a destination spot, and tourism continues to grow. That’s a bell that won’t be unrung so the impacts must be addressed before they become overwhelming.
But the region’s leaders should be lauded for recognizing the problem and taking initial steps to tackle it. As Court Carrier, executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce, says, “This is our community. It’s too important to ignore.”