Astoria is laced with trails. Some of them are official, but most are just narrow shortcuts best known to surrounding neighborhoods and enterprising deer.
A Historic Oregon Film Trail in the works will take people on a very different kind of journey, celebrating iconic set locations for classic films across the state, while also discouraging unwanted fan attention at one infamous house in Astoria.
Astoria is a pilot project for the trail and signs have already been installed at two locations. They commemorate movies like “The Goonies,” “Kindergarten Cop” and “Short Circuit.”
One sign on the Astoria Riverwalk will pull double duty: informing passers-by about “Kindergarten Cop” and “The Goonies,” while also providing an alternative view of the “Goonies house” in Uppertown. Neighbors of the private home have complained for years about illegal parking, trespassing and litter from fans eager for a closer look.
Organizers hope the new sign keeps people at a distance while still providing a memorable moment.
“There’s more to this story of filmmaking in Astoria and Clatsop County and Oregon than ‘The Goonies,’” said McAndrew Burns, executive director of the Clatsop County Historical Society, which includes the Astoria-based Oregon Film Museum.
Will the sign put a stop to issues at the Goonies house?
“No,” Burns said. “Will it help? Yeah, I think it will.”
Location, location, location
The sign is located across Lief Erikson Drive at 36th Street, on the other side of the Astoria Riverfront Trolley tracks near the East Mooring Basin parking lot. There is a view of Astor Elementary School, which starred in “Kindergarten Cop,” as well as views of a number of homes in the hills that have appeared on the silver screen, including the Goonies house. An accompanying soundtrack of sea lions barking, roaring and harrumphing from the docks is just a bonus.
The sign speaks mostly about “Kindergarten Cop,” but, Regina Willkie, marketing manager for the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, said “we wanted to acknowledge that this is a good place for people who are wanting to take a picture of the Goonies house.”
The chamber asks fans to avoid going up into the neighborhood to find the house. But the request has left fans confused about where they can go and still see a glimpse of the property.
“There isn’t really an ‘x marks the spot,’ or a ‘you are here,’” Willkie said. The film trail sign will be an important marker for fans who want to ensure they’re getting a good view of the house.
If it turns out people are simply using the sign as a way to pinpoint the Goonies house neighborhood so they can go in for a closer look, that portion of the sign will be removed, Willkie said.
While the majority of Goonies fans are respectful and just happy to be near sites included in one of their favorite movies, Burns has noticed a shift over the years.
“There is a growing 5 percent that feel entitled,” he said. They want to know, “Why can’t we see everything?”
Burns and others explain that the Goonies house can draw thousands of people a year. There are no official signs or museum guides to tell people what is and isn’t allowed. No garbage cans or public bathrooms. No parking. It has the potential to be — and has been — a mess.
“The real Goonies fans, they respect that,” Burns said. They know how welcoming the community has been and, he added, “They want to engage in a meaningful way.”
Still, the city, in response to neighborhood complaints, has had to take official measures.
The City Council recently passed an ordinance to impose strict parking fines in an effort to curb issues associated with Goonies fandom.
Most of the city’s efforts have only angered some Goonies fans, who argue that people who bought the Goonies house and even houses nearby “should have known what they were getting into.”
“‘Goonies fans, it turns out, never say die, or no, to a photo opportunity,” noted a press release about the film trail.
Another sign specifically for “The Goonies” will be located by the Oregon Film Museum near the historic Flavel House Museum and will speak to that structure’s roles in the film.
A sign at Alameda Park, located on Alameda Avenue above Marine Drive in the shadow of the Astoria Bridge, pays homage to “Short Circuit.” The bridge was a major feature in a robot character’s escape.
Across the state, the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film and Television is working in partnership with local groups, the Oregon Made Creative Foundation and Travel Oregon to create the film trail. If all goes well in Astoria, signs could be placed at strategic points across Oregon, from the desert to the coast, highlighting the varied locations that have provided backdrops and sets for a number of films.
“Historical markers are typically about famous people and events,” Tim Williams, executive director of the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film and Television, said in a statement. “Movies filmed here are also an important part of Oregon’s history and culture, so ours offer a twist on that convention.”
He hopes the signs will provide interesting information and act as “a beacon to visitors seeking out film locations and stories.”
The Historic Oregon Film Trail debuts Jan. 10.
Willkie said there will be some kind of dedication ceremony in Astoria for the signs and to celebrate the launch of a website that will provide more context and information about the trail, where to find other signs or how other communities can nominate sites.
In the future, she hopes to include more film sites in Clatsop County, spots like the Hammond Marina, featured in “Free Willy.”
“There are a lot of opportunities in this area,” she said.