NeCus’ Park sign helps restore tribal presence

Public works employees Kirk Anderson (left) and Paul Phillips (right foreground) place the NeCus' Park sign atop its base near Fir Street. Dick Basch (center background), vice chairman of the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes, enjoys the moment, along with Diane Collier, the tribe chairwoman; Jan Siebert-Wahrmund, a Cannon Beach resident; and Robin Risley, a member of the Parks and Community Services Committee.

CANNON BEACH — The newly minted NeCus’ Park sign that the public works department set up at the edge of Fir Street the morning of Dec. 31 means much to the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes.

Resembling a traditional Clatsop-Nehalem canoe floating on water, its prow pointed resolutely toward the ocean, the sign symbolizes and celebrates the indigenous village named NeCus’ that once prospered in the area prior to colonization, according to tribal members.

NeCus’, which the tribe believes was founded near the mouth of Ecola Creek at the Cannon Beach Elementary School site, roughly translates to “where the tide flows swiftly out.”

The park covers the city-owned north portion of the school site. When the Seaside School District closed the school in June 2013, the parcel became the property of Clatsop County, which then gave it to the city of Cannon Beach. The city hopes to purchase the south portion of the site from the school district and, one day, transform the full property into a Clatsop-Nehalem interpretive center.

Until then, however, the city is making do with a public park, which now has its own sign that Dick Basch, vice chairman of the tribe, lovingly called a “showpiece.”

“It’s just wonderful. It’s really exciting,” said Diane Collier, chairwoman of the tribe, as the public works crew secured the sign to its base before a crowd of about a dozen locals.

Designed by Susan C. Walsh, a Nehalem-based artist who owns Manzanita Sign Co., the sign is meant to bring the Clatsop-Nehalem “brand” back to the area, she said.

Walsh carved the letters herself in her studio with a chisel and mallet. Both the 10-foot-long sign and its base were milled from a cedar log from Tillamook.

Though the physical labor involved in shaping the wood took Walsh about a month to complete, the signage project began at the end of June, involving the parks and community services committee and the design review board. Walsh collaborated with Tracy Sund, a street specialist with public works, and Basch, who sent her photos for inspiration.

The whole project cost $4,800, according to Jean Rice, the city’s finance office manager.

“It was a labor of love, just like all these kinds of projects,” said Sund, who supervised the installation.

Once the sign had been mounted, Roberta Basch, Dick Basch’s wife and culture adviser to the tribe, uttered a ceremonial prayer, blessing the city’s relationship with the tribe, the ancestors who lived at the site long ago and, of course, the site itself — what it was, what it is and what it may become.

“This is a new time for all of us,” she said. The formal christening of the site, she added, represents a first step toward restoring the Clatsop-Nehalem presence in Cannon Beach. “This is only the beginning.”

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