CANNON BEACH The roar of ocean waves. Seagulls calling from the shore. The whisper of a breeze from the trees. Gunshots echoing from the hills east of town ...
During the past two weekends all of those sounds including gunshots could be heard from downtown Cannon Beach.
"People come to this community to escape the tension in the city. Their Saturday morning shouldn't be broken up by rifle fire," said Mike Stanley, owner of Mike's Bikes in Cannon Beach.
Three times in the past six weeks, Stanley said he has heard gunshots coming from land owned by the Campbell Group. Some of it sounded like automatic rifle fire that went continuously for at least two minutes.
"A lot of ammunition was being used," Stanley said.
The noise echoes off of buildings and is amplified, he added.
"There are people who live in town who have come back from Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, and it's pretty unsettling to them," Stanley said.
But Mark Morgans, Clatsop County area manager for the Campbell Group, said most of the 140,000 acres the timberland investment company owns in the county are open to the public and that's where people go to target shoot, which is legal.
The property's previous owners, Willamette Industries and Weyerhaeuser Co., also had a "fairly open land policy," Morgans said.
Anyone can use the Lewis & Clark Oregon Timber forestlands during daylight hours for nonmotorized recreation, Morgans said. During hunting season, between Oct. 1 and Nov. 25, vehicles, except all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles, are allowed from one hour before daylight until one hour after sunset.
Camping, campfires, off-road driving, dirt-bike riding and recreational vehicles are prohibited at all times.
Some residents thought the gunshots might have come from the Sea Ranch RV Park on the north end of town, but owner Terry Swigart said no one had been shooting there.
Morgans said he has had calls from people who have heard the gunshots recently. Target shooting is allowed on Campbell property, he said, and those who do it usually find a gravel pit where it's safe to shoot.
"If they're not breaking the law, if they're using a legal weapon, and they're doing target shooting," Campbell Group will allow it, Morgans said.
However, if some target shooters or - during the season - hunters stray a little too close to residential areas, Campbell workers will erect "no shooting" signs, he said. Such signs already are up east of Haystack Heights in Cannon Beach, he said, and more may go up near other areas of town if residents worry that shooters may be too close.
Target shooting isn't a new activity for the area, Morgans said.
"For probably two or three decades, it has been fairly commonplace," he added.
Most target shooters are hunters who want to practice or bring their families to have some fun. Others are "recreational plunkers" who target shoot as a hobby, Morgans said.
Campbell workers, who are in the woods nearly every day, monitor the shooters pretty carefully, Morgans said. However, they aren't out as often on weekends, he admitted.
"We'll usually stop and talk to them, or if we see them doing something questionable, we'll give them a polite safety talk," he said.
Rarely, if someone presents a "perpetual challenge," the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office is called, Morgans said.
"Most of the people I've encountered are very law-abiding," he said.
Although hunting and target shooting are allowed on Campbell land, they may be prohibited on a 1,040-acre, city-owned parcel in the Ecola Creek watershed east of Cannon Beach.
For the past several months, an advisory committee assigned to develop a management plan for the land has been discussing whether recreational activities would be allowed on the property. While the committee hasn't taken a formal vote, it reached a tentative consensus a few weeks ago that a five-year moratorium would be placed on hunting.
A conservation easement the city has with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, which gave the city a $1.4 million grant toward purchasing the property, also prohibits the discharge of firearms on the land.