CITIZENS' VISION OF GOLD BEACH FUTURE LOOKS LIKE BROOKINGS

August 18, 2001 12:00 am

GOLD BEACH Citizens here discussed their vision of the future Wednesday night, and that future sounded a lot like Brookings present.

The 22 people at Gold Beachs Curry County Strategic Economic Development Plan meeting, including many business and government leaders, expressed admiration for Brookings economic prosperity.

Part of their vision called for a growing tourism industry in Gold Beach, but one that would be a smaller part of the overall economy.

Several people said tourist industries have traditionally supplied mostly low-wage seasonal jobs.

They thought the area should try to attract the kind of small high-tech industries that are moving into Brookings.

Some also thought building homes for retirees would provide many lucrative construction jobs.

This could be a tremendous area for retirees, said meeting facilitator Dick Bendtzen.

County Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said Curry County already has the largest percentage of retirees, per capita, in the state.

Roy Bysegger, Gold Beachs new city administrator, said, But every strategy has a negative. He said retirees build big homes, which raises housing prices and makes them unaffordable for others.

Anna-Maria Franciska said a comprehensive plan could address that by, for example, limiting the number of million-dollar homes built.

Bysegger said the problem with that is freedom. Others couldnt imagine turning down someone who wanted to build a million-dollar home.

Bendtzen said every strategy will have its pluses, minuses and compromises. There is much work to be done in the coming months, he said, We will struggle with issues.

By we, Bendtzen meant members of the plans core group. He said anyone is welcome to join that group at its first strategy meeting at 9 a.m. Aug. 25 in the Curry County Human Services Building in Wedderburn. Call Bendtzen at (541) 247-3456 for more information.

The core group has been meeting since April. It took input from the first three public meetings and split up into three interest groups.

The groups split the overall vision of Curry Countys future into:

Environment, facilities and services, infrastructure and government.

Human and community relationships, education and workforce development.

Economy and business.

Core group members in each community worked on goals and indicators for each of the three categories.

Bendtzen said what has been done so far is preliminary. Nothing is set in concrete.

He said the idea is to gather community input for a countywide strategic plan to be accomplished in 10-15 years. He said the future will happen anyway. It is better to plan for it now.

A ship without a rudder drifts with the tide and wind and winds up who knows where, he said.

Bendtzen said the group asked the question, What would you like to see become fact in the future? to establish the vision and goals.

The question, What do you do to accomplish the goals and indicators and measure them? will be used to set strategies and tactics.

In the environment, facilities and services, infrastructure and government category, the first goal for Curry County was that it would be a conscientious steward of its natural environment.

The first indicator that the goal was being met was that the beaches and public lands would be protected. Janet Pretti suggested the words for public use be added to that.

The second indicator would be that water, air and skies would still be pure and protected.

Bendtzen said the north county also wanted those skies dark at night, utilizing new technology to focus light from streetlights down instead of up.

One citizen suggested applying that rule on a zone basis, splitting the county into north, central and south.

The third indicator said nature-based recreational activities would be protected and encouraged. David Hoenie thought that needed to be better defined.

Bob Van Leer wanted a fourth indicator added, that natural resources would be used in an environmentally sound manner.

Schafer wanted it to say that Curry County would be a partner in making sure the natural resources are used by the people.

We want to be able to go in and enjoy them, she said.

One citizen said the indicators didnt sound measurable. Bendtzen said the indicators would be fleshed out with measurable strategies and tactics.

Goal No. 2 in the category was that Curry County would become a center for health and well-being for the Pacific Northwest.

Van Leer suggested Curry County not try to compare and compete with the entire Northwest, but have health and well-being available for all its citizens.

Ron Ellingson, a member of the group that wrote the goal, said the idea was for Curry County to not only serve the health and well-being of its own citizens, but to attract people from elsewhere, for profit.

One citizen wondered if the goal was talking about making the county a retirement center like Sun City. Ellingson said no, the idea was to promote better health care overall.

Franciska wanted the county to cater to more diverse health needs and try to attract a pediatrician.

The third goal was that Curry County would possess the necessary infrastructure and appropriate governance for realizing health and well-being and maintaining its natural environment stewardship.

The first indicator of that goal would be that citizens would enjoy adequate and affordable transportation, communications and utilities. Franciska wanted housing added to that mix.

It will be a chore to come up with strategies to achieve these, said Bendtzen.

The second indicator of the goal was that Curry County would benefit from skilled volunteers, acknowledging that it wont ever be able to afford enough paid employees to do what is needed.

The next category, human and community relationships, education and workforce development, also had three goals.

The first was that Curry County would be a place where people could achieve their fullest potential.

Some were skeptical that could ever happen, but Bendtzen said it was a goal to work toward.

Bysegger said, I was specifically attracted to Gold Beach because it was a priority to get the community moving ahead. It will take a lot of work and cooperation from people.

The second goal in the category was that Curry County would be diverse and accepting.

Whats that mean? said Schafer.

It could mean not being closed-minded about new people and thoughts coming into the community, said Bendtzen.

He wanted to add language to encourage people with different backgrounds to come to Gold Beach.

Schafer said part of that is also accepting that the three areas of Curry County are different.

Pretti, who was in the group that set the goal, said they were talking about a diversity of ideas.

She said the goal came out of the conflict in the room. We need to end some conflict and model problem-solving.

It means you dont shred people in editorials week after week, said Hoenie. It means you dont get personal.

Goal No. 3 was that Curry County would be a nurturing and safe place.

Pretti said that meant people trying to support their neighbors in creating a safe place, not just relying on the police. Its us watching out for each other.

One indicator of that would be communities and individuals that are supportive of each other. Bendtzen said that could be better defined.

The economy and business category had only one goal: that Curry County would have a diverse, stable economy countywide, with no economically distressed areas, while at the same time maintaining our quality of life.

Its a big, broad goal and vision, said Bendtzen. He said Port Orford is listed as an economically distressed community now, and Gold Beach either is or was.

A businessman said his profit has fallen 40 percent in the past decade. He said Gold Beach needs a business association, but there is no cohesiveness among businesses in the town.

Bendtzen said the goal is where the town wants to be in 10 or 15 years.

Id like to see us do something today so I dont die in the poorhouse, said the businessman.

Some felt it would take someone from the outside with a lot of money to change Gold Beach into the next Carmel, Calif.. Bendtzen thought change would come from within the town.

Hoenie said, We have straw vision here. Were not even up to tunnel vision yet. The attitude is if anyone touches your customer theyre dead.

He said instead of protecting their own pieces of the small pie, businesses should work together to make the pie bigger.

An RV park owner said Gold Beach has a fear-based economy. He said motels, RV parks, restaurants and retailers all fear each other.

We need to get over that, he said. We need to trust and work with each other. We cant be fighting within ourselves.

Bendtzen agreed and said those are the kind of strategies the core group would have to develop.

Schafer said Curry County will soon have an economic development corporation, with a full time director who will go out and attract businesses.

She said that person, and the board of directors, would be independent of county government.

The public/private corporation now has $100,000 in state lottery money, has written its bylaws and is waiting for its official status from the state.

Schafer said cities, ports and private businesses can be members of the corporation.

Some felt grants were needed to get Gold Beachs economy moving now, but most agreed they want to get away from grants eventually and rely on entrepreneuralship.

Businesses feel we dont want them here, said Hoenie. We need to define who we want and where we want to put them and stick to it. We may say no to a blacktop plant in the river.

Bendtzen said they should still give everyone a chance to present their ideas.

Brookings will hold its own public meeting on the county plan at 7 p.m. Monday in the city hall.