LINCOLN CITY — Visions of a green future and upscale tourism drove city councilors deep into the night this week during a meeting that ran nearly five hours.
Councilors on Monday heard a report on the work of the Lincoln City Sustainability Committee, which has been considering ways to wipe out litter and lower the town’s carbon footprint to zero. Meanwhile, officials learned of new plans by the city’s $2 million tourism bureau, Explore Lincoln City, to occupy Portland’s Pioneer Square with a gimmick to promote the beach town.
A presentation by Dave Price of the five-member sustainability group sparked a lengthy debate after the committee chairman called on the city to make a name for itself by banning polystyrene products, typified by the familiar Styrofoam clamshell hamburger container.
“What differentiates our beach from Bandon or Seaside,” argued Price, saying all beaches are the same, but that Lincoln City’s could be greener.
“What differentiates our beach from Bandon or Seaside (isn’t) the beaches,” argued Price, saying all sand looks the same, but that Lincoln City’s could be greener. “Every city needs an identity. We need to find other ways than glass floats to anchor ourselves in the hearts of visitors so they come back over and over.”
Banning Styrofoam “would not be heavy lift,” though it sent the council into a wide-ranging debate over plastics.
“I like the idea of this being Oregon’s greenest beach and turning that into marketing,” remarked Mayor Dick Anderson, who argued for voluntary compliance rather than a new regulation. “For me, it’s better to show (businesses) the benefit rather than telling them they can’t do something. There’s something dark and nasty about a ban.”
Other town elders supported a ban but ultimately councilors Riley Hoagland and Diana Hinton agreed to a workshop in March where a plan of action would be developed.
Tourism continued to be interwoven in council deliberations at the Feb. 10 meeting, where Ed Dreisdadt, executive director of Explore Lincoln City, described plans to transform tourist demographics by focusing on the Portland market.
“We’re not a vacation destination, but a weekend getaway,” asserted Dreisdadt, claiming that 80 percent of visitors spend just one or two nights. “We still have a lot of room on weekdays in the peak seasons. We’re figuring out ways to become a weeklong vacation.”
To that end, the bureau plans a “takeover” of Portland’s Pioneer Square on June 12. The busy downtown block will be covered with Lincoln City beach themes including a “monster mural” for kids, kite flying displays and a giant sandbox with a professional castle maker.
Dreisdadt shared how difficult it is to attract millennials, saying his ad budget “vaporizes” in the Portland media markets. For that reason, he said he will propose hiring a public relations agent at $50,000 per year to place stories with broadcasters and publishers. He claimed a similar effort earned $1.2 million in free publicity for Tillamook County last year.
Dreisdadt said he is also preparing a doomsday plan so the agency is “prepared for the next recession.” He did not go into detail but described what the protocol would avoid.
“Should the wheels come off, while everybody else is running around in circles, we’ll be going about in a rational and calm manner,” he concluded. “People can’t go to Cancun, but they owe to their kids and still want to travel. We’re a bargain.”
Dreisdadt said details of his pending tourism strategy would be revealed at an upcoming budget meeting.