PACIFIC COUNTY — Beach approaches will be open for Independence Day after county and city elected officials determined an influx of visitors to the coast for the holiday weekend was inevitable.
In mid-June, the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Council decided closing beach approaches would not reduce the number of people from traveling for the holiday. The council also did not reduce days fireworks could be set off nor stop fireworks sales in the county.
The voting members of the council are the three Pacific County Commissioners; the mayors of Raymond, South Bend, Ilwaco and Long Beach; and Pacific County Sheriff Robin Souvenir.
It was a collective decision to leave the beach approaches open for the holiday, said Katie Lindstrom, director of the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department. But the council went back and forth on the issue, with input from the Pacific County Emergency Operations Center. From the health perspective, Lindstrom would have liked to put the barricades back up to try and deter people coming to the area at all, she said.
However public safety officials, including the local fire departments and law enforcement agencies, said it would be difficult to enforce the closures, she said. The fear was it would cause choke points and people would congregate near the approaches, rather than spreading out on the beach, Lindstrom said.
Complicating matters over the three-day holiday weekend are high tides that will squeeze beach-goers toward land and back into local towns around midnight both July 4 and July 5. On July 4, a high tide of 9.14 feet is predicted for 12:07 a.m. and July 5’s high tide is 9.13 feet at 12:54 a.m.
In past years, similar high midsummer tides have created mass confusion as celebrants crowd beach approaches in the middle of the night to escape the incoming seawater.
Hoping the message comes through
By canceling local firework shows and holiday activities, Lindstrom hoped the message was clear that Pacific County is not ready to host Independence Day this year.
“We want to try and limit the number of people who are coming to the community all at once,” Lindstrom said.
Long Beach Mayor Jerry Phillips said he can’t stop people from coming here and doesn’t think Gov. Jay Inslee took a hard enough line discouraging people from visiting the coast. His message is people shouldn’t throw caution to the wind, but agreed that allowing people to drive on the beach will prevent them from congregating in one place.
“We’ll see how it goes; we are pretty concerned about the number of people coming into the area,” Lindstrom said.
City of Long Beach
Long Beach will put a dumpster at both the Sid Snyder Drive and Bolstad Avenue beach approaches, said David Glasson, city administrator. City crew will be handing out bags at the approaches as well for people to collect their own trash. Flaggers will be at the Bolstad Avenue approach to keep people moving. Evergreen Septic will provide 30 portable bathrooms that will be scattered along the Discovery Trail and at the Bolstad Avenue Approach.
Dune access will be barricaded for the fire trucks and the Long Beach Volunteer Fire Department will be out to respond to dune grass fires. Long Beach Police Department will be working extra long shifts over the weekend. City crew workers will spend all weekend cleaning restrooms and removing trash.
“It is a big event for the city crew,” Glasson said.
After the holiday, the city will clean up on July 5 and 6.
Fireworks stands are also handing out trash bags and a flyer called “Dos and Don’ts for a Safe and Health Fourth.” One of the tips listed was to clear the beach by 11 p.m. to avoid incoming high tides.
Pacific County beach approaches
Washington State Parks will provide dumpsters for the county’s beach approaches, said Bonnie Cozby, president of the Ocean Park Area Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Ocean Park Village Club. The dumpsters will be delivered to the approaches on July 3 and picked up on July 6, but will not be emptied in between then.
Cozby pushed for the dumpsters and help from the county after she learned the GrassRoots Garbage Gang would not organize its usual beach clean up on July 5. Cozby wants to arrange to get trash bags to hand out at the approaches as well. She hoped State Parks would consider emptying the dumpsters at least once before July 6 to avoid any overflowing trash.
GrassRoots Garbage Gang did not organize its normal beach cleanup, but it is still trying to get some adopt-a-beach groups to clean sections. People interested in donating their time can learn about what parts of the beach don’t have dedicated volunteers by emailing Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 360-642-0033.