Wonderment. What a great word to describe living on this narrow strip of land, surrounded on three sides by the deep blue waters of Willapa Bay, the Pacific Ocean and the mighty Columbia River. Wonderment is a magical word in its most positive definition, but it is a word able to carry a question, too.
My name is Bonnie Lou Cozby. For 28 years our military family of four moved from coast to coast multiple times, to Hawaii twice and Alaska. In 1994, the Coast Guard brought us to Astoria and that’s when we found Ocean Park. Charlie (my husband) and I stuck... this was home.
I am part of the tail end of a generation where it was not uncommon for a business to call husbands to make sure wives had permission to open an account or write a check. A time when a woman, a good employee, could be fired when a pregnancy started “showing.” Our parents were members of “The Greatest Generation” and yes, we are Boomers.
We both grew up in Hawthorne, California and it was a great childhood even though duck and cover bomb drills were common and the assassination of a beloved president brought the country to its knees in grief. As we grew, we witnessed the Watts riots and watched the first man step on the moon. The Vietnam War took many of our generation and left many others lost. Alaska and Hawaii were added to our union when we were in grade school. Hippies, “finding yourself,” the first strong steps towards civil rights, the tragic death of Martin Luther King Jr., airplane hijackings, tearing down the Berlin Wall and the massacres at the Olympic Village were all part of our younger days into early adulthood. As a new columnist for the Chinook Observer, it seemed a little background might be in order. So, there it is.
Ocean Park is one of five unincorporated villages of the north end of the peninsula. There is no city government, only county. That can be difficult especially when it feels our needs are not being represented well, or when a neighboring municipality decides to speak for us. Those challenges are part of what my writing will cover as well as how self reliance has been an essential factor for the villages and how we can always find ways for improvement. But most importantly, reminders of the wonderment; one can never forget the wonderment.
Today is July 6th. The 4th of July holiday weekend is over and we are still standing. There were fires and mishaps, visitors by the thousands and tons of trash generated by the holiday. There always is, but this year something new was added to the mix — a pandemic. No need to go into detail about what we have all gone through these past months, but it does bring to mind a quizzical wonderment… how is it this “normal” influx of people was allowed in this abnormal time?
Many I have spoken to agree that it would have been prudent for the County Health Department to close down fireworks this one year. An emergency declaration could have been made as early as May, leaving plenty of time to broadcast the decision everywhere. Closing the beach approaches just two days, Friday and Saturday may have also been helpful. Somehow, the residents and businesses in the unincorporated areas were not involved in this decision process. It is unfortunate because we have a lot to say and some really good ideas.
So there we were, July 4th like every other year, except it wasn’t. Grass Roots Garbage Gang (GRGG) had to cancel the usual July 5th cleanup because of covid-19 risk and thank goodness for their decision to protect volunteers. County stated they had no responsibility for the beach mess because their jurisdiction ended at the beach approach. But despite this statement, Commissioner Lisa Olsen still managed to get a second dumpster for the Bay Avenue beach approach and 900 trash bags funded by county. That was a first.
Washington State Parks carried the biggest burden of management and did their usual great job — dumpsters at all five unincorporated approaches, dump fees, clamping down on illegal beach camping, outreach communications and more. As a city, Long Beach takes care of itself with city resources and crews managing the impact to city limits and the beach area between the Bolstad and Sid Snyder approaches.
Despite the health risk, amazing people stepped up to hand out trash bags at the five beach approaches and others headed to the beach on the 5th for self-directed cleanups or as part of the Adopt a Beach Program sponsored by GRGG. On the north end, many of the thousands on the beach followed directions to pack it out and take it home but there are always those who don’t. Man, there’s a wonderment for you.
So now we wait for the results of this influx of visitors. I am worried. Most of our business owners have survived so far but can they face another disruption of operations? They have navigated through massive red tape and met burdensome and changing reopening requirements, all the while keeping customers and staff safe. Our local population has done a great job of physical distancing, wearing masks, being careful and protecting themselves. Treating this July 4th as if it were like every other year has put that work in jeopardy. I hope County got it right.
Let’s end with something good. This pandemic 4th of July may have jostled open a previously closed door to better managing something that is spinning out of control. In a normal year, allowing limited fireworks could almost be a good thing. The way it is now is not a good thing and it will only get worse. Is there a sweet spot? Is there something residents can live with and businesses can work with? Or is there a better option? Something has to be done. We can figure this out together if we’re all included in the conversation.