Surrounded by the waters of the North Bay and the Pacific Ocean, visitors don’t pass through Ocean Shores because it is a stop along the way. The charming beachside town is a destination in its own right, and recent tourism and residential development statistics suggest that the last few years have accelerated its place “on the map.”
In the past five years, the city has seen unprecedented growth, and the popular retirement destination has recently become a beachside refuge for those seeking a more permanent reprieve from city life. But what does this growth mean for the city — and how will funds be distributed to benefit residents? These are the questions Ocean Shores Mayor Jon Martin and City Administrator Scott Andersen sought to answer in a webinar on Wednesday, Feb 23.
“One of my biggest goals is to make Ocean Shores a place that people want to live in, visit, and work, but everyone probably has a different vision for what that means,” said Martin.
The webinar, dubbed “State of the City”, was hosted by the Ocean Shores branch of Greater Grays Harbor. Martin and Andersen provided updates on changes within the city, as well as a variety of future projects.
Phase Two of the firebreak project will begin on Monday, Feb. 28, according to Andersen, starting with the area near the Ploynesian Resort. The firebreak will separate the Ocean Shores hotels on Ocean Shores Boulevard and the Pacific Ocean dunes, which are home to dense and potentially flammable vegetation. It will extend 50 feet and provide the Ocean Shores Fire Department with access for defense attacks. Clearing of the wetlands will occur later in the year when drier conditions permit such work.
Headway is also being made with the high dunes trail, which was originally proposed as part of the firebreak. The city is in the right-of-way phase of the project, and a map of the trail is expected in March. Both the firebreak and the trail have intended completion dates of September 2022.
Another project expected to break ground this summer is the addition of a pedestrian crosswalk over Point Brown Avenue. The crosswalk will be located near Playtime Family Fun, and will meet the city’s goal of providing a safe crossing space for pedestrians between Chance a La Mer and Shoal Street. The city is waiting for the Transportation Improvement Board to turn over $200,000 in funding, and will need to be granted an easement by adjacent property owners to begin construction.
“The City of Ocean Shores attracts tourists throughout the year adding vehicular and pedestrian traffic to Point Brown (Avenue). The lack of pedestrian facilities along Point Brown (Avenue) makes it difficult for people to park in one location and safely access stores/shops on both sides of the street,” states last year’s pedestrian crossing alternatives analysis by a consulting group.
Martin hopes that other crosswalk projects may occur in the future to help improve pedestrian safety in downtown Ocean Shores.
Projects still in the early stages include improvements to the Ocean Shores Police Station, which is undersized and insufficient, according to Martin. Estimates for the new building place the project at about $8 million, and the city is in the process of working on a preliminary draft of the building plans. The city is also moving forward with its plans to build a tsunami tower next to Ocean Shores Elementary. The tower will be located above 50 feet and would be able to house 800 people in the event of seismic activity.
A construction bond measure proposed by the North Beach School District failed to pass in this month’s special election. Among other projects, the bond would’ve funded the construction of multi use spaces/tsunami refuges at Ocean Shores Elementary and North Beach Middle/Senior High School.
The Public Works Department is also in the process of working on an erosion study to address the changing landscape of Ocean Shores, according to Andersen.
“The dunes have changed, Oyhut Bay and the Ocean Shores Marina in particular are very different,” he said.
Water was at the forefront of Wednesday’s conversation more than once, as concerns over last month’s extensive flooding continue. Martin shared the city’s efforts to map and develop an effective stormwater system.
“It’s really easy in government not to do anything, but that’s not the right way to do it,” said Martin about the city’s various projects. “I think a lot of the times when things don’t happen in Ocean Shores, it’s because people have questions that the city doesn’t answer.”
The city’s general fund is nearly $4 million, and thanks to the work of Grant Coordinator and Development Officer Sarah Bisson, the city was able to obtain $889,000 worth of grants last year, according to Martin. Members of the Ocean Shores City Council will have to decide how to allocate the more than $1.4 million the city received last year from the American Rescue Plan.
“We have a beautiful city, and I really believe this is the best place in Washington to go to the beach,” said Martin.