Published: July 4, 2012

Gold Beach needs landscaping requirements for new construction and for major remodels of existing buildings, particularly on Ellensburg Avenue. Currently we have good examples of beautifully landscaped properties  such as Century 21 Agate Realty, Spinners, and Ireland’s Rustic Lodges, but these examples are too few.

We have no industrial base to bring in outside dollars, so our goal must be to make a passersby want to stop, walk around, linger, shop, and eat. The importance of this exceeds any promotional campaigns. For too long it has been too easy for those driving on Highway 101 to dismiss Gold Beach as just another struggling sport fishing and ex-timber town devoid of an inspiring central core and main thruway.

People stop and linger in places that are ‘pedestrian friendly’. Part of that involves landscaping. Another part involves what is called ‘the streetscape’. In other words, do we have building frontages, sidewalks, benches, community directories, maps, small parks, sculptures, and landscaping  that catch people’s interest so they “have to” stop? The answer is probably not; which means we are not yet doing enough to make people want to stop.

A case in point as to what could be better is the appearance of City Hall. The front side walk is easily wide enough for street trees, but there are none. There was a struggling flowering plum standing awkwardly alone in one planting area, but that is now gone. Another planting area has featured only bark chips for too long. And it wouldn’t hurt to seal coat or repave the parking area. What we currently show visitors is that we in Gold Beach don’t care enough about aesthetics. We are not trying hard enough to make a good impression. Maybe there are plans for upgrades at City Hall, but they just don’t seem to have been completed.

The easiest way to upgrade landscaping appearances in Gold Beach would be for businesses, property owners, and city officials to take responsibility for the appearance of their own premises, cut out some asphalt, and install landscaping. But for commercially zoned properties there is a little more to it.

Commercial property owners can’t just throw a few trees in the ground and call it good. They must either have a licensed landscape contractor do the planting or they must be advised by one and be able to maintain phone contact during the planting process. And there needs to be assurance that landscaped areas will be watered during the dry months.

It is true that with the high winds not everything will grow along unsheltered Ellensburg Avenue, but landscapers and nursery owners know what will flourish. The Oregon Downtown Development Association publishes a Downtown Street Tree Handbook, but again local landscapers and nursery owners will know what trees and shrubs will work best here.

But the reality is that we’ll need ordinance changes to beautify Gold Beach. A voluntary program won’t do enough.

For new commercial construction at least 10 percent of the total developed lot area should be dedicated to landscaping with street trees along every 30 feet of road frontage. And for remodels of existing structures a certain threshold of cost or change should trigger what is called a ‘site review’, which then forces an upgrade of landscaping to current requirements. But to avoid an enforced upgrade commercial property owners or businesses could comply on their own prior to applying for permits to remodel or to make an addition.

Attracting as many tourists and passersby as possible means we have to “out-compete” cities to the north and south. That takes work in the form  of formulating an ordinance structure that results in the raising of our standards of appearance. But the Planning Commission and City Council have to meet often enough to make progress on this and other important issues, and that has not been happening.

Brent Thompson

Post script– Beginning around 2018 or 2019 a citizens group formed to beautify the highway frontage along highway 101. As of early 2022 more than 45 trees and many shrubs were planted along the highway. The change in how the city feels to passersby is already noticed.