From: Oregon Coast Magazine – September/October 2013
By Rob Spooner
Newport’s South Beach area is thriving, with a new community college campus, a “green” residential development, and an expanded park with lots of trails.
Oregon Coast Community College offered its first classes in Lincoln County in 1987 and for many years made do with makeshift premises in various locations. In 2004, when voters approved a bond measure for new construction, the college started looking for suitable sites. The next year, the city of Newport approached Bonnie Serkin and Will Emery, who had extensive forest holdings nearby. This started a public/private interaction that continues to this day. The Newport Urban Growth Boundary was expanded and some of the land within the new boundary, mostly belonging to Serkin and Emery, was annexed into the city. The new OCCC campus was built on 25 acres purchased from the pair; Mike Miller Park has been expanded and upgraded with donations from Emery; and a new community called Wilder, built on land near the college, has emerged as perhaps the most environmentally sensitive large residential development on the Oregon Coast.
All of this has taken place in South Beach, across Yaquina Bay from central Newport. To reach Wilder and OCCC, go east from Highway 101 on SE 40th along a road that winds its way up through a stand of spruce. After about a quarter mile, first Wilder and then the OCCC campus come into view.
OCCC’S NEW CAMPUS
At present, there are two principal buildings on the new campus. The nearly 80,000 square foot main college building, designed by gLaS Architects and built to LED silver standards, makes extensive use of natural lighting and exposed natural wood beams. Adjacent is the college’s most unique building, which opened in 2011 and houses its aquarium science department. This was the first aquarium science program in the United States and is still the only one on the Pacific Coast. Students from 23 states have enrolled since 2003, including two from the same small town in Maine. Graduates of the program enjoy a high job placement rate in the aquatic animal husbandry profession.
AN OLD-FASHIONED NEIGHBORHOOD THAT’S “GREEN” TOO
Wilder, the residential neighborhood, is adjacent to the campus. An example of the “new urbanism” school of design, it includes a variety of housing types, local parks, and bike and walking trails. It is also friendly to the environment. Bonnie Serkin set out the basic principle when she said, “we decided right from the beginning that if we were going to put a human imprint on the forest, it better be for a development that was gentle an the land.”
The infrastructure emphasizes such green concepts as bioswales for natural storm water management and a multi-use path with permeable pavement that prevents standing water even during the heaviest coastal rainfall. In addition, many of the homes are green certified through Earth Advantage and all are constructed with a focus on sustainability and a healthy home environment.
Several independent contractors are building the homes in Wilder, utilizing different styles. Most are being built on spec, but purchasers have many opportunities to customize the homes before moving in. Certain practices are consistent in all the dwellings, such as minimizing products that give off harmful gases and employing high-efficiency and water-wise technologies to hold down energy and water consumption. Whenever possible, designs are intended to let owners “age in place.” Far too often, homes are bought without much thought for a time in the future when the owner may be less strong and sprightly. While there are some two-story structures, the single level Wilder homes are often designed with doors and hallways a little larger than the minimum and with as few steps as possible. A little such planning today may forestall some painful choices in the future.
At present, there are no retail outlets at Wilder, but a village center that includes shops, restaurants, and wellness centers is in the plans. If apartments are built, they could be in this area, and although Wilder is not being built with students specifically in mind, the apartments might appeal to students at OCCC.
In a traditional neighbor-hood, a good deal of time is spent outdoors and Wilder is designed to maximize this kind of community experience. Homes have porches and the streets are designed as much for walking as for cars. There are parks both for children and for dogs, and a disc golf course has been built amongst the trees. Students from the aquarium science program built some of the equipment at the dog park, another example of the cooperation between OCCC and Wilder.
MIKE MILLER PARK
During World War I, the Spruce Railroad was built to bring spruce lumber from Camp One near Yachats to Yaquina Bay for use in aircraft construction. Mike Miller Park, which is situated between Wilder and Hwy 101, includes some of the original and still visible grade of the railroad. The park has been operated by Lincoln County since 1974. The Youth Conservation Corps built the first trails and students at Angell Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center north of Yachats have helped keep them in good condition in recent years.
Almost 30 years ago, Lincoln County developed several goals in its Long Range Plan that envisioned a larger network of trails. Great progress was made toward these goals when Will Emery donated 5.8 acres of land on the south side of the park that included riparian woodland and a large pond. Emery also donated the money needed to develop trails within it, and in recognition of these contributions, Lincoln County named one of the new trails Emery Trail.
Another trail has joined Wilder to the original Mike Miller Loop trail. Hikers and bikers can now follow trails from the Port of Newport Marina, past the Aquarium, through Wilder, and via the Wilder Extension into Mike Miller Park, passing through a variety of ecosystems featuring Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and other coastal vegetation.
Through careful planning and a generous concern for the needs of the community, Bonnie Serkin and Will Emery have created a combination of educational, residential, and park facilities that will benefit people on the Coast for decades to come.