COOS BAY — After approximately five years of operation, local nonprofit CONNECT! the Boardwalk closed Dec. 31.
The idea of having a new stretch of boardwalk connecting the Coos Bay Boardwalk to the Mill Casino-Hotel, and the casino’s boardwalk to the North Bend Boardwalk, has been a goal of some local residents for longer than CONNECT! The Boardwalks has been around.
Since about 2009, CONNECT! the Boardwalk director Elizabeth Spona has been trying to get the cities of Coos Bay and North Bend, along with the Coquille tribe, to form some sort of plan to make the 5-mile boardwalk of her dreams a reality.
“A partnership developed between the cities, the casino, and the Port back in 2009. The idea behind that partnership was to enhance the beauty of the waterfront, as well as improve pedestrian access ... I became part of an advisory board to the partnership,” Spona said.
That partnership developed a concept plan for the Coos Waterfront Park and Walkway. However, Spona and other community members noticed that nothing was being done to put the plan into action.
“I was sitting in my window seat one rainy Oregon day and said nothing’s happening. So, I came up with the idea of starting a nonprofit,” Spona said.
In 2013 Spona held a meeting at the North Bend Public Library about starting her nonprofit. To her surprise there were close to 20 community members who showed up in support. Out of that meeting, CONNECT! the Boardwalk began and has worked toward organizing and funding the Coos Waterfront Park and Walkway Plan.
On Oct. 6, 2017, the Board of Directors announced to the 2017 membership that CONNECT! the Boardwalk would move to corporate dissolution.
“The situation is that I need to retire. I needed to retire, and there was no one from the board who was willing to step into the mouthpiece role of the organization. There was nobody in membership who was willing to take over either. I had a wonderful and strong board, but no one wanted to be the spear carrier,” Spona said.
Spona still believes in the project her organization has spent years fighting to progress, but she also wants to enjoy her retirement.
The remaining money CONNECT! the Boardwalk had saved up to aid in their mission was donated to the Southwestern Oregon Community College for its new Health and Science Technology Building. The $9,791.87 donation was matched by the Beetham family. Dennis Beetham is a prominent North Bend business man who owns the financial consulting firm D.B. Western.
“There is no immediate project that’s going on down on the waterfront that we could give our money to. There is a new nonprofit, but they’re in their fledgling years ... the board felt that the it would be better used out at the health and science building.” Spona said.
Spona hopes that someone might pick up where she and CONNECT! the Boardwalk left off.
“When you dissolve a nonprofit corporation in this state you have five years to sort of breathe life back into it without having to redo all of the documentation. I would be delighted if something like that happened. I don’t think the subject ends with us."