Video goonies house astoria oregon

The Astoria-Megler Bridge as seen from the front of the Goonies House. The bridge spans the mouth of the Columbia River, from Astoria to Point Ellice, Washington. File photo May 6, 2023.

Allison Frost / OPB

The house that served as the focal point of the 1985 movie “The Goonies” is perhaps Astoria’s best-known landmark. It’s certainly been a draw for fans and tourists who come to pay homage. Since the house was sold in January, conflict about the increased traffic in the neighborhood has been renewed. It’s a story that’s far short of the epic adventure the middle school characters embark on in the movie to save the house from being demolished, but it is one that never seems to “say die.” Recently, David Reid of the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce convened a neighborhood meeting to air concerns and try to come up with some agreement on the best way to simultaneously support both livability and tourism. He joins us to share some of what he’s heard and his ideas for how to move forward.

Note: This transcript was computer generated and edited by a volunteer.

Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. Goonies never say die, nor does the debate about the Goonies House. As we talked about back in January, the house that served as a focal point of the classic 1985 movie has a new owner. The superfan has encouraged other fans to visit and to pay homage to the site. That has reenergized longstanding concerns about increased traffic in the residential neighborhood. David Reid is the executive director of the Astoria Warrenton Chamber of Commerce. He recently convened a neighborhood meeting to air concerns and try to find a middle ground, a way to support both livability and tourism. He joins us now. Welcome back to Think Out Loud.

David Reid: Thanks, Dave.

Miller: You have lived in Astoria for 20 something years. How long has this been an issue, tensions over the proper way for people to enjoy this house?

Reid: To some extent, that entire time. The first words ever uttered to me when I came into this town, before we even lived here, were “where’s the Goonies House?” So it’s not a new phenomenon by any means. We’ve had a little bit of equilibrium for a while that was manageable. And then this change of ownership has stirred things up.

Miller: How do you explain the equilibrium period that was manageable? What was happening then?

Reid: What was happening then was there was a general sense among the visitors of what was expected. There were a couple of different stories that were going around, and some were more true than others, but the story was that the owner didn’t want people coming to the house, and so you shouldn’t do that. And that was never quite true. But what we’ve got now is that the owner says “yes, come on up.” And so I think there’s a sense that, “oh boy, things have changed and now we can go where we weren’t allowed to before.”

Miller: For people who haven’t made a pilgrimage there. Can you just give us a brief sense for the lay of the land?

Reid: Physically, if you’ve ever been to Astoria, it’s very vertical. We are built on a hill. In fact, when we were established 212 years ago, there was only a hill, there was no flat land in Astoria. And so we have narrow winding streets that connect in various weird ways. And in this particular case, this house sits up on a ridge with three other houses approached by a gravel road/driveway, and it connects down to a part of the neighborhood where if you drive into that neighborhood, the only way to get out is to turn around in somebody’s driveway.

Miller: So just by virtue of the actual streets, having a lot of people park there or even just drive up there presents a challenge. How many people are we talking about? As you noted, during the period of equilibrium where maybe people had the wrong idea and thought they weren’t welcome when they were, that effectively cut down on the traffic. Since then, how big an increase in visitors have neighbors seen?

Reid: I would say it’s probably two to threefold. What used to be the case was that this was a summer weekend phenomenon. And then it became a summer long phenomenon. And then a six month phenomenon. And this latest change has made it basically year round. So that has neighbors in the neighborhood bracing themselves for what the summer will look like.

Miller: Do you think they’re right? I saw that in some of the reporting that it’s bad now, and in the summer, is it just gonna get worse?

Reid: We know that there’ll be more visitation, and with more visitation means more percentage of those people that are gonna be Goonies fans. So yes, that’s true. But I don’t think we’re in trouble. I think we have now this opportunity to change that conversation, change that narrative, and do some work on creating expectations when people get here or before they get here so that we can get back to a place where it’s manageable for the residents.

Miller: Before we get to those potential solutions, I’m just curious what the average visitor does. Do they just drive up, look from their car, turn around in a driveway and go back down? Or are they parking and walking around?

Reid: They are parking, walking around, they want to go do the truffle shuffle in front of the front gate. Not very many people drive up there, but it doesn’t take very many for that to be a challenge, up a steep gravel road with just a few houses up there. More likely they’ll park down below, but then they still have to turn around in the neighborhood. There’s no average of what people do, no standard for what everybody does. But those are some of the things that people want to do. They want to have their picture taken standing in front of the house, and in some cases they want to go in, and in some cases that’s possible.

Miller: Oh, so people are actually going inside the house now?

Reid: When the owner is there, he occasionally will invite people in.

Miller: How much is this a conflict between two people, two homeowners, the new owner of this house and his next door neighbor who has been a vocal opponent of the tourismification of this, as opposed to a broader neighborhood-wide conflict?

Reid: The neighborhood meeting that the city convened and I helped to moderate brought close to 70 people there. So clearly it’s not two people. This is a real thing. The degree of concern varies. You asked about the number of people, one of the people will say that that number is 1,000 people a day, and other people will say maybe it’s 20 or 30. I don’t know what the actual number is. But if it’s 10 people, and it’s a problem for somebody, a livability problem for somebody to live in their home, then it’s an issue. And so we want to address the issue of whatever scale it is, and make it manageable, whether it’s 10 people or whether it’s 100 people that come.

Miller: Is the range that much of a mystery? That’s a tenfold gap in perspective.

Reid: It’s not that much of a mystery. There was a traffic study done that showed the number of cars that went in there. And it was on the range of several hundred more than you would expect from residents living in the neighborhood on a daily basis. So it’s not a huge mystery. It’s certainly solvable. But from my perspective, I don’t know that we need to have the actual number, because we recognize that it’s a challenge, whether it’s dozens or hundreds.

Miller: What do you see as the competing priorities here, from your perspective at the Chamber of Commerce?

Reid: We are a community that is a working town. We’ve actively sought visitation and tourism really only beginning about 30 years ago. So we are certainly not oversaturated with tourism, but we really, we want to be a great place to live and work that also welcomes visitors. The idea that we want to trade our way of life for tourism dollars is not something that anybody finds palatable. So that’s part of the tension.

But the real tension is that there are commercial areas in this town that have been devoted to Goonies and to movies that were made here, and that are appropriate for visitation. And a home in a private neighborhood is not that. That said, the homeowner who has rights and interests, wants people to be able to come there. And so how do we manage that in a way that still keeps it a neighborhood?

Miller: Can you put a dollar figure on Goonies-based tourism?

Reid: I cannot. I can probably put a percentage figure. Probably one in six or seven of the people that come through my visitor center here are here because it’s the Goonies town.

Miller: That’s not insignificant.

Reid: It’s not insignificant at all. Not insignificant. And the Goonies fans, by and large, are happy, nice people. They don’t intend any ill. It’s just the volume, and sometimes it’s just outliers who are misbehaving. Sometimes it’s just a general sense of entitlement that we all kind of get when we go on vacation. The Goonies are not the villains here, and they are eminently movable in their approach. If they think that they’re doing harm, they don’t want to do that.

Miller: This gets to the story of the movie a little bit, which for people who haven’t seen it, is about these young kids who go through all these adventures to try to save a house. I can’t help but think that the narrative of the film ironically connects to what we’re talking about. The whole point is saving this house. Is that something that visitors or the current owner bring up?

Reid: It is something that we’ve brought up on numerous occasions. The word irony is very apt for this conversation. The villain in the movie wanted to turn their quiet neighborhood into a commercial enterprise. This is what we’re trying to stop. And I don’t think the owner of the house today wants that, I think he just wants that house to be celebrated as an iconic place. That’s the irony, is that anybody that does sort of feel entitled to go there is acting more like the Fratellis than acting like the Goonies.

Miller: Wait, the Fratellis, they’re the ones who want to kill them, right? There’s also the bank that wants to turn it into a golf course.

Reid: Mr. Perkins, right. Now we’re getting into the full nerdom.

Miller: Well let’s extract ourselves from nerdom and go back to traffic solutions. What solutions do you see?

Reid: The city manager helped me define this before we even went into this conversation. He defined the three Es that are possible here. There’s education. And the good news is we have a really wide audience of Goonies fans, between the Chamber’s communication with folks, and the film museum’s communication, the homeowner’s communication. We have the ability to reach people before they ever get here and tell them what we want them to know. So that’s a strong tool for us.

The second is engineering. That would be signage, it might be parking meters, it might be physical things that we can do that we can do that would help guide people in the right direction.

And the third would be enforcement. If there are any changes in parking codes or rules like that, how do you enforce those things? And the third one I think would be the least interesting to us, if we can avoid getting into enforcement, because that requires resources and energy that we’d rather not spend. But I think we have some good tools in the first two.

Miller: Do those first two boil down to having people park further away from the house, and then walk longer to make their pilgrimage?

Reid: Yes. And longer would be two blocks instead of parking right in front of the house.

Miller: And that would solve most people in the neighborhood’s concerns?

Reid: Yes. That was really the conclusion in the meeting. And I don’t want to characterize this as though this makes everybody happy, because parking is always limited in a small town. So now we’re talking about parking people in front of other people’s houses and, and further down the street, maybe next to the Kindergarten Cop school. It’s not a perfect solution, but it certainly alleviates a lot of the really critical, acute problems that we’ve got there, if people will just park in one direction, take a quick walk, and snap their picture and walk back to their car.

Miller: David Reid, thanks very much.

Reid: My pleasure.

Miller: David Reid is the executive director of the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce.

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Kay Adams