Kuiper relaxes on the beach.

How Oregon beaches went public

Kuiper relaxes on his very own beach.

Did you know that all 362 miles of Oregon Coast beaches are publicly owned? Besides Hawaii, Oregon is unique; most ocean beaches in other states are privately owned. In some states like CA and TX, the public owns “wet sand” parts of the beach, but they aren’t always guaranteed access.

In February 1913, Governor Oswald West declared Oregon’s beaches to be a public highway (this was before hwy 101.) He pointed out to the legislature that this could be done “without cost to the taxpayer” and they readily went along with his plan. All was well until 1966, when a motel owner fenced off part of Cannon Beach for his customers. He argued a technicality; the 1913 legislation made reference only to the area between the high tide and low tide marks (thus allowing him to fence off the “dry sand.”) This effectively allowed him to close off the beach entirely at high tide!

As a result, Governor Tom McCall proposed House Bill 1601 to ensure that beaches would remain accessible to Oregonians. Meanwhile, real estate owners argued that their private property rights were being violated. Tom’s bill was in danger of dying in committee, so the governor appealed to the public.

Tom enlisted the help of the press and wrote, “We cannot afford to ignore our responsibilities to the public of this state for protecting the dry sands from the encroachment of crass commercialism…” He also flew to Cannon Beach in a helicopter and stood in front of the motel glaring dramatically, while TV cameras filmed him. The public, who had taken beach access for granted for over 50 years, FREAKED. OUT. It resulted in the largest public outcry in the state’s history.

A compromise was reached: the public would still only technically own “wet sand” areas, but would also have a permanent right to use all “dry sand” portions up to 16 (vertical) feet above sea level. At the “Beach Bill”‘s signing, Tom said, “Far from being a partisan product, the passage of this bill reflects the cooperative efforts of Republicans and Democrats.. the overriding consideration though of all concern was that Oregon’s beaches be preserved and protected for posterity…”

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BlrGKJbgmVf/

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