Ocean Protection, Marine Protected Areas, Updates, Ocean Planning
June 05 2015

Oregon: Inspiring Ocean Protections Through Deeper Connections

by Charlie Plybon

Oregon’s wild and untamed coastline has inspired great passion and intrigue for many recreational users and visitors to this special place. Unlike the placid waters and groomed beaches of a postcard vacation, Oregon’s rogue coast and ocean waters attract those who seek adventure and draw deeper connections to a day at the coast than beach blanket bingo and rum-filled cocktails. Drawing on these connections, Oregonians have taken action to protect what they love, now extending some of those protections beyond the shoreline. No other place exemplifies this more for recreational users than Oswald West State Park and the newly designated Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, which extends beyond the parks shoreline.

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It’s no surprise that Oswald West State Park attracts over 700,000 visitors each year. Named for the historic Governor and visionary statesman that preserved Oregon’s beaches for recreational use, the park is a marvel of old growth and mixed temperate rainforest forest spanning four miles of coastline and surrounding the popular but secluded beach dubbed “Short Sands”. A mecca for inland and local recreational users alike, surfers and other users here see beyond the plush forests, volcanic basalt and sandstone-edged shoreline, drawing strong connections to the rich biodiversity below the surface of the water.

Photo: Ben Neives

And so it was natural to many Oregonians to extend protections to the neighboring ocean waters of this special place, designating the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve in 2012, the second largest in Oregon’s system of marine reserves, spanning 32 square km of ocean habitat and protecting an additional 19.7 square km in complementary marine protected areas. In 2016, the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve and associated protected areas will officially go into effect, prohibiting future ocean development and restricting fishing in some areas, while leaving the vast majority of the area open to non-consumptive recreational uses.

Photo: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's video lander

Surfrider Foundation’s Portland Chapter actively participated in Oregon’s marine reserve process and through their deep connections to Oswald West as recreational users, initiated an Oswald West Action Team to support greater awareness, outreach and stewardship of this special place. Forming local partnerships, holding action day events, integrating their citizen science monitoring programs and advancing water quality campaigns, the chapter is able to engage a broad audience of recreational users in gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve.