02 • 06 • 2017

Long Live Oregon Beaches: Celebrating 50 Years of Public Beaches

With this new year comes at least one significant political outcome “we the people” in Oregon can actually celebrate, it’s the 50th Anniversary of the passage of Oregon’s Beach Bill! This landmark legislation guarantees access and makes public Oregon’s 362 miles of beaches and the movement to pass this legislation forever made beaches a birthright for Oregonians and visitors from around the world.

Surfrider Chapters in Oregon have launched their Long Live Oregon Beaches Campaign for 2017 to not only educate and celebrate the significance of this legislation, but also to advocate for a renewed investment in the protection of our beaches for future generations. The primary legislative goal of the campaign is to support establishment of an Ocean Beach Fund (SB745) to further increased protection and resource management of Oregon’s public beaches.

Oregon’s 362 miles of public ocean beaches are the signature feature of the Oregon coast and a principal economic driver for coastal communities. But beaches face increasing problems of visitor safety, vandalism, increased marine debris, beachfront armoring and dune grading, and a rising and expanding range of recreational uses. These issues are driven by growing tourism in all seasons, unabated demand for ocean front development, and increasingly severe storm and erosion events due to climate-driven changes in the ocean, all of which are likely to persist. 

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) manages the ocean beaches as a State Recreation Area under the Oregon Beach Bill but lacks sufficient capacity to meet these increasing needs. This shortfall in management capacity threatens to erode the quality of visitor experience and environmental health of the beaches, thus affecting the reputation and the economic value of these beaches to coastal communities. Renewed investment in Oregon’s beaches is particularly appropriate at the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Oregon Beach Bill, which guarantees public access to Oregon’s beaches. Renewed investment is essential to meet future management challenges and ensure that the legacy of our public beaches will endure for generations to come.

Coastal legislators have come together to sponsor SB 745, an Ocean Beach Fund to help meet these increasing challenges to Oregon's public beaches. Sponsored by House Representatives David Gomberg, Debbie Boone, David Brock Smith and Senator Arnie Roblan, the bill has garnered bi-partisan support in the same spirit of Oregon's Beach Bill. The bill generates funding at ocean shore state park campgrounds through existing tax revenues generated from overnight stays. The Ocean Beach Fund would be housed within OPRD and allocated to support improved visitor experience, safety and the necessary resource management to ensure the ecological and economic value of Oregon's public beaches for future generations.

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