The Surfrider Foundation is pleased to announce that we have entered into a preliminary agreement that will restore access to Lighthouse Beach in Coos Bay, Oregon. After seeking to restore access outside of court, Surfrider, on behalf of the Coos Bay Chapter, filed a lawsuit for a public prescriptive easement on June 6, 2022. Trial had been scheduled to begin April 25, 2023 at the Coos County Circuit Court in Coquille. However, a conceptual agreement has now been reached.
Surfrider is thankful that the property owners came to the table and have agreed to donate a portion of their property between Lighthouse Way and Lighthouse Beach to the Wild Rivers Land Trust, to be used for public access purposes in perpetuity. This is a first step towards a resolution. The path is currently closed, while details are being negotiated, including the specific path alignment that will be donated.
The case and trial have essentially been put on hold, while details of a final settlement agreement are worked out. Once the trail is donated to Wild Rivers Land Trust, restoring public access in perpetuity, Surfrider will dismiss its lawsuit.
Lighthouse Beach is a beautiful and culturally significant beach that has been used extensively by members of the community for beach recreation, including surfing, fishing, walking, family gatherings, picnics, and more, as well as stewardship. In March 2021, the public’s long-standing use was cut off when barbed wire was strung across the trail and a gate was installed, making the path impossible to access. Prior to the closure, the trail had been used by community members and visitors for generations – hundreds of people told Surfrider their stories of using the path - and it was key in providing access for cleanups and water quality monitoring at Lighthouse Beach for decades. Once access is restored, Surfrider will once again be able to access Lighthouse Beach for stewardship purposes, including to monitor water quality as part of its Blue Water Task Force program, and to conduct beach cleanups.
Surfrider commends the O’Leary family for agreeing to restore this significant beach access. The path is currently closed, while details are negotiated and the agreement is implemented. Surfrider is continuing to diligently work towards the expeditious restoration of access.
“It is with patience and diligence that we got to where we are now, and as stewards of Lighthouse Beach, we'll need to honor that moving forward,” says Annie Pollard, Coos Bay Chapter Chair. “Please help us by respecting the process, the land owners and neighborhood. We want to thank the O'Leary family for collaborating on a resolution, and those residents of Lighthouse Beach who have supported public access throughout this process.”
After the initial preliminary agreement, the Surfrider Foundation agreed to a proposal by the O'Leary family to donate property to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department that will restore a public access path to Lighthouse Beach.
Surfrider is pleased that the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission has voted to conditionally allow the State Parks and Recreation Department to accept a donation of property. This milestone comes as part of Surfrider and the O’Leary family’s continued efforts to restore public access to Lighthouse Beach in perpetuity. Parks’ vote is an exciting step towards eventually restoring access, but the Lighthouse Beach Path is still on private property for now, while the details are finalized.
The O’Learys are currently constructing a new access trail on the property which will be donated to State Parks for public access purposes. The trail will be managed under agreement with Coos County. Both the new path and the transfer to State Parks are still a work in progress. Neither has been completed, and there are several steps that need to be taken before the new trail is publicly accessible.
Surfrider is not constructing the trail, and Surfrider members should stay off the private property until it has been transferred into public ownership. We appreciate the community’s continued patience and ask that Surfrider members and the public remain respectful of the current property owners and the process.