On July 6, 1967, Oregon Governor Tom McCall signed the Oregon Beach Bill ensuring that Oregon’s 363 miles of public beaches would always be public. The bill claimed public ownership of land along the Oregon Coast from the water up to sixteen vertical feet above the low tide mark.
This summer, communities up and down the Oregon coastline are commemorating the 50th anniversary of this historic beach legislation. But it all started way back in 1911.
At that time governor Oswald West worked to reclaim Oregon’s beaches as public land. The legislature favored the privatization of the beaches, but West argued successfully for public ownership based on the need for transportation. By 1913 the Oregon legislature declared the entire length of the ocean shore from Washington to California as a state highway.
Nevertheless, by 1967, an enterprising motel owner in Cannon Beach found a loophole and closed off part of the beach, building cabanas and erecting fences with “no trespassing” signs. The motel owner claimed that the 1913 legislation preserved only the wet sand as a highway.
McCall would have none of it.
He and a team of scientists stormed the beach, made a speech, drew a symbolic line in the sand, and with his very public demonstration (well covered by the media), set off a tidal wave of public support to protect the public’s access and prevent the development and commercialization of one of Oregon’s most treasured natural resources.
As one headline of the day claimed, “This Sand is Your Sand, This Sand is My Sand.”
Today, 50 years later, Oregonians and their visitors from around the world have unfettered access (except for small day-use and parking fees that help maintain the access) to some of the most spectacular coastline in America.
At Florence, from each of the two Siuslaw River jetties, you have about 10 miles in each direction of uninterrupted, uncrowded, sandy beaches perfect for sandcastles, beachcombing, whale watching, storm watching, surfing, kite flying, romantic sunset strolls, and getting lots and lots of sand between your toes.
Florence is also the northern access point to the amazing Oregon Dunes. You can hire a professional driver, rent an ATV, bring your own ATV, rent or buy a sandboard and summit one of those 300 to 500 foot dunes and zoom down the other side. And you can access the beach from the dunes. On some portions of the beach, driving is permitted.
So come, make it a day at the beach—or two, or three, or a whole week—in Florence, Oregon’s Coastal Playground. And enjoy those wide-open, undeveloped beaches in all their natural beauty that we as citizens proudly own and have access to.