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Oregon Coast Dunes National Rec Area in Trouble, Releases Video

Published 12/15/2019 at 5:35 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Dunes National Rec Area in Trouble, Releases Video

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(Florence, Oregon) – Little do most Oregonians know, but the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on the central Oregon coast is in trouble. A different kind of climate change is taking place here, just south of Florence, where invasive species planted in the area long ago are slowly, literally choking the dunes to death. (Photo above courtesy Travel Lane County).

One of the largest dune areas on the planet is disappearing.

So a coalition of various groups was formed to try and restore the dunes, called the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative (ODRC). Now, the group has released a seven-minute video called Save the Oregon Dunes, telling the amazing story of how invasive plants threaten this enchanting landscape. It’s also a call to arms for the pubic: learn how the ODRC is working to preserve and restore this national treasure and join them.

The ODRC encourages sharing the video link with family, friends and anyone interested in seeing this precious asset preserved for future generations. Without continuing action, the dunes will be lost forever. You can take part at SaveOregonDunes.org.

Something around thousands of feet have been lost in the last 80 years or so: aerial shots of the Oregon coast beauty show jaw-dropping differences between the ‘40s and present day (see image at bottom). It's estimated they'll disappear completely in 50 years if nothing is done..

The villains at the center of the issue are invasive plants like Scotch Broom, Gorse and European Beachgrass, which did not evolve in this area so they take over. Originally planted by locals over the last century to stabilize the dunes, that has turned out to be a devastating concept. By not allowing dunes to move freely with the winds they don’t spread out and refresh when sand levels start depleting, as is part of the natural cycle.

Now, some 16 feet per year of dunes are lost as these plants take over, according to Travel Lane County spokesman Andy Vobora. The phenomena creates these nasty, ugly, emptied areas called deflation plains where water starts to fill up and the dunes go away – an essential part of tourism in the area, including all those ATV’s that ramble through the 40-mile-long stretch of dunes.

“If the foredune was mobile the open sand would cover the naturally occurring deflation plains and move inward and the natural processes would work as they should,” Vobora said. “With the foredune stabilized, the deflation grows and eventually fills with vegetation.”

This invasion and subsequent destruction is a strange and multifaceted beast.

“There are a number of effects and the deflation plain becoming permanent are one of these issues,” Vobora said. “As the grass spreads and keeps the sand from moving, other shrubs take root and are followed by trees. A forest is created where open sand used to move. American beachgrass gets covered and dies while European beachgrass just keeps coming up because its stalks are firm and won't be buried. Roots of European grass can reach 20-30 feet, making it hard to remove.”

Contrary to some beliefs and rumors, dune buggies don't contribute to the issue. Vobora said the wind is always moving the sand around, so the ATV's can't wear them down. It all comes down to the plants as the cause.

What the coalition needs is money and manpower, among other things. Restoration projects mean a variety of complex efforts, including burning the invasive species, herbicides and even bulldozers. There are also regulation obstacles involving various government rules that hinder some of the work. Restoring the dunes is even more intricate than the issue itself.

See the video and SaveOregonDunes.org. More images on this below:

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