Stay Eat Events Weather Beaches

50 Years Behind the Scenes, Fighting for the Coast: Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition

Published 02/17/22 at 7:32 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

50 Years Behind the Scenes, Fighting for the Coast: Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition

Latest Coastal Lodging News Alerts
In Seaside:
Includes exclusive listings; some specials in winter
In Cannon Beach:
Includes rentals not listed anywhere else
In Manzanita, Wheeler, Rockaway Beach:
Some specials for winter
In Pacific City, Oceanside:
Some specials for winter
In Lincoln City:
Some specials for winter
In Depoe Bay, Gleneden Beach:
Some specials for winter
In Newport:
Look for some specials
In Waldport
Some specials for winter
In Yachats, Florence
Some specials for winter
Southern Oregon Coast Hotels / Lodgings
Reedsport to Brookings, places to stay; winter deals

(Portland, Oregon) – There's more to the beauty of the Oregon coast than the famed Beach Bill of 1967. That landmark bit of legislation that kept all Oregon beaches public was not the last word on the subject. Some of this shoreline's greatest treasures had to be fought over later. (Above: Whalen Island near Pacific City)

Behind the scenes, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition has been a major part of many fights, and of current battles for the Oregon coast's future. The group just recently finished up celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, looking back towards its founding in 1971 and whooping it up with a series of talks and events – which sadly had to go all online due to the pandemic.

Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition (OSCC) is now under the aegis of executive director Phillip Johnson, a one-man force in many ways who has really helped propel the volunteer group into some cutting edge territory when it comes to preserving the coastline for the public.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection talked with Johnson at length about some of the highlights of the group's 50 years, but one accomplishment he refused to brag about was probably its most innovative: CoastWatch. A brand new idea at the time (in 1993), CoastWatch created a unique way of getting the public involved in citizen science and stewardship of these beaches by having volunteers “adopt” miles – one-mile stretches of coastline – and then report on them periodically.

CoastWatch has evolved into a striking digital diary of changes on these beaches both natural and otherwise, providing some remarkable tips and insights for the visitor who bothers to check it out.

All this started right about the time a patch of Yachats got in trouble with greedy neighbors who wanted all the shoreline to themselves, creating the fight that became the invaluable 804 Trail. Behind the curtain, the newly-formed OSCC helped with land use and legal issues.

“The 804 Trail is one of our proudest moments,” Johnson said.

But he's quick to point out: “We almost never work alone. There's a lot of local allies.”

The Friends of 804 Trail group was the main spearhead of that project back in the ‘70s, and then there were the varied groups involved with Coquille Point in Bandon, keeping that inimitable spot from becoming a cluster of condos with perhaps no public beach access back around 1991.

Johnson came onboard just after the Bandon project, he said, but he was a big part of two major Oregon park additions in recent years that he also called some of the group's proudest moments: Sikta Sedge State Natural Area and Clay Meyers State Natural Area near Pacific City.

How they achieve these victories is sometimes rather complex and it's chock full of legal wrangling. State law isn't always interested in these issues.

“We didn't win land use appeals,” Johnson said. “We get them bound by so many land use rules they sell to the public.”

Clay Meyers – a newish state park on Whalen Island – was a slightly different story.

“This case was not about fighting the owners,” Johnson said. “Bless their hearts, they wanted make money but were willing to make less money by selling to the state.”

The coalition's role was more about urging Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department to make this a priority for purchase, work that went on intermittently for about six years.

Just as Clay Meyers State Natural Area was being won, perhaps a month later, Johnson said they got the horrifying news someone was planning to build a golf course across the mudflats at the Sand Lake Spit. OSCC and locals were still celebrating the victory when that information came down the pike.

“The idea that right after we succeeded in preserving Whale Island as a natural area, that we'd be looking at those Bozo's across the way playing golf, just drove us crazy,” he said.

Johnson said the developer wasn't from Oregon and it wasn't his very personal dream to create something on the land, and after enough wrestling Johnson said the guy was thinking: " 'those crazy Oregonians. Go ahead and sell it.' "

The Jordan Cove development in Coos Bay was a major battle for OSCC along with its allies, and they very recently won as that liquefied gas pipe project was canceled.

So, now there's the ongoing battle with ourselves, essentially. Mankind's own shortsightedness with carbon emissions, climate change and thus rising sea levels is causing many on the Oregon coast to put themselves in the crosshairs of OSCC. All that erosion is causing rip rap and shore armoring methods to go into high gear, which winds up defeating its own purpose.

“We fight every single rip rap application, but not because all are unreasonable,” Johnson said. “We sympathize with someone who's between two rip rap developments because that unfairly causes their property to erode, because rip rap deflects the waves,” Johnson said.

This is OSCC's way of drilling it into the state that it needs to find another way to deal with this problem, he said. In the end, rip rap only starts to cut off public access to beaches by the way it starves beaches of sand supply, among other issues.

Gleneden Beach

The ultimate solution isn't one humans will like. Mother Nature is winning this fight no matter what, after we've handed her climate change as a weapon.

“I'd use the word pullback, or managed retreat, as the planners often call it,” Johnson said.

Stop such future oceanfront developments in risky areas, he said. And thus Johnson and the group continue to fight for the future of the Oregon coast.

Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - South Coast Hotels - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours


Bandon, courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....

More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....

Coastal Spotlight

LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

Unknown 'Oily Sheen' Off Oregon Coast May Be Behind Tar-like Mystery, Finds F...
Oil patches now as far down as south of Newport. Marine sciences
U.S. Travel Tips: More Reasons to Meander Around Manzanita, on Oregon North C...
A quiet but quirky sense of the laidback. Neahkahnie Mt., Nehalem, Wheeler
Mystery Oil Grows Along Oregon / Washington Coast as More Birds, Tar Found
Tar balls now found from Long Beach through Lincoln City. Marine sciences
Mussel Harvesting Closed on Part of Oregon Coast Due to Biotoxin: Cape Lookou...
Unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP)
Chasing Moon Halos Around the Central Oregon Coast and Their Connection to We...
Moon halos can be the harbinger of cold weather
More Mobi-Mats for Oregon Coast Sands at Lincoln City, Seaside
Lincoln City and Seaside have both added more Mobi-Mats. Travel tips, weather
Gold Beach: Two Cougar Sightings Concern for S. Oregon Coast Wildlife Officials
ODFW sent notice to residents to be on the lookout. Sciences
Devil's Churn on the Oregon Coast: Dangers and the Astounding Sights
In many ways, the name rings very true. Yachats, travel tips

Back to Oregon Coast

Contact Advertise on
All Content, unless otherwise attributed, copyright Unauthorized use or publication is not permitted