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Painted Rocks Movement on Oregon Coast: Big Rock Garden of Seaside

Published 06/09/2018 at 12:42 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Painted Rocks Movement on Oregon Coast: Big Rock Garden of Seaside

(Seaside, Oregon) – Call it a trend, a fad or something a little more complex, but an interesting offshoot from social media and even the collective consciousness is a thing referred to as “leaving painted rocks.” It goes by many names, actually, among them The Kindness Rocks Project. This slightly mysterious but definitely positive activity seems to have gotten its start within the last ten years or less. But on the Oregon coast it may have been around for decades. (Rock garden photos Angi Wildt of Seaside, see more photos at bottom of article).

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There’s really two ways this is happening along these shores: folks are dropping these cheery little rocks at various locations all over beach towns, and often forming little groups for each area; and then there’s that big garden of them in Seaside.

In a town with many subtleties and secrets hiding in plain sight, Seaside has yet another that’s particularly charming. It’s tucked away behind a small set of shrubbery, a ways beyond the southern end of the Promenade. This garden of colored stones has all manner of designs on them, often with dates. Some go back to the ‘80s.

Around the rest of the Oregon coast, indeed the rest of the U.S., people are simply decorating them artfully and then setting them in a random place. All are hand painted with varying degrees of quirkiness, and the point is mostly to bring a moment of cheer and surprise to those discovering them, with the choice of moving them somewhere else or keeping them.

Throughout the country it’s a sort of common knowledge thing: an un-helmed idea and cause to simply spread cheer.

In Seaside, the rock garden is a bit of a mystery, and certainly one tucked away. But it’s enormous now. Seaside resident and historian Robin Montero has looked into it a little bit, but it’s impossible to discover much.

She, as well as others in town, believe it comes down to one or two families with homes right near the garden that have been doing it for years. Maybe decades, if the dates are to be believed.

“It’s a trend or something, but not quite like Beanie Babies,” Montero said. “For kids, it’s almost like a treasure hunt, or geocaching without disturbing anything at all. It’s somewhat of a movement now: painting rocks and then hiding them or placing them for the next person to pass or keep.”

Montero said she came upon her first one in Cannon Beach last year. There’s apparently a group there, and another one in Astoria. Numerous clans of these rock-droppers are all over Facebook.

They can reportedly be found in other spots around Seaside, but the painted rocks garden at the end of Avenue W is enormous, and it’s now spread to both sides of the pathway to the beach.

“You’ve never seen so many painted rocks in your life,” Montero said. “The family’s been keeping them up for years.”

How long they’ve been doing it depends on who you talk to. Some say it goes back farther than the 1980s. Whatever the case, it seems others have joined in. The layers of these beach stones keep growing.

In the meantime, it’s a pleasant but slightly secretive mystery. While the movement of painted rocks continues to grow around the country, the rocky garden of Seaside seems to pile ever higher as well. Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

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