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CoastWatch Volunteers Catch Run of the Illegal and Extremely Dangerous on Oregon Coast

Published 07/07/23 at 5:01 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

CoastWatcher Volunteers Catch Run of the Illegal and Extremely Dangerous on Oregon Coast

(Oregon Coast) – Oregon's CoastWatch group is a case of something you didn't know you needed until it was invented. To this day, lots of Oregonians and fans of the Oregon coast don't know it exists, and how it's helping keep this coastline pristine. (Above: courtesy CoastWatch's SallyG. Children dig a dangerous hole in soft cliffs at Lincoln City)

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Volunteers with the group (a project of Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition) make special beach reports periodically, “adopting” a coast mile and sending in observations when they can. They can make finds on these beaches that are important – and just that happened recently. However, there were some interesting finds, like signs of a sea star return and an octopus just hanging out.

CoastWatchers came across a fair amount of illegal and sometimes extremely dangerous behavior in the last month or two, including two youngsters carving out walls of a very dicey cave and people walking on national refuge areas.

Courtesy CoastWatch's SallyG

Earlier in April, CoastWatch volunteer SallyG discovered a small cave had been dug out of the soft cliff wall at the end of Roads End State Park in Lincoln City. In fact, she snapped a pic of two young children digging even more out of the cliff. She said she thought this “seems like a bad idea to me,” but that's an understatement.

There was also what appeared to be a homeless encampment inside a soft rock overhang in a cliff.

On July 5, SallyG returned to this part of Lincoln City and discovered even further damage to the cliffs.

“The rock cliff near Roads End, with a cave dug out by beachgoers, now has a tunnel. People are using the rock wall to carve their names and romances.”

Courtesy CoastWatch's SallyG

There's a lot going on in those few words, and the picture is a frightening one to any who understand the fragility of this material. First, it is illegal to dig into a cliff on seashore area. Secondly, it is extremely dangerous. Those kids were in a fair amount of danger digging in there, as this weakens the structure and greatly increases the chance part of this will fall. The fact you can carve your name or dig more out of a manmade beach cave should be telling how unsafe it is.

Now, someone has turned that into a tunnel, which is doubly dangerous.

According to Oregon State law: “A person may not place items such as logs, rocks, ropes, structural members or other objects; remove, bury, roll stones or other objects; carve, dig caves or sculpt in sand dunes or sea cliffs, in a way that endangers visitors or damages ocean shore resources.”

If you see a cave like this made of softer material than rock, do not think about entering.

Graffitti in cliffs is not only illegal but it's ultimately quite an eyesore, no matter how in love you are.

On the Fourth of July, another CoastWatcher caught even more illegal activity involving climbing on rocks that are part of national bird refuges as well as dogs chasing wildlife.

Courtesy CoastWatch's tabeag

The CoastWatcher was wandering the Ecola Point area (just below the point and part of Crescent Beach).

“A group of five climbed the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge rocks to the back area of Ecola Point, disturbing nesting seabirds. Four separate locals notified them that it was illegal, and they said someone from the area told them differently.”

The CoastWatcher known as tabeag also noted more than one dog running after birds, as well as two of the pet owners walking on the rocks that are off-limits.

Allowing your animal to chase wildlife is illegal. State law says: “Handlers must prevent their animals from harassing people, wildlife and other domestic animals.”

These refuges fall under federal jurisdiction, which could make the crime of disturbing sea birds even more serious.

Other CoastWatchers discovered more lingering beach fires, which they had to put out themselves. This is a big no-no. Several years ago there was an incident on the Oregon coast where a woman severely burned her foot walking on a thin layer of sand that covered a smoldering beach fire. It had not been put out but only lightly covered.

One of these fires was near Cape Kiwanda, and there were numerous beer cans littering the area as well.

At Ocean Beach Picnic Area near Florence, back in May one CoastWatcher caught a scary moment with a dog and its owner.

“One person was in the surf playing until her dog almost got swept out. She was very shaken and the dog was too. Another reminder to keep dogs leashed and pay attention to the ocean. You can never be sure about the waves.”

Oregon law doesn't say you have to have a leash on your pet all the time, although some beaches and all trails in the state will declare the need for a leash. However, if your dog isn't responding well to commands while on the beach you should put a leash on to prevent moments like this.

Courtesy CoastWatch's Angela Whitlock

On the good news side, sea stars are definitely making a comeback. On June 17, also at Ecola Point, one Coastwatcher noticed a cave wall there had six juvenile sea stars. A fair amount of young sea stars was also noticed in recent weeks in other Oregon coast spots by CoastWatchers.

Courtesy CoastWatch's krallfamily

Also intriguing was a live octopus found at Oceanside last month that had been hiding in a tidepool for more than a week, according to the CoastWatcher.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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