State of the Beach/State Reports/OR/Beach Access

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Oregon Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access108
Water Quality65
Beach Erosion6-
Erosion Response-6
Beach Fill5-
Shoreline Structures6 5
Beach Ecology6-
Surfing Areas48
Website7-


Policies

Oregon's Beach Bill guarantees the public the right to use the dry sand beach along the entire coast. A state easement exists up to the line of vegetation. Only one other state, Hawaii, guarantees public access from the surf line to the vegetation line. The public's rights under the Beach Bill are managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) under ORS 196.600, ORS 390.610, OAR 736 Division 21, and OAR 736 Division 20. These statutes and regulations spell out the policies ensuring free and uninterrupted public use of the beach from ordinary high water up to the statutory vegetation line or the line of established upland shore vegetation, whichever is further inland. All beaches are public and managed by either OPRD or the federal government. More info.

A documentary movie Politics of Sand was released in February 2009. This in-depth history of Oregon's beaches focuses on the political ebb and flow of efforts to keep the Oregon coast accessible to the public. The fight, which began with Governor Oswald West's 1913 landmark legislation, has thankfully been effective, though not without substantial effort. Featuring interviews with many of the living key players as well as voices from the past including Governors Tom McCall & Bob Straub, POLITICS OF SAND provides testimony to the fruits of citizen action.

Statewide Planning Goal 17 - Coastal Shorelands also serves to preserve and protect public access. This goal requires that public lands, rights-of-way, and easements which provide physical or visual access to coastal waters not be sold unless some public access or potential for access across the property is retained.

As mentioned above, in 1967 the Oregon Beach Bill was passed by the state legislature which protects public access and enjoyment of Oregon's ocean beaches. In 2007 voters passed Measure 49, which alleviated the threat of development on beaches and dunes posed previously by Measure 37.

Shoreline structures such as seawalls and rip-rap revetments are illegal in Oregon, unless the coastal structure was built prior to 1977. Where these structures do exist is where some of the only public beach access problems occur in the state. In these locations, as the shoreline erodes the beach is depleted (especially during winter storms), preventing beach access because little or no beach exists.

The state of Oregon has a requirement that every time a coastal accessway is closed, a new access point must be constructed or an existing access site must be improved in order to maintain or increase the level of public access.

The OPRD has policies that provide for land acquisition, but these apply to all of Oregon. There is also a land acquisition grant program.

Oregon OPRD utilizes several methods to minimize the environmental impacts of coastal access, including prohibiting access across dunes, restricting driving/ORV use, protecting nesting areas, temporary closures, use of designated accessways, and educational signage.[1]

OPRD began work in 2002 on the first-ever comprehensive management plan for the 230 miles of beaches along Oregon's 362-mile shoreline.[2] That first Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) has now been superseded by a 2013-2017 SCORP.

The 2001 Assessment indicates that there have been only moderate changes to public access statutes and changes to acquisition programs since 1997, and identifies public access as a low priority for improvement.

Site Inventory

According to Pogue P. and Lee V., 1999, "Providing Public Access to the Shore: The Role of Coastal Zone Management Programs," Coastal Management 27:219-237, 56% of the shoreline is publicly owned in Oregon. OCMP staff estimates that 59% of coastal land is publicly owned, but that nearly all of the private beaches are publicly accessible.[3]

This same document identifies 1,150 public access sites. This corresponds to about one public access site for every one-third mile of shoreline. More current surveys of beach access sites (see below) place the number at about 600-700.

The 2001 Assessment states that 90% percent of Oregon's 362 miles of ocean shoreline are open to the public. A survey in 2000 identified 645 points of "perpendicular" access to the ocean shore. NOAA's Final Evaluation Findings, Oregon Coastal Management Program, August 2003 through October 2006, states "Oregon’s coastal public access inventory counts 651 access sites – nearly one access point per one-half mile of ocean shore."

OCMP and OPRD completed the Oregon Coastal Access Information System (Oregon Coastal Atlas), an interactive beach access Website, in July 2000. It includes 651 known ocean beach access locations, most of which are protected as official inventoried sites. The Website allows users to view ground photos of access sites and provides information on location, path to beach, parking, landforms (e.g., bluffs, dunes, wetlands, forests, bays), man-made features (e.g., lighthouses, bridges, jetties, marinas), and recreational activities, including surfing, at each access site. It also provides orthophotography for the entire Oregon coast. Note that beach access information is available through both the Public Beach Access and Beach Water Quality links.

OCMP is currently working on a comprehensive update to the coastal access inventory, which will expand the list of sites to include coastal estuaries, and provide more complete data and photos for beach access sites in a Web-based mapping system. The inventory will include everything from state parks with facilities such as parking lots and restrooms to small scale access points, such as in the town of Manzanita, which has 20 paths to the beach and 2 roads that run along the coast. The inventory will also include coastal access points that are not beach accesses, such as boat launching sites. These findings will be included on the Oregon Coastal Atlas site once the update is completed.

Oregon State Parks has a site with an interactive map that lets you zoom in on your area of interest and locate state parks. The site provides basic descriptions of the parks, including parking, beach access, camping restrictions, etc.

OPRD maintains a wealth of information regarding coastal recreation opportunities. Check out their Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).

Also see the June 2002 Oregon Shore Recreational Use Study and the Non-Consumptive Recreational Ocean Use Study (2011).

Although not a state agency publication, The Oregon Coastal Access Guide (originally published in 2001, with a 2008 edition now available) may be ordered online. This document was prepared by Kenn Oberrecht, who has lived on the southern Oregon Coast since 1975. He is a noted photographer and a widely published author of books and articles on travel, outdoor recreation, nature, and the environment. The Oregon Coastal Access Guide is a co-publication with Oregon Sea Grant.

Also see Oregon Coast Alterna-Guide and Oregon Coast Complete Guides. This website also has a Oregon Coast for Kids, Children: Family Beaches Guide.

On April 8, 2009, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department recorded NOAA’s interest in 440 acres of land known as DeLaura Beach, within the city limits of Warrenton, Oregon. The land is adjacent to the existing Fort Stevens State Park. This expansion to the existing park will provide enhanced coastal recreation, including walking and hiking trails and beach access. The site has extensive coastal dune systems with mature vegetation and upland forests as well as marine intertidal zones and sandy beaches.

Beach Attendance Records

OPRD maintains beach attendance records. The data an be found here.

Information gathered for Oregon's proposed comprehensive management plan shows more than 6 million recreational beach visits on the north coast in 2001-2002, up 83% over a five-year period. On the less-visited south coast, the number was nearly 1.6 million, up 38.5%. Some north coast beaches draw as many as a half-million visitors a year.[4]

The 2001 Assessment reports that an Oregon State Parks Day Visitor Attendance Fiscal Year Report indicates that attendance at state day-use facilities on the coast increased only 0.2% between 1997 and 2000. An Oregon Tourism Commission report, Oregon Travel Spending and Related Impacts, indicates that lodging receipts for five coastal counties increased 8% during this same time period.

Economic Evaluation of Beaches

Although information on the economic value of beaches in Oregon was not readily available, OPRD has conducted surveys and OPRD and the Tourism Commission have prepared a report which aggregates general economic values or expenditures for recreational tourism.[5] See here.

Direct statewide travel spending was projected to reach $7.4 billion in 2005, supporting 88,900 travel industry jobs. (Dean Runyan Associates, 2005)

Oregon conducted a Non-Consumptive Recreational Ocean Use Study in 2009-2010 that is part of a comprehensive planning effort to amend the Territorial Sea Plan. The goal of the study was to establish scientifically credible baseline information on the various non-consumptive recreational uses (surfing, diving, boarding, boating, and wildlife viewing) and their associated economic and socio-cultural contributions occurring within Oregon’s territorial sea. This information will be used to inform government agencies, elected officials, ocean energy developers, stakeholders, and the general public as they make decisions regarding Oregon’s coastal ocean places. The report Non-consumptive Ocean Recreation in Oregon: Human Uses, Economic Impacts & Spatial Data was released in March 2011. Also see Oregon’s Non-Consumptive Recreational Ocean User Community - Understanding an ocean stakeholder.

A November 2012 study by Oregon State University estimated the effects of 23 million annual visits to the Oregon State Parks specifically on the coastal economy and found $371 million in direct and indirect sales and $115 million in labor income affecting nearly 6,000 jobs on the coast.


NOAA's Office for Coastal Management (OCM) has written a discussion of the recreational value of beaches, in the context of beach fill projects. In 2009 OCM released Introduction to Economics for Coastal Managers, a basic introduction to economic ideas and methods that can be applied to coastal resource management. The economic concepts provided in this introduction are illustrated through several case studies. Other OCM/Digital Coast publications can be found here.

The following two websites provide information on the economic value of coasts and the ocean throughout the country.

The National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) provides a full range of the most current economic and socio-economic information available on changes and trends along the U.S. coast and in coastal waters. You can download data on jobs and GDP associated with specific types of coastal activities for each coastal state. You also can download data on commercial fishing and landings. The NOEP made public their fully updated Non-Market Valuation website in September 2008. The largest database in the world of studies documenting the environmental and recreational values of ocean resources, the website now includes 1) an updated methodologies section, 2) frequently asked questions, 3) examples of how Non-Market valuation influences public policy, and 4) an expanded table summarizing valuation estimates from across the United States. In 2014 NOEP released an updated State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2014, which points out that there is an imbalance between the economic importance of coasts and coastal oceans and the federal support for stewardship of these resources. According to the report, coastal states supply over 81 percent of American jobs and contribute $13 trillion to the economy, or 84 percent of GDP. More on this here. The National Ocean Economics Program previously released State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2009, which presents time-series data compiled over the past 10 years that track economic activities, demographics, natural resource production, non-market values, and federal expenditures in the U.S. coastal zone on land and water. The report states that coastal states account for more than 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The most recent report released by NOEP is the State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2016. The Center for the Blue Economy (CBE) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey now houses the National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP).
The website of Restore America's Estuaries has a report The Economic and Market Value of Coasts and Estuaries: What's At Stake?. According to the report, U.S. coasts and estuaries that have been protected and managed in a sustainable way are worth billions. Beaches, coastal communities, ports, and fragile bays are economic engines that drive and support large sectors of the national economy. The report focuses on aspects of coasts and estuaries that are most dependent on ecologically healthy conditions. The authors also examined a growing body of research that reveals the economic consequences of environmental change in coastal and estuary ecosystems.


A report A Review and Summary of Human Use Mapping in the Marine and Coastal Zone was published in December 2010. This report was prepared by ERG for NOAA's Coastal Services Center. The report evaluated different methods and approaches to measure human uses of the coastal and marine environment. The uses were divided into 1) military and industrial uses, 2) consumptive uses (e.g., fishing) and 3) non-consumptive activities (e.g., swimming, surfing, kayaking).

The economic value of beaches can increase or decrease due to a number of factors, including beach width; the presence or absence of amenities such as parking, restrooms or lifeguard services; the suitability of the beach for activities such as surfing or swimming; and the presence or absence of pollution and beach litter. In June 2014 NOAA published an infographic on the high cost of marine debris based on the report Assessing the Economic Benefits of Reductions in Marine Debris: A Pilot Study of Beach Recreation in Orange County, California, which was prepared by Industrial Economics, Inc. for NOAA's Marine Debris Division. It found that having debris on the beach and good water quality are the leading factors in deciding which beach residents visit. Reducing marine debris by even 25 percent at beaches in and near Orange County, California, could save residents approximately $32 million during the summer by not having to travel long distances to other beaches. Beach characteristics were collected for 31 popular Southern California public beaches from San Onofre Beach to Zuma Beach. Orange County residents were also surveyed on their recreation habits, including how many day trips they took to the beach from June - August 2013, where they went, how much it cost them, and which beach characteristics are important to them. The results provided in an estimate if how much Orange County residents would potentially benefit, including how often they visit beaches and how much they would save in travel costs, over a summer season by reducing marine debris at some or all of these 31 beaches. The study focused on Orange County because of the number and variety of beaches, their importance to permanent residents, ease of access, and likelihood that marine debris would be present. Researchers believe that, given the results, the study could be modified for assessing similar coastal communities in the United States.

For additional general discussion of the economic impacts of beaches, please see the article Economic Impact of Beaches.

Perception of Supply and Demand

The 2001 Assessment suggests that demand for public access since 1997 has not increased significantly. It goes on to report that there are several impediments to increased public access on Oregon's coast. One has been the increased threat of destruction to natural resources by the very people being provided the access. This situation was sufficiently serious in rocky intertidal areas that in 1994 the state developed a rocky shores management strategy. Another impediment is the damage and loss of access sites due to severe coastal erosion and wave action during the 1997-98 El Niño and 1998-99 La Niña events. Also, several statewide ballot measures have reduced state revenue for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and local public agencies. This further impedes the maintenance, repair, and acquisition of public access facilities.

NOAA's Final Evaluation Findings Oregon Coastal Management Program, August 2003 through October 2006, states:

"Impediments to increasing public access include crossing private property, as well as the topography in areas where steep bluffs limit the possibility of creating new access facilities. In addition, there are several management issues that coastal managers must consider. Many people recreate on the Oregon coast and different users have different expectations. Some users may want to hike in solitude, while others are happiest recreating in large groups near a parking lot where they can easily bring their belongings to the sand, and others may want to drive along the beach. In some cases, intense public use and sensitive habitats may not be compatible. Sensitive rocky intertidal habitat areas are particularly vulnerable to overuse and in need of protections to limit the impacts of use. The Ocean Shore Management Plan (OSMP) adopted by OPRD in 2005 addresses many of these concerns."


OCMP staff believes that with the exception of certain locations along the north coast, there is enough coastal access and beach parking to meet the current demand, but not to meet the projected demand in ten years. Public transportation to and along the coast is not believed to be sufficient to meet existing demand.[6]

In 2009 a member of the OCMP staff made the following observation (slightly edited):

"Oregon is generally regarded as having uncrowded beaches where people can walk or recreate in solitude...which indicates that Oregon has an enormous supply of beaches to meet a relatively low demand, notwithstanding the fact that on any given beach (say at Cannon Beach), there can be several hundreds of people in a small area. To put this in perspective, San Diego County in California has a population of 3 million and the entire state of Oregon is only 3.4 million, so Oregon doesn't have enough population pressure to make beach supply a problem."


Public Education Program

The 2001 Assessment reports that the OCMP co-sponsors a series of annual workshops conducted by Oregon Sea Grant to train local volunteer groups to provide interpretive services at seven rocky shore habitat areas. The OCMP access site and OPRD park site interactive inventories are noted above.

Contact Info

Bob Bailey
Oregon Coastal Program

Washington Border to Yachats (Clatsop, Tillamook, Lincoln and Lane Counties)
Tony Stein
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
401 SW 9th Street
Newport, OR 97365
Voice: 541-265-9871
Fax: 541-265-9157

Yachats to California Border (Lane, Douglas, Coos and Curry Counties)
Calum Stevenson
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
89814 Cape Arago Highway
Coos Bay, OR 97420-9647
Voice: 541-888-9324
Fax: 541-888-5650

Footnotes

  1. Paul Klarin, OOCMP. Surfrider State of the Beach Survey response. November 26, 2002.
  2. Beachhead Defense: Oregon Takes a New look at How It Governs Its Public Sands. The Register-Guard. November 17, 2002.
  3. Paul Klarin, OOCMP. Surfrider State of the Beach Survey response. November 2003.
  4. Beachhead Defense: Oregon Takes a New look at How It Governs Its Public Sands. The Register-Guard. November 17, 2002.
  5. Paul Klarin, OOCMP. Surfrider State of the Beach Survey response. November 26, 2002.
  6. Paul Klarin, OOCMP. Surfrider State of the Beach Survey response. November 26, 2002.



State of the Beach Report: Oregon
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