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Pacific City Talk / Hike Event Remembers Landmark Oregon Coast Moment

Published 05/04/2017 at 6:53 PM PDT - Updated 05/04/2017 at 6:59 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Pacific City Talk / Walk Event Remembers Landmark Oregon Coast Moment

(Pacific City, Oregon) – Another landmark moment that led to the signing of the Beach Bill in the '60s will be commemorated on Mother's Day, May 14, with the “Mother's Day March” event in Pacific City.

It was a key moment in Oregon's campaign to make Oregon coast beaches public, happening on Mother's Day 1966. Back then, hundreds joined a march in the Pacific City area to protest the building of a highway straight through estuaries and other fragile shoreline areas, urged along by State Treasurer Bob Straub – who would years later become governor. The march was yet another milestone towards the beach bill changing the Oregon coast for the better.

On this May 14, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition sponsors a beachwalk and history talk to honor the famous event.

First, the public gathers at 10:30 a.m. at the Kiawanda Community Center (34600 Cape Kiwanda Dr.) in Pacific City. After refreshments and a few brief reminiscences, the group will head to the nearby entrance of Bob Straub State Park at 11 a.m. and walk down the Nestucca Spit. The walk will take place rain or shine, although its length will depend on the weather.

As the walk concludes, organizers bring the group back to the Kiwanda Center for talks and a potluck picnic. First up is a presentation about former Gov. Bob Straub, the original Mother's Day March, and the subsequent battles to get the beach bill signed into law. The speaker will be Charles K. Johnson, author of “Standing at the Water’s Edge: Bob Straub’s Battle for the Soul of Oregon.”

Then, it's fun times with the potluck picnic, either on the beach or inside the Kiawanda Center, depending on weather. There is no charge for the event; bring something to share if staying for the picnic. The Pelican Pub will be providing free beer, while the Grateful Bread restaurant will be bringing coffee and baked goods.

When Straub was still state treasurer, he took the reigns of a desperate effort to prevent an environmental disaster on the Oregon coast. What was then called the State Highway Department (before it became ODOT) was planning to move part of Highway 101 south of Cape Lookout to create a straightened stretch where drivers could see the ocean from their vehicles. That new alignment of highway would've cut into the Nestucca Spit, created a bridge over the Nestucca River mouth and destroyed beach areas down to about Cascade Head.

With Straub taking up the cause and becoming the prominent face of the campaign, opponents to the highway project organized against in a very grass-roots manner and eventually won. One of the key ways to bring public attention to the subject was the march on the Nestucca Spit. It worked, and much of Oregon's population became supportive of the effort to keep the highway out. The plan was killed.

At the time, Straub addressed the Highway Commission on the importance of keeping the beauty of the Oregon coast.

“Our beach resource is a limited resource. The demand for it, the need for it, the value of its beauty is stronger and stronger every day. A few individuals, a few short-sighted promotional type organizations are beating the drums for this beach route as a way for them to make a quick dollar and destroy, in the process, their most valuable asset. Gentlemen, they would sell out too quickly and too cheaply."

The event is the first in a series that the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition will hold in 2017 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Oregon Beach Bill, which preserved the state’s entire shoreline for the public. This initial activity, though, honors an occasion that preceded the Beach Bill campaign, but served as a prelude to the struggle to keep Oregon’s beaches open, natural, and public.

Future Gov. Straub and the group he founded, Beaches Forever, played a key role in the battle to reserve the state’s beaches and rocky shores for public use and enjoyment. Straub's role in the entire campaign is not known nearly as well as the efforts by Gov. Tom McCall and and Oregon Shores' founder Bob Bacon, which prompted Oregon Shores to create this celebration of Straub's role in Oregon coast history.

Historian and keynote speaker Johnson said Straub's vision was a big part of the success of the Oregon Beach Bill story.

"Without Bob Straub's early warning, highway crews would have scarred beautiful stretches of Oregon's northern coastline with development from Winema Beach to Cape Kiwanda and the Nehalem Spit to Manzanita,” Johnson said. “The citizen movement that Bob Straub started became a wave of protest that swamped Gov. McCall's beach highway plan. It was the precursor to the tsunami of public outrage that descended on the State Legislature over plans to privatize Oregon's beaches and led directly to the Beach Bill. On this issue and many others, Straub's early challenges helped Tom McCall find his voice as Oregon's environmental champion."

For more information about the May 14 Mother’s Day March, or other plans for celebrating the Beach Bill, contact Phillip Johnson, Oregon Shores’ executive director, 503-754-9303,, or Oregon Shores board member and local organizer Graham Klag, (971) 998-6604, Where to stay for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour


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