Today on the Land Use Trail: Oswald West State Park

We’re continuing our tour of our Land Use Trail. Today, January 3Oswald West State Park, an emblem of Oregon’s century-long protections for its incomparable coast.

About: In 1913, Governor Oswald West convinced the Oregon Legislature to do something unprecedented in world history: declare Oregon’s entire coastline to be public property, ostensibly for use as a highway but in West’s eyes, as the “great birthright of our people.” West’s bold move laid the ground for what is today a multibillion dollar coastal tourism industry—the lifeblood of scores of communities from Brookings to Gearhart. Without this action Oregon’s coast might be lined with large estates and private resorts. Today, we celebrate Governor West’s courage at Oswald West State Park in Tillamook County, where four miles of coastline and many miles of hiking trails are open to the public—forever.  

Key Fact: Governor West’s historic beach protections were further expanded under Governor Tom McCall in 1967’s “Beach Bill”, extending public access to the coastal dunes. While McCall receives a lot of credit for this accomplishment, a lesser-known hero is celebrated on a plaque at Oswald West State Park. Matt Kramer, a legislative correspondent with the Associated Press, published a series of articles in 1967 that built support for McCall’s expanded beach protections. Kramer died just five years later, but without his straightforward reporting, McCall’s Beach Bill might never have passed. Learn more here.

Another Cool Fact:  Most of Oswald West State Park was acquired under Samuel Boardman’s leadership in the 1930s, becoming the first state park on the north coast of Oregon. The park was originally called Short Sand Beach State Park, after the beach that is still a major attraction for surfers, beachcombers, and picnickers. The park was renamed in Governor West’s honor in 1956.


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