Hard rain pelted the truck as Sonny the ancient Husky and I drove Highway 101 past Oswald West State Park and the Matt Kramer Memorial, both sacred sites in Oregon. But as soon as we reached Manzanita, the rain dissipated and I decided to take Sonny to the beach. I keep thinking each visit could be her last so I never bypass an opportunity to see my old dog listen to the old sound of the ocean.
I carried her down to the beach and let her find her way to a sturdily constructed driftwood fort. I have to watch her closely these days because she’s almost totally blind. Thus, I took a seat on a driftlog, kept an eye peeled and began musing on the upcoming gig of my lifetime.
My 7-7-17 citizen campaign to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Beach Bill on July of 2017 is well underway and my list of participants grows daily. So far, I’ve barnstormed Corvallis, Eugene, Seaside, Portland, Milwaukie, Astoria, Yachats, Lincoln City, Gold Beach, Bandon, a dozen dive bars, and now Manzanita to spread the gospel and recruit an army.
As of yet, I have heard nothing concrete from Oregon State Parks about their plans to celebrate this monumental law. About a year ago, I met in person and later communicated via e-mail with the agency’s director and she seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of collaborating. She was supposed to come visit me at the coast and hash out some ideas and, well, I haven’t heard a word since.
State Parks inexcusably ignored the 100th anniversary of former Oregon Governor Tom McCall’s birthday in 2013 and the centennial of former Oregon Governor Oswald West’s landmark 1913 bill that inaugurated Oregon’s special relationship to its ocean beaches. It was West who memorably called Oregon’s ocean beaches our “great birthright.”
I would like to remind State Parks of their proactive and heroic role in the passage of the Beach Bill in 1967, the legislation that protected the dry sand areas of our beaches from privatization and garish, ungodly development. Without their taking the lead on this issue and drafting a bill for the legislative session, the Oregon Coast would look hellishly different today. I would also like remind State Parks that it published an exquisite 77-page pamphlet in 1977 celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Beach Bill.
“Oregon’s Beaches: A Birthright Preserved” has proved indispensible in my research of this story (and others) and one can only hope State Parks has something similar in mind 40 years later.
Can someone in the department take some initiative and get started with the planning? Maybe someone already has. I’ve been on the sandy ground taking the pulse of Oregonians and I can assure you the people are ready to party! I’ve even received word that a couple of Oregonians living abroad are flying home for 7-7-17.
Then again, if I never hear anything from State Parks, no big deal. The celebrations will still go down in the multiple ways clever Oregonians can conjure them. Here’s what I know is already happening:
• At least two Oregon Coast breweries are planning to brew a Beach Bill-themed beer. (It better taste like Rainier.)
• Some marijuana pros are going to produce a special Beach Bill strain. (I can’t wait to hear what it’s called!)
• Several musicians are writing songs. A music festival is in the works
• Art shows
• A community beach walk
• A kelp jump rope contest
• A Matt Kramer essay contest on the merits of socialist beaches
• A historical reenactment of McCall visiting the beach during the battle to pass the Beach Bill
I plan on building the biggest driftwood fort in the history of the world with friends and strangers … and then burning it to the ground at dusk while a hundred guitarists play “Louie, Louie.” I might even throw in a naked drum circle for a dash of counterculture flavor. I might even rescue a dog from an animal shelter and take it to the beach for the first time in its life. I might even get married (she doesn’t know it yet.)
What are you going to do on 7-7-17? What’s our current governor going to do? What’s the surfing community going to do? Schools? Chambers of Commerce? Start planning! Get moving and send me your plans.
Matt Love is the author/editor of 14 books about Oregon, including “The Great Birthright: An Oregon Novel.” They are available at coastal bookstores and through www.nestuccaspitpress.com, which is also the place to go to join the 7-7-17 celebration.