The good news about a plan to destroy one of the most amazing stretches of Oregon Coast came in waves this week.
First, Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department director Tim Wood sent a letter to the Curry County Board of Commissioners. In the letter, Wood essentially told the commission that, while the county had every right to submit a formal proposal for their plan to develop a pristine and beautiful section of Oregon Coast into golf courses, such a plan was highly unlikely to meet the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s extremely high standards for land swaps. The county’s plan, you may recall, involved swapping 68 acres of county land for 627 acres within Floras Lake State Natural Area.
“The ‘overwhelming public benefit to state parks’ standard is an extremely high bar,” Wood writes, “set to ensure that any trade or sale of state park property is unquestionably in the best interest of Oregonians as a whole…”
His letter then goes on to say that Floras Lake State Natural Area is a “unique and wondrous” treasure, and that the value of this property is “irreplaceable.”
“While I would advise the (parks) commission to provide the county the opportunity to present a proposal for this project should you desire to do so, I sincerely believe that there is no proposal for sale or trade of this property that would meet the standard established for such transactions.”
That is exactly the kind of response I was hoping to hear from OPRD, the kind of response that could essentially kill this misguided proposal on the spot.
Judging by a story in the Oregonian today, Wood’s letter did just that. The headline alone says it all:
Many thanks, then, not only to Tim Wood, OPRD, and the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission, but to everyone who opposed the county’s plan and supported preserving this truly incredible and unforgettable place. There will be no regrets.
After yesterday’s post about Curry County’s efforts to destroy a stretch of coast between Floras Lake and Blacklock Point in southern Oregon, I was curious to hear how a public meeting on the issue went last night.
Ann Vileisis, president of the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, and her husband, Tim Palmer, sent out a nice recap of the meeting this morning and said it’d be fine for me to share it with anyone and everyone who’s interested in saving this pristine stretch of the Oregon Coast.
It sounds as if the opposition turned out en masse, which is great. It also sounds, however, as if the county is going to press ahead despite this. They plan to make an official proposal to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission at the OSPRC’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, November 16, in Hood River. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, here’s Ann’s recap of the meeting last night:
I know that everyone who couldn’t make to last night’s big meeting in Gold Beach is curious about what happened. In short we did great! We counted forty-six people who spoke against the state park swap/golf resort proposal, two who spoke for it, and three who were neutral.
When we arrived, we saw that the youth-golf BBQ hadn’t amounted to much, and though we’d expected supporters to show up this time, they didn’t.
Rather than the question-card format that the county commissioners’ office had told us would be used, they set out a sign-up list for people who wanted to speak.
Strangely, after Commissioner Rhodes welcomed everyone, he started calling on people to make comments straight away.
After two people made comments opposing the proposal, Dave Lacey piped up and said: “Hey, aren’t you going to show us your proposal first so that we can make comments after we see it?”
Everyone applauded, and so Commissioner Rhodes shifted gears and presented his proposal with basically the same power-point that he’s already shown at the three town hall meetings. There was no new information. The names of the developers were not divulged. He emphasized how gorse would take over the land under state park management. He said that the Curry Commissioners wanted to make their official proposal to the State Parks commission at their meeting in Hood River on November 16.
After his presentation, Rhodes began to call citizens’ names again, and, one by one, people took turns making statements.
They were fantastic. From Langlois, Port Orford, Gold Beach, and Brookings, citizens made comments that were articulate, thoughtful and respectful –and covered all manner of arguments and concerns.
People talked about the special values of Floras Lake and Blacklock; about what a waste of time this whole process was; about the need to come up with a viable solution to the county’s fiscal crisis rather than continuing to pursue this pie in the sky proposal; about how the proposal would not meet the criteria for a state parks land exchange; about the secrecy of the proposal; about the need to raise taxes to a fair level; about how disappointed we were to STILL not know any more specifically about the proposal or the prospective developers; about how gorse would be exacerbated by development; about how public state parks lands should not be traded away for private development, and much, much more.
There were many high points as speakers emphasized different reasons that they oppose the proposal– with humor, heartwarming personal stories, or hard-hitting statements that seemed to just NAIL the key points. Many different perspectives were voiced, and I think it was utterly impressive.
Only one person clearly supported the proposal, contending that this was an important economic opportunity for the county, that Herb Kohler builds top-notch golf courses, and that environmental regulations had shut off access to Curry County’s natural resources. A man representing Curry Homebuilders Association praised the commissioners for trying to do something. One person from Bandon Dunes said that golf courses could be environmentally friendly; and another man introduced himself as an engineer and explained that he’d be doing a “scientific poll” to determine what people in Curry County actually think. That was a little odd–since his motive, authority, funding support, or background were not revealed.
All in all, it was an extraordinary meeting. Once again citizens from all over the county expressed resounding opposition to the idea of trading away a state park to create a private golf resort. Many people agreed that this evening was a milestone for Curry County in terms of having so many people speak in support of conservation and state parks.
Yet at this point, it looks like our County Commissioners will continue to press forward. Their motives and expectations remain a mystery to us. So please stay tuned, and make sure to write letters to the state parks commission, and encourage your friends to do so, if you’ve not already done so.
Thanks to everyone for your help and support. It takes all of our voices and ideas to defend the extraordinary values of this magnificent place we call home.
Ann and Tim
There is a place on the southern Oregon Coast where a cool Pacific breeze blows almost constantly off the steel-blue waters of the ocean, fanning out over fine brown-gray sand, bending and swaying long green blades of dune grass, brushing and bowling through stubby shore pines and tall inland Sitka spruce, reflecting off tawny sandstone cliffs that rise and tower over the wild shore. It is a place where purple and orange starfish and green anemones linger in salty tide pools, where seals spy and brown pelicans soar; a place where gray whales spout off in the distance and blue herons sail overhead.
Gazing from some lookouts, a near glimpse of the earth’s graceful curve; from others, waterfalls and crashing, foaming surf. There are occasional, subtle, tolerable signs of man: forest trails, colorful, far-off kite surfers, a small fishing boat, the clockwork pulse of the Cape Blanco Lighthouse under black skies spilling with stars.
Otherwise, this place, a sliver of shoreline south of Bandon near the tiny town of Langlois, is about as wild and as beautiful and as natural a place as is to be found along the entire Oregon Coast.
And yet, if commissioners from Curry County have their way, this place — it’s not hyperbole to summon the sacred here — would be cleaved and cleared, paved and pounded, planted with rough and greens, pocked with bunkers, soaked in poisons, manicured, homogenized and standardized, all in the name of a little white ball and a big green dollar bill.
Yes, the commissioners from Curry County, fearing for the solvency, maybe even the very existence, of the entire county, want to develop some of the most pristine and breathtaking land on the entire West Coast into . . . golf courses.
This so far informally proposed travesty came to my attention, coincidentally, on the very night that I returned home after an annual three-day backpack to this stretch of Oregon Coast with my family in late August. We’d just spent days in the sunshine, strolling the familiar sands — we’ve been coming back here for close to a decade — taking in the fresh ocean air, flying kites, slowing down, simplifying, refreshing. Late that night back at home, a headline in the Oregonian caught my eye. Its story dropped my jaw.
The short version: Curry County commissioners want to swap 68 acres of county land for 627 acres of Floras Lake State Natural Area, which has been part of the Oregon parks system since 1943. Through the swap, the county would create a new, 1260-acre county park. The land would be leased to a developer, who would then ransack it with two golf courses. One rendering shows a manicured green and two bunkers squarely on top of a dramatic sandstone plateau overlooking the Pacific. It is a landmark we know well.
The proposal also imagines an interpretive center — for what is a natural and scenic area without a center to interpret it? — and “improved” trails. Based on the county’s concept plan, that appears to mean paved.
All of this, the county supposes, would “create accessibility to public lands” and showcase “ecologically sound land management” and “preservation of native species.” It would also, in bold red letters, lead to “job creation” and “direct revenue for the general fund.”
To me, the entire idea is absolutely galling. Nonsense.
Thankfully, I am not alone. Public opposition seems to far outweigh support. Conservation groups such as the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, and the Portland-based Crag Law Center, all have lined up in opposition. And not only do people question the financial projections and oppose the destruction of this one-of-a-kind treasure, but there is a fishy odor in the air — and it’s not coming from the Pacific.
For months, the commission kept its proposal — and its work with potential developers — behind closed doors. In late June, the Oregon State Parks Department discovered 16 pits within the Floras Lake State Natural Area that had been illegally excavated with heavy equipment. The pits were discovered over an 8-mile section of trail between the southern edge of Floras Lake and Blacklock Point, which just so happens to be the area under consideration for development. No one seems to know who did it; as of today, Oregon State Police are still investigating.
This misguided proposal seems like a long shot for another reason, as well. According to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, projects that transfer state park property out of the park system are rare and must meet a high standard — providing “overwhelming benefits to the state park system.” This proposal does not meet that standard at all.
Still, the very fact that this idea is out there and that it’s being given official attention is, at the very least, troubling. It’s also an idea that you hear over and over again. Repackaged, maybe, but the gist is always the same: Develop — i.e. destroy — our most wild, pristine and beautiful places in the name of economic progress and increased access. It’s been tried on Mount Hood. It’s been suggested for Mount Adams. It’s come again now to the Oregon Coast.
Well, not this time. Not this wild, beautiful and scenic place. This one is too close to me. It’s too important. It is too much to lose.
Every time I come here, I am awed. We’ve been bringing our kids here practically every year since they were born. We will keep bringing them here, and one day — imagine — they may bring their kids here, too.
And it won’t be to play golf.
The Curry County Commission is holding an informational meeting at 5 p.m. today, Sept. 14, in Docia Sweet Hall of the Curry County Fairgrounds in Gold Beach. Members of the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission will be in attendance to hear details of the county park proposal.
Opposition comments can be submitted at any time to Chris Havel at the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (firstname.lastname@example.org) and to Curry County Commissioners George Rhodes (email@example.com), Bill Waddle (firstname.lastname@example.org) and David Itzen (email@example.com).