The Oregon coast and Pacific Ocean is seen from Cascade Head near Otis, Ore.

The Oregon coast and Pacific Ocean is seen from Cascade Head near Otis, Ore.

Andrew Selsky/AP

Before white settlers arrived in Oregon, the beaches were a major highway for native populations.

That function continued with the introduction of cars, when the state blasted rock from headlands so people could drive from beach to beach.

In the early 1900s, Gov. Oswald West passed a bill to secure public ownership of those headland routes. But until 1967 nobody thought about doing the same thing for the dry sands.

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The Beach Bill

That’s when hotel owners tried to section off beach areas.

Former Gov. Tom McCall said Oregonians shouldn’t have to live without access.

“We must fight to reestablish in fact, in the most meaningful way the concept of the public ownership of the beaches, established by that great Oregonian Os West, some 50 to 55 years ago,” he said.

On May 13, 1967, McCall drew attention to the bill by flying a helicopter to the beach with a team of scientists and surveyors. The dramatic event resulted in overwhelming public support for the bill.  

Oregon’s Beach Bill was fashioned on a similar bill that had recently passed in Texas.