Short Sands (Oswald West State Park) the morning after… #TakingBackOurParks Solutions for Curbing Visitor Invasion — CALL TO ACTION: Email to Travel Oregon, Oregon Coast Visitors Association, Visit Tillamook Coast

By Laura Swanson & Julie Chick for the Tillamook County Pioneer

From Julie Chick: I wanted to get a first hand look at Short Sands after a day like yesterday (Saturday August 15th), so I headed up at 6:15am this morning, August 16th.
Here is what I noted:

• The upper bathrooms were open but only 2 of the 3 toilets in the women’s were working. I did not bother to look into the men’s, I’d seen enough! Messy, gross.

• I counted 12 not-so-elusive TP “flowers” (toilet paper piles) with varying decomposition of human waste with them between the south parking lot and the beach along Necarney Creek Trail! I counted more going up through the old campground but was satisfied it is simply TOO MUCH!


• The beach was reasonably clean and not busy yet.

• The lower bathrooms are still closed. I talked to Ranger Brian who was, at 7:15am, trying to fix the water so the drinking fountain and toilets would work. He says he spends most of his time cleaning bathrooms and picking up trash which leaves very little time for other Ranger activities. He was NOT complaining, he was SO NICE and wonderful. I want to help him! We need to help them!

• The photo of the garbage is Saturday’s haul. Bless these Rangers!

• While we were talking, a surfer came up to get water because he did not know there was none. Fortunately, they accomplished that in the storage room. Brian was trying to get the fountain to work by end of day today.

• The parking lots are really messy and could use a big organized cleanup.

• Oregon State Police now monitors the parking between Hug Point and Os West from 12pm – 4pm. I didn’t catch if that is weekends only or every day.

“Overnighters” parked on Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain at sunrise today August 16th, parked in “day use” area. Photo by Julie Chick

• There were 30 cars on Neah-Kah-Nie mountain at 6:30AM and 3/4 of them looked to be overnighters. Some under No Parking signs, and many in the last south pullout with no sign.

CALL TO ACTION – Please email to Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, Tillamook County Commissioners, Travel Oregon, Oregon Coast Visitors Association, Visit Tillamook Coast, the Governor’s office. We’ve heard from locals that are afraid to speak out because of the vicious comments on social media, and fearing retribution. That’s how locals are treated – bullied into silence, giving up our “backyards” to spoiled, entitled a**holes. There are stories about large groups (20+) of out-of-town surfers “taking over” Short Sands beach and threatening local surfers.
We are not “anti-tourism” – we have been sounding the alarm about “over-visitation” (and rude behavior) for several years. We want to share our amazing natural resources with everyone, just not all at once, and we want everyone to have a great experience when they are here, so they will want to come back again. With the situation now, visitors are not having good experiences, and our natural resources (and local residents) are showing the strain from the popularity. This was going on BEFORE the pandemic and doesn’t have anything to do with the closures. It’s simple – too many people trying to visit the same places at the same time. Visitors need education and notice about these things (no bathrooms, garbage service), and Travel Oregon, Oregon Coast Visitors Association and Visit Tillamook Coast should be doing that all the time. They have the money and capacity — OPRD, OFD and other land managers do not.
We have solutions – an app (or website) that alerts visitors to places that are “full”; just like TripCheck shows green, yellow, red for traffic conditions, same with parks and forest areas. Then, visitors can make informed decisions to visit another place, or visit at another time. SPREAD THEM OUT! Then everyone has a great experience, and under-utilized resources gain new visitors. Win-Win!
SIGNAGE – with safety messaging and “leave no trace”, pack-it-in-pack-it-out, “Abuse It, and Lose It.” Many of the folks visiting don’t know the “rules” or etiquette of outdoor recreation. Let’s teach them the ways to do it right, so everyone can enjoy it. Or, maybe it’s time for tough love; the locals we’ve talked with would rather see places locked up and closed than to see careless visitors destroying the places we love. The way that these people are treating our parks and wild areas, they don’t deserve to have access to them.
We acknowledge that there are thoughtful, mindful, careful visitors, but the numbers have shifted. From our county parks department head, “It used to be 90% were great visitors and there was the 10% that caused problems. Now, it’s more like 50-50, really it’s 60% or more are bad visitors …”
You can blame the pandemic but there is no excuse for this kind of abuse of our natural resources and of our people.
BATHROOMS – Here’s an ironic situation … when Tillamook County was forming it’s tourism organization, listening sessions were held throughout the county, and one of the main “needs” identified was bathrooms. The facilitator of these meetings belittled the locals about their focus on toilets, saying, “I’ve never seen a community were so many people were concerned about bathrooms.” We told you so … you should listen to the locals.
We know how important tourism is to our communities, but not all visitors are created equal. There are the stewards of the environment, the groups that come here just to volunteer for beach cleanups, that help build trails and understand how precious and tenuous our natural world is – those are the kinds of visitors we want. Oh right, the “good” visitors are the ones doing the right thing, and staying home to keep us safe from spreading COVID-19. And yes, in the beginning we could have, and should have, been sending out VIP invitations to these visitors, instead of “welcoming” the hordes.
LEGISLATION – to change how we can use TLT funds, to stop “marketing” and issuing “you’all come” messaging, and start helping our park rangers, our first responders, law enforcement, search and rescue; Effective outreach and education campaigns about how to be a “good” visitor; housing for our essential workers, and much more.
Help us – please send copies of your emails, your stories and photos to the Tillamook County Pioneer – editor@tillamookcountypioneer.net – #TakingBackOurParks
Send email letters (and photos) to:

Travel Oregon –
Director Todd Davidson – todd@traveloregon.com; Kristin Dahl – North Coast Studios – kristin@traveloregon.com,
industry@traveloregon.com,
kayla@traveloregon.com
Andrew Grossman: andrew@traveloregon.com
David Beurle: david@future-iq.com

Oregon Coast Visitors Association – Marcus Hinz, director – director@thepeoplescoast.com; Arica Sears, Communication Manager, icom@thepeoplescoast.com

Visit Tillamook Coast – Nan Devlin, director – nan@tillamookcoast.com

Governor’s Office – Regional Solutions team – Jennifer Purcell, jennifer.purcell@state.or.us

Oregon Parks & Recreation Department contacts:
Lisa Sumption, Director
Lisa.Sumption@oregon.gov

Chris Havel, Associate Director
Chris.Havel@oregon.gov

Tillamook County Commissioners – Mary Faith Bell – mfbell@co.tillamook.or.us; Bill Baertlein – bbaertled@co.tillamook.or.us; David Yamamots – dyamamoto@co.tillamook.or.us
State representative – Senator Betsy Johnson (sen.bjohnson@state.or.us),

Oregon Trails Coalition, Stephanie Noll: steph.noll@oregontrailscoalition.org

Trailkeepers of Oregon: Steve.Kruger@trailkeepersoforegon.com

Outdoor Rec. Oregon: Calin O’Brien: Cailin.OBrienFeeney@oregon.gov