The Oregon State Parks and Recreation Committee agreed Wednesday, Nov. 18, to open rulemaking on vehicle restrictions on beaches in south Tillamook County near Pacific City and north of Tierra Del Mar. The committee hosted open public discussion during the Nov. 18 meeting, during which there was unanimous support to open the rulemaking process.
Katie Gauthier, government relations and policy manager at Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), read through the proposed rule change, based on Tillamook County’s request to open the rulemaking process. The proposed rule change would create a year-round closure of beach parking in the area.
Working with the county, OPRD had limited vehicle beach parking from Cape Kiwanda south to the Nestucca River since July 1, Gauthier stated in her report. Vehicles involved in launching or retrieving commercial or recreational boats are still allowed to park on the beach.
Gauthier said the public comment period would be open from Dec. 1 through Feb. 12. OPRD will have a website that has the maps and information and will accept public comments via email, mail and website.
“We would plan a virtual public hearing and an in-person opportunity for folks to comment, whether it’s an open house or hearing, we’ll work with the county on that piece,” Gauthier said. “We’ll also work with the Pacific City Chamber on a specific business hearing to talk about the impacts to business.”
Associate Director Chris Havel said OPRD’s plans for an in-person hearing are subject to health guidance and executive orders.
“We are recommending to this commission to close one area to beach driving and parking,” Tillamook County Commissioner David Yamamoto said. “That would be the Cape Kiwanda area.”
Yamamoto added that this is a huge life safety issue, especially with families and children. When COVID-19 hit, the county closed vehicle beach access at Cape Kiwanda.
Regarding the recommendation to restrict vehicle beach access, the county received about 1,000 comments, Yamamoto added. Groups that had concerns included paragliders, elderly and the disabled. The commissioners recommend keeping access open for the dory fleet.
Yamamoto said there are plans in place for alternative parking. There is a Cape Kiwanda Advisory Committee.
“Our parks department owns what we call Web Park,” Yamamoto said. “It’s a small camping facility and the county owns property behind and above Web Park, so we would trade our own parks department with property for them to continue their camping facility and we would turn Web Park into a parking facility to take some of the overflow parking.”
The county is also in negotiations for the Jensen property in Pacific City. The Jensen property consists of several parcels totaling nearly six acres located in Pacific City along Cape Kiwanda Drive, bordered to the north by the Kiawanda Center and to the south by the county-owned Pacific City Turnaround.
Oregon State Parks and Recreation Committee Commissioner Victoria Berger, who is a property owner in Pacific City, said McPhillips Beach is a much easier beach to drive than Cape Kiwanda.
“I do know this area very well and the safety issue here is enormous,” Berger said.
Bri Goodwin, Oregon field manager of Surfrider Foundation, said Tillamook County’s announcement of raising parking fees for Tillamook County parks and day use areas to $10 made them take a step back. Goodwin asked for OPRD to include stakeholders for the beach parking issue, including residents and business owners.
Lisa Macy-Baker, chair of the Surfrider Foundation in Pacific City, said the last 10-20 years highlight the need for change. Surfrider hopes the state and county will implement parking off the beach. They also hope OPRD will look at what the county is doing with the $10 parking fee.
The commission agreed to open rulemaking. The public comment period will be open beginning Dec. 1 on oregon.gov/oprd