State officials have ruled that there won’t be any rule changes surrounding vehicle access to the beach off NW 35th in Lincoln City, despite safety concerns expressed by the neighbors. Cars can still use the narrow dirt road to the beach and have access to the sand 150 feet north and south of the line made by the road. However, the adjoining neighbors aren’t happy about it. They contend motorists can’t see very well on either side as they go up and down the unimproved narrow driveway to the beach.
Members of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission, bowing to a long historical tradition of vehicular access to Oregon beaches, said they understand that cars and four wheel drive rigs using the road and the beach, along with pedestrians, poses some safety concerns. But commissioners pointed out that problems have been minor to non-existent according to police records. They also remind everyone that beach access and the beach itself belong to all citizens of Oregon – not just to the local neighborhood. It’s a very important distinction, they say – one that the parks and recreation commission is legally bound to acknowledge and comply with.
The NW 35th Street access is one of two access spots in Lincoln City – the other is off NW 15th.
But the Parks and Recreation Commission didn’t leave the issue to linger in its current state. Members indicated that the commission will re-examine the situation next year. In the meantime, the commission said state park rangers, City Hall, the business community and the neighbors should get together and explore how the two uses could be engineered to reduce or remove safety concerns.
Commission officials say the site would need considerable improvements to the property, if it was to continue to accommodate both vehicles and pedestrian access to the beach. The parking lot and beach access is publicly owned with private homeowner properties on either side.
State park officials say any improvements, like paving, parking and separate stairways, would have to be negotiated between the city and the state. Neither entity has such a project on its “to do” list. State officials say the improvements won’t be cheap.
Those advocating to maintain, if not expand vehicular access to the beach, claim that Oregon has a long social, recreational and economic history of vehicular beach access and that any access withdrawal is another nail in the coffin of such a uniquely historical recreation tradition. Before roads were built along the western edge of the state, travel along the coast for decades was primarily by driving on the beaches.
Local business organizations and the city, along with neighbors and access supporters, are expected to meet and confer over the next year to deal with the NW 35th beach access issue. Until then, it’s status quo. They just urge everybody to be cautious and to watch out for each other.