Mother’s Day March Celebrates Beach Battle
A key moment in Oregon’s campaign for public beaches will be celebrated this Mother’s Day, May 14, in Pacific City when the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition sponsors a beachwalk and history talk to honor the famous “Mother’s Day March.” The original event, in 1966, sparked public opposition to a proposed highway that would have run alongside the ocean for many miles and destroyed the natural shoreline.
The public is invited to gather at 10:30 a.m. at the Kiawanda Community Center (34600 Cape Kiwanda Dr.) in Pacific City. After refreshments and a few brief reminiscences, the group will head to the nearby entrance of Bob Straub State Park at 11 a.m. and walk down the Nestucca Spit. The walk will take place rain or shine, although its length will depend on the weather.
At the conclusion of the walk, participants will return to the Kiawanda Center to hear a talk about former Gov. Bob Straub, the original Mother’s Day March, and the battle to preserve Oregon’s public shoreline. The speaker will be Charles K. Johnson, author of “Standing at the Water’s Edge: Bob Straub’s Battle for the Soul of Oregon.” The talk will be followed by a potluck picnic, either on the beach or inside the Kiawanda Center, depending on weather. There is no charge for the event; bring something to share if staying for the picnic. Local sponsors the Pelican Pub and the Grateful Bread restaurant are providing free beer and coffee and baked goods, respectively.
In 1966, then-State Treasurer Bob Straub took leadership of a desperate effort to prevent an environmental disaster on the Oregon coast. The State Highway Department (predecessor to today’s Oregon Department of Transportation) had formulated a plan to move the route of Highway 101 south of Cape Lookout, so as to straighten the highway and enable drivers to see the ocean out of their car windows. The new highway alignment would have cut across farmlands, paved over part of the Sand Lake estuary, barreled straight down the Nestucca Spit, bridged the Nestucca River’s mouth, and blasted its way down to a point near Cascade Head.
With Straub as the prominent face of the campaign, opponents organized against the highway project, and eventually succeeded in getting it cancelled. One key organizing gambit to draw public attention to their cause was to hold a march led by Straub on Mother’s Day, 1966, which was attended by hundreds of people and galvanized public opposition to the loss of the natural shoreline.
Straub commented shortly thereafter to the Highway Commission, “Our beach resource is a
limited resource. The demand for it, the need for it, the value of its beauty is stronger and stronger every day…A few individuals, a few short-sighted promotional type organizations…are beating the drums for this beach route as a way for them to make a quick dollar and destroy, in the process, their most valuable asset…Gentlemen, they would sell out too quickly and too cheaply.”
The event is the first in a series that the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition will hold in 2017 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Oregon Beach Bill, which preserved the state’s entire shoreline for the public. This initial activity, though, honors an occasion that preceded the Beach Bill campaign, but served as a prelude to the struggle to keep Oregon’s beaches open, natural, and public. Future Gov. Straub and the group he founded, Beaches Forever, played a key role in the battle to reserve the state’s beaches and rocky shores for public use and enjoyment. Straub’s efforts are less well-remembered than those of former Gov. Tom McCall and Oregon Shores’ founder, Bob Bacon (who led the citizen advocacy group which pushed for passage of the Beach Bill), which is why Oregon Shores chose to kick off the Beach Bill anniversary celebration by emphasizing Straub’s place in that history.
Notes Straub historian and keynote speaker for the May 14 event, Charles Johnson, “Without Bob Straub’s early warning, highway crews would have scarred beautiful stretches of Oregon’s northern coastline with development from Winema Beach to Cape Kiwanda and the Nehalem Spit to Manzanita. The citizen movement that Bob Straub started became a wave of protest that swamped Gov. McCall’s beach highway plan. It was the precursor to the tsunami of public outrage that descended on the State Legislature over plans to privatize Oregon’s beaches and led directly to the Beach Bill. On this issue and many others, Straub’s early challenges helped Tom McCall find his voice as Oregon’s environmental champion.”
For more information about the May 14 Mother’s Day March, or other plans for celebrating the Beach Bill, contact Phillip Johnson, Oregon Shores’ executive director, 503-754-9303, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Oregon Shores board member and local organizer Graham Klag, (971) 998-6604, email@example.com