As 2023 comes to a close for Surfrider’s Oregon chapter network, we could not be more proud reflecting on all the remarkable accomplishments for our ocean, waves and beaches. From big statewide plastic pollution victories like banning foam takeout containers to stopping harmful beach development projects and securing a land donation for beach access, our Oregon network this year has been active across all of our key initiatives. Please take a moment to review some top initiative achievements from 2023 and take pride in knowing you are a part of Surfrider's collective effort!
From the Field
This year ushered in change as a new Oregon Field Manager, Kaia Hazard, officially joined the Surfrider team to help lead and organize with our chapter network. A top event again from our field this year was our Coastal Recreational Hill Day, where Oregon volunteers joined our national network in Washington D.C. and met with federal leaders to encourage swift national action to protect our coasts and ocean. Another highlight was our Annual Cascadia Leadership Conference, which brought volunteers together from Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia chapters. We spent the weekend collaborating, learning, and connecting with Surfrider advocates and staff, and had a record attendance of nearly 60 people!
And in keeping with the enjoyment in our mission, this year marked the 13th year of the Otter Rock and Roll surf & stewardship event with nearly 70 youth participants and 41 volunteers. The event remains Oregon’s longest-running and only surf contest designed solely for kids, complete with a best beginner division to support young learners.
We are really proud of the work that you, our network, has accomplished and inspired action and change for our oceans and coasts. Here’s a top line summary of key outcomes and highlights from each of our priority initiatives:
Helping to eliminate plastic pollution as one of the greatest threats to our oceans and wildlife remained a key area for our Oregon chapter network’s focus this year. At the state level, Surfrider launched a bold policy package in early 2023 and our tireless activism in Salem led to 2 major statewide victories - finally banning foam takeout in restaurants and paving the way for reusables in Oregon health code, significant policy wins representing years of work. At the grassroots level, our chapters continue to keep our beaches clean, with 34 beach and inland cleanups, engaging 831 volunteers and removing more than 5,000 lbs of trash. At the programmatic level, our volunteers continue expanding our Ocean Friendly programs to support businesses like restaurants in reducing single use plastics.
This year marked the ten year anniversary for Oregon’s Marine Reserves and Protected Areas, a major ocean protection and conservation achievement for the state of Oregon that has been a priority for Surfrider since their designations. These underwater parks are havens for wildlife, critical habitat, fisheries and community research as well as supporting climate resiliency. While our legislative effort fell short in 2023 to advance climate and tribal recommendations for these special places, we have organized a sharp campaign aimed at 2024 for this Oregon ocean protection legacy.
And keeping us on our heels has been the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that released draft Wind Energy Areas for leasing significant areas of Oregon’s ocean for offshore wind energy development. At the crux of climate change is our dependence on fossil fuels yet the development of our wild ocean spaces for renewable energy presents significant trade-offs and consternation for many. Surfrider navigated the political emotions of this process in 2023 to educate and survey our chapter network; and, ultimately file extensive comments to BOEM both individually and again collectively with a wildlife coalition.
Oregon’s public beaches are on the front line of climate change. How we respond to erosion, sea level rise planning, and development interests will not just dictate our own resilience to climate changes, but whether or not we even have beaches to walk on in the future - indeed our beaches are shrinking. Following the loss this year in a shoreline armoring campaign in Tillamook, which may create loopholes for development, Oregon is in need of policy reform, local planning and state guidance to better address sustainably managing our beaches in response to climate change and sea level rise. In better news, our North Coast Chapter had a significant campaign victory in protecting the public beach and preventing an audacious “superdrive” development. This year Surfrider also launched a project in Cannon Beach, securing a FEMA grant to support planning and design for nature based solutions to ongoing erosion at Ecola Creek. And we’ve launched a new Save the Shore campaign to improve shoreline management that protects public beaches in the community.
Following a two year legal battle to restore beach access to Lighthouse Beach in Coos Bay, significant progress was made in 2023 when the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission voted to conditionally accept a donation of land for the access. This milestone comes as part of Surfrider and the O’Leary family’s continued legal negotiations to restore public access to Lighthouse Beach in perpetuity. Surfrider’s Coos Bay Chapter has poured countless hours of fundraising and legal strategy to arrive at this solution, creating this proud legacy for future generations to enjoy Lighthouse Beach - massive!
Surfrider’s robust Blue Water Task Force Program in Oregon once again shined with 404 water quality samples taken representing around 800 volunteer hours across 6 Surfrider chapter labs and programs from Coos Bay to Astoria. A truly remarkable program that alerts surfers and beachgoers to water quality conditions at their local beaches - some of which have run continuously now for over 20 years! The program this year made early detection on several sewer issues in Newport leading to speedy remediation and continues to serve as a critical baseline for healthy recreation. At the policy level, Oregon is addressing climate action through water quality regulations targeting Ocean Acidification. This groundbreaking initiative is the first in the nation to establish a methodology for regulating Ocean Acidification under the Clean Water Act and Oregon’s Integrated Water Quality Monitoring plan.