It’s been a year and while 2020 has served us up incredible obstacles, our Surfrider network has continued to rise with the tide demonstrating strong and adaptable civic leadership, grassroots resiliency and continued advocacy for our oceans, waves and beaches. Whether responding to tourism impacts on our beaches and communities in times of coastal closures or making sure community members didn’t go hungry during the pandemic, our chapter network adapted and responded. And as new challenges came in 2020, so did new organizing with the launch of a Three Capes Organizing Committee in Pacific City soon to officially join our Oregon chapter network. We also found new ways to (safely) have fun! From remote beach cleanup bingo to virtual marine reserve art and ocean trivia events we explored new activities and broadened our audience. For those of us lucky to live near the beach or take a dip in the ocean in 2020, recreation and the outdoors kept us grounded in the importance of our mission to protect these spaces – when the state was on fire and the world in a pandemic, we still may find ourselves healthy and sane in our ocean, waves and beaches.

Check out a recap of some of Oregon Surfrider’s 2020 accomplishments:

Surfrider launched our 2020 ocean protection efforts targeting Oregon’s short legislative session with an Ocean Climate Bill aimed at monitoring and adapting to climate change impacts on Oregon’s coast and ocean ecosystems. We joined a national delegation of Surfrider volunteers (pre-pandemic) to demand action on climate change on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Oregon’s hill day delegation pauses in front of the Capitol building for a photo between meetings

We finalized and published a 2-year study on shoreside visitation and recreation at one of Oregon’s Marine Reserve and Protected Areas and managed to safely inspire thousands with virtual tours of these special places and engaged hundreds in creative online events. Following years of Surfrider’s leadership on a special ocean habitat working group for Oregon’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council resulted in stronger protections for rocky habitats and a new public process in 2020 for designating special marine habitats. And when the threats and vulnerabilities of Oregon’s seafloor were exposed in an abandoned undersea cable accident, Surfrider was quick to organize and advocate for policy solutions.

Spotlight event(s):  Surfrider partnered with Elisabeth Jones Art Center to bring live education and art lessons to people’s living rooms for the “Beautiful Creatures of Oregon’s Marine Reserves: An Educational and Art Experience” series (watch the recordings here). Through 5 unique events combining art and science, hundreds of Oregonians learned about our state’s individual marine reserves and protected areas while helping to contribute to a statewide collaborative art installation.  The art made during each event was shipped to the Art Center in Portland and combined into a giant mobile entitled “A Delicate Balance – Celebrating 5 Oregon Marine Reserves.”

Surfrider Foundation Chapters in Oregon kicked off 2020 pre-pandemic creating and launching a plastic bag ban toolkit for Oregon’s new bag law, hosting statewide plastic pollution panel discussions to educate ourselves and our members on the full social and environmental story of plastic, and hosted a legislative roundtable discussion in Oregon to discuss various policy options for plastic pollution. From local programs to state and federal policy advocacy, Oregon chapters, staff and volunteers rolled up our sleeves this year to fight plastic pollution in spite of the pandemic and its plastic proliferation. To keep volunteers safe and our beaches clean, chapters pivoted to cleanup supply pickups and solo cleanups, supporting households in doing their own beach cleanup at their local beach. We also tried unique ways to incentivize and build community around solo beach cleanups like hosting Beach Cleanup Bingo with community groups.

Games like beach cleanup bingo kept our volunteers and stewards engaged when gathering for cleanups wasn’t safe!

We formed statewide policy working groups to wrestle through pandemic impacts on existing plastic policies and advocated for sound science to help rebuild confidence in reusables. Most significantly, we also built a diverse policy working group to develop bold, new plastic policies and find legislative champs for these issues below, now introduced for the 2021 legislative session:

While Surfrider Oregon’s cornerstone clean water advocacy program, the Blue Water Task Force (BWTF), had to pause our labs for volunteer safety during the pandemic, we nonetheless made headway in 2020 supporting a new national clean water film. Featuring Newport Chapter’s years of water quality testing and advocacy at the local level, it’s a fantastic highlight, check out the film below! Bob Trusty, Newport’s BWTF Coordinator, was also recognized in a national volunteer spotlight for strong leadership of their program. With fewer of our volunteer labs operational in 2020, some taking the first monitoring hiatus in nearly 20 years, it’s no surprise we saw fewer water quality campaigns and local issues.

Early 2020 was cause for celebration in our coastal preservation fight against Pembina’s proposed Jordan Cove Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) export facility in Coos Bay when state actions led to huge roadblocks for the facility to move forward. Alas, the project has swung back and forth in 2020 with federal permitting approvals and state denials, leaving us in the balance, and hope, of the coming administration. Just yesterday we learned of another milestone: victory in our appeal of Jordan Cove’s county permits to LUBA – one brick at a time.

On the central coast, chapter leader Mike Harrington took our coastal preservation initiative to the 10K foot level, teaming up with Lighthawk to take aerial photos coastal developments during extreme (king) high tides. The photos help provide a glimpse for coastal planners and residents alike into our future under sea level rise.

Inn at Spanish Head, Lincoln City – Photo: Mike Harrington / LightHawk

As the lines clashed between public and private interests on Oregon’s public beaches this year, and it was often, Surfrider met those challenges with 3 coastal preservation victories in 2020. We protected our coastline from development in an unstable beach area in Newport and prevented shoreline armoring detrimental to the beach near Cannon Beach. We also worked with property owners, State Parks, and Tillamook County to clear up a potential challenge to Oregon’s Beach Bill and remove illegal fencing from the beach in Pacific City.

Beach access was met with a double edge sword in 2020 as we fought to retain critical elements of Oregon’s birthright for beach access while also respecting and protecting the health of coastal residents and encouraging people to stay at home. Bringing science and community organizing to the discussion, we fought the important battles where private property went beyond the line in the sand and we rallied to support communities where beachgoers, for a time, were frankly not welcome. And when our beaches needed us, we stepped up our game to protect the people’s coast.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Oregon policy manager Charlie Plybon at a recent Black Lives Matter rally in his community

This year brought forth both great sadness and opportunity for the Black Lives Matter movement, forcing us all to take a hard look at ourselves and systemic racism in our organizations and society. From the national level to our local chapters, Surfrider took some important steps this year in becoming a better ally and more organizationally inclusive for the many marginalized communities. As we learn and grow, we’re excited for a refocused vision in 2021 informed by a thoughtful strategy that brings forward prioritized organizing, programmatic and campaign principles for aligning our mission with social justice issues, frontline communities and organizations.

In Loving Memory

This year we lost a wonderfully dedicated and passionate volunteer, Karen Driscoll, to a long battle with cancer. Karen was a tenacious advocate for Otter Rock Marine Reserve and a passionate teacher of young scientists. Karen will be greatly missed and we will carry on her legacy through our work. Read more about Karen’s conservation work.

Karen demonstrates proper mixing and measuring techniques in the water quality lab with a BWTF youth volunteer

Surfrider 2020 National Year in Review

Surfrider Oregon is part of our powerful, nationwide network and this year we really flexed our creativity and kept an extra watchful eye on the coast despite all of the challenges. We’re really proud of what you’ve all helped us to collectively accomplish this year – check out our Surfrider National 2020 Year in Review!