Writings and observations

The good times rolled

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Summer is over on Oregon’s central coast. No big news for you, maybe. But very big news for those of us beach side. And good news it is. Very good! Stores, restaurants, bars, campgrounds and all the usual places tourists spend their dollars are saying this has been the best – very best – year ever. Not just since the recession. Ever!

Even the real estate market, which went in the tank in 2007, has come back in a big way. Average sales prices in the $270,000 bracket a year ago hit an average of $340,000 in August. The number of sales has been pretty consistent for the last few months at 70 or so in our county. But prices have been going back to pre-recession levels. Best residential buys around now are condos and townhouses. Time shares are also firming up.

But – part of the reason for these record-setting numbers is likely to present a big future downside, we’re told. The weather. The summer months have been absolutely beautiful. But, it seems, too much so. Traditional rainy periods that occasionally drive sunbathing tourists back to the motels temporarily have been few. Less than two inches in August. About the same in July.

Biologists are saying coastal rivers aren’t running high enough for returning salmon to get all the way back to their spawning grounds. The absence of the usual amount of rainfall is also likely to affect lobster and crab futures because shallower waters near the coastline are warmer than usual. Not enough cold inflow from rivers.

So, it may be a “win-some, lose-some” situation. But it really has been just beautiful!

This was our first full summer during “the season.” We’d been warned the influx of all the touristas would have a daily affect on our lives. Lines at the good restaurants. Crowds in the stores. Lots of waiting when shopping. And traffic. Lots and lots of traffic in our little single highway towns. We’d have to learn the “back routes” to get from one end of the community to another.

It wasn’t really so bad. Except for the “left-turners.” Damn, how they screw up traffic. Rather than making three right turns to go around the block and head safely straight ahead to the beach, they just stop and hit the left blinker. And they stay stopped for one or more complete cycles of lights while traffic piles up behind.

In summer months, traffic moves north and south through little towns like ours in an almost unending stream. No problem as long as the movement continues. You deal with it. Except for those damned “lefties.” But when we locals complain, someone downtown who relies on the transitory dollars screams banning turns would cost them their livelihood. Sounds like B.S. to me but they win. Every time.

Speaking of traffic, during the season, it seems the most out-of-state plates we see are on vehicles from Washington, California, British Columbia and Idaho. In that order. All, of course, want to get close to the Pacific. And Oregon is where they chose to do so.

I think the reason for that lineup is this: Oregon is the only West coast state with an “open” beach law. That means no individual or corporation can buy up a chunk of coastline and keep the public out. Gov. Tom McCall – bless his craggy, departed heart – fought for eight years to get the “open” beach law on the books. And court decision after court decision has kept it there. It’s been challenged by Hilton, Marriott, and about every millionaire seeking an Oregon compound with a private ocean. None of ‘em has won.

But Washington, California and B.C.? Unless you can go through a state, county or local park, an Indian reservation – or a hotel lobby – the wall between public access and private property in those places is high and impenetrable. Just try to get to a public piece of the Pacific around Monterey that doesn’t fall into private ownership. Lotsa luck.

People come to the Oregon coast because they can get to the ocean. And the local people who count on those other people to come should say a little prayer of “thank you” to Ol’ Tom every night at bedtime. His legacy is one of unrestrained access to wet bare feet, happy but worn out dogs and sand in your car.

As for that high number of Idaho visitors? Well, guaranteed public access to the nearest ocean plus getting out of the continuing right wing political inquisition to see how the real world lives and see how very well things run in a real two-party state – the attractions are obvious.

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