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The beach is coming to Salem! Celebrate the Beach Bill's golden anniversary July 8 at the state Capitol

June 21, 2017

Salem, Ore. -- Oregon State Parks and the Capitol History Gateway, a project of the Oregon State Capitol Foundation are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beach Bill -- the landmark legislation passed in 1967 that protects the public's right to access the coast -- with a Beach Bill Birthday Bash from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 8 at the state Capitol, 900 Court St. NE in Salem.

"We're bringing the beach to the Capitol, where the legacy of Oregon's open beaches began," said Laurel Hillmann, event coordinator and Ocean Shores Specialist for Oregon State Parks.

The free event will feature a concert on the lawn in State Capitol State Park at 11:30 a.m. by Portland artist Slater Smith, who will debut his new coast-inspired album.

The event kicks off at 10 a.m. with a professional kite flying demonstration. Guests can enjoy free birthday cupcakes and a free scoop of really creamy Tillamook ice cream from the traveling Yum Bus while supplies last. Mo's, a favorite coastal destination for many families, will bring its iconic chowder to the event for purchase.

Activities for kids include kite making, beach-themed crafts, face painting and digging for treasures in a giant sandbox. Kids can meet a giant inflatable Dungeness crab; Oregon State Parks' mascot JR Beaver; and Washed Ashore's famous 7-foot salmon Nora, sculpted from beach trash.

Attendees can also enter a raffle to win limited-edition glass floats created by Lincoln City glassblowers and engraved with a commemorative 50th anniversary stamp.

Booths and exhibits will feature beach trivia; information on beach recreation, including clamming, crabbing and whale watching; and ways all Oregonians can protect and preserve this treasure for future generations.

Inside the Capitol, a 30-minute Oregon Public Broadcasting Beach Bill documentary will air for the duration of the event, and a special Beach Bill exhibit will be on display in the Galleria.

Visitors can learn about Oregon's unique Beach history in a Beach Bill-themed Capitol tour at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m. Weather permitting, the public can also take a tower tour to the Oregon Pioneer at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

Oregonians have always enjoyed visiting the coast, but that tradition was first officially protected in 1913, when Governor Oswald West and the Oregon legislature established the state's 362 miles of shoreline as a public highway, a designation that only applied to the wet-sand portions of the beaches.

Then, in the summer of 1966, the owner of a Cannon Beach hotel put down large driftwood logs to block off a section of the beach to all but his guests. In response, the State Highway Commission, with Gov. Tom McCall's support, introduced two bills in the legislature. The bills mimicked a Texas law that recognized the public's continued use of private beach land as a permanent right.

At first, the bills had little public support and seemed destined to fail. But news stories and a well-publicized visit to Cannon Beach by Gov. McCall spread the word that Oregon's open beaches were at risk.

"Most people had assumed the beaches were already public and weren't aware of the efforts at the capital until it was almost too late," Hillmann said. "In the end, Oregonians' persistence saved the beach."

The legislature passed the Beach Bill on June 7, 1967, and the governor signed it into law on July 6.

The bill would "forever preserve and maintain the sovereignty of the state heretofore existing over the seashore and ocean beaches of the state...so that the public may have the free and uninterrupted use thereof."

But the process didn't end there. The legislation faced many legal challenges, and additional rules and statues followed defining the beach boundary.

Organizers encourage those planning to attend to RSVP on Facebook at bit.ly/beachbirthdaybash. Parking is free under the Capitol Mall, accessible from Chemeketa Street NE. Meters surrounding the Capitol are not enforced on weekends.

For event information, call the Capitol's Visitor Services at 503-986-1388 or visit the events page at oregoncapitol.com. For information on the history of the Beach Bill and other ways to celebrate this anniversary year, go to oregonbeachparty.org.