Oregon will add a significant piece of Tillamook County to its state park system when 357 acres, including one mile of Pacific Ocean shoreline, comes into public ownership next week (This transaction was completed in September 2014; dedication is planned for this September.).
Known as the Beltz farm for the family that owned it, the landscape is one of the most natural, lightly disturbed by human impact on the Oregon coast, according to Katie Duzik, natural resources specialist for the north coastal region of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
The formal transaction occurred when the state bought the property from Ecotrust. The Portland conservation group purchased the land from Frank Bastasch with the intent of selling it at the same price to the state. The appraised value is $1.8 million. The parks commission approved the acquisition at its June meeting, using funds from the Oregon Lottery.
Ecotrust raised the purchase price in short-term low interest loans and recoverable grants. Craft3 came up with $1.3 million, with the remainder split by an anonymous donor and Bandon Biota, a company owned by the owner of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the southern Oregon coast. These funds will be repaid once state parks' acquisition is complete.
Despite becoming public land next week, it will take perhaps a year or more to open the landscape to its future use, mostly hiking and birdwatching. Even then, the park will be minimally developed, with a parking lot and restrooms, after consultation with local Tierra Del Mar residents and Tillamook County.
A trail network will likely follow what's already there: a path on a dike and user-made paths through a forest, dune grasses and around wetlands.
The natural area is south across Sand Creek estuary from a small Tillamook County park campground at Whalen Island and the 179-acre Clay Myers State Natural Area.
The park will offer quiet trail and beach recreation for visitors to larger nearby parks, which include Sand Lake Recreation Area of the Siuslaw National Forest and Cape Lookout State Park to the north, and the Cape Kiwanda area at Pacific City to the south.
"The purchase includes the entirety of the south sand spit and the marsh,'' said Duzik, who is well acquainted with the landscape through her duties with the Oregon park system. "East of Sand Lake road there was some agriculture, mostly hay, but west of the road hasn't been grazed in years because it's mostly too wet."
About 100 acres on the east side of the road are mostly forested, while 250 acres to the west are dunes, marshes and the beach.
"It's like taking a trip back in time,'' Duzik said. "It provides great habitat for wildlife. Birding is fantastic with the mix of ecosystems, with willow scrub, freshwater marsh, open mud flats and the shoreline.'
"This is the only mile of oceanfront habitat I know of that was in private ownership but in largely undeveloped condition."
The property had been proposed for development as an 18-hole private golf course, but zoning restrictions, land use laws and wetlands put an end to that proposal.
"There had been condo proposals, all sorts of thing,'' Duzik said. "But nothing came to fruition.''
The only location similar to it, she said, on the Oregon coast is Netarts Spit, not far to the north on the other side of Cape Lookout. But the Beltz property is even more pristine because of its wider landscape (the Netarts Spit is very narrow). The Beltz property dunes have had few human visitors and thus are not filled with invasive weeds and the estuary has not had jetties or dredging. A dike is one of the few improvements made by humans.
John Allen, regional director for state parks on the north coast, said the immediate objective is to make the property safe. While visitation will not be encouraged for now, he knows people will show up wanting a look.
"We will check it over and be wary of anything that may be unsafe,'' he said. "Then we will turn it over to our planners. It's going to be a great natural area, with elk, coyotes, river otter living on a fairly level landscape not far from a highway.''
The highway is a detour route of U.S. 101 known as the Three Capes Scenic Drive of Tillamook County.,
Look for official Oregon Parks and Recreation documents on the Sand Lake property at oregon.gov/oprd.