Cars on the beach at Cape Kiwanda might soon become a thing of the past.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department announced a new rule proposal Thursday that would limit motorized vehicle access on beaches around the sandstone headland on the north Oregon coast, including at the popular day-use site in Pacific City.
If approved, motor vehicles would no longer be able to drive onto the sand at the Cape Kiwanda beach access point in Pacific City, the agency said, except drivers who are launching boats at the foot of the cape. The prohibition on beach driving would extend south to the Pacific Avenue beach access point, beyond which cars will be allowed.
While normally open to drivers year-round, the beach at Cape Kiwanda has been temporarily closed to vehicles during the coronavirus pandemic because of staff shortages and safety concerns. Now, state parks and Tillamook County officials are looking to make that change permanent.
“We’re proposing these changes in cooperation with the county as we both try to improve the quality of the beach experience and keep people and vehicles from mixing on a busy beach,” state parks spokesperson Chris Havel said in a news release Thursday. “The tricky part is striking a balance between those concerns and easy, fair access to the tremendous gift that is the Oregon ocean shore.”
The ban on beach driving comes in addition to a new $10 parking fee at Cape Kiwanda and other local day-use areas, recently approved by Tillamook County as a way to fund park maintenance and other projects.
A second part of the proposed rule change would ban driving on part of the beach north of Cape Kiwanda as well, beginning at the mouth of Sand Lake and extending south past the small community of Tierra Del Mar. Cars will still be able to drive on the beach farther south to the north side of the cape, park officials said.
Vehicles are already prohibited in that area at different times of the year, allowed only on weekdays in the fall, winter and early spring. The stretch of beach includes the recently opened Sitka Sedge State Natural Area, as well as the site of the controversial undersea cable built by Facebook.
The public will have until Feb. 12, 2021, to comment on the proposed rule changes, the agency said. Comments can be made online at https://bit.ly/tillamookbeachdriving or by email to oprd.publiccomme[email protected]. A virtual public hearing will be held on Jan. 28.