Choices that Created the Oregon Mystique: Governor Tom McCall's Foresight and Accomplishments

Beach Bill

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In June, 1967, after months of stalling, the Oregon Legislature passed House bill 1601, which guarantees public access to the state's beaches and establishes a state easement on all beaches between the low water mark and the vegetation line. The bill expanded upon an almost-60-year-old law that decreed public ownership of beaches between low- and high-water lines, but still allowed for privatization of the "dry sands" area between the high water line and the vegetation line. In 1966, a coastal motel owner barricaded the beach above the high water line, and the need for further protection was discovered. McCall's bold response set the tone for the rest of his administration.

The Oregon Statesman published this article the day after McCall signed the Beach Bill.

This Oregon Historical Society "Oregon History Project" webpage describes the Beach Bill and a related photograph.

On July 21, 2002, Oregon celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Beach Bill. Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury delivered this keynote address at a celebration in the coastal town of Lincoln City.

A history of public use of beaches in Oregon from the NOAA Coastal Services Center website.

The Oregon Coastal Atlas website provides detailed information about access points for Oregon beaches.


This lifesize portrait of McCall, painted by Henk Pander in 1982, was commissioned by the State of Oregon. It is displayed with portraits of other former Oregon governors in the Oregon State Capitol in Salem. The scene portrays McCall's highly publicized tour of the Oregon coast on May 13, 1967, when he and a team of surveyors and scientists traveled in two helicopters, touching down on beaches along the coast to demonstrate the threat posed to the public's longstanding free access to the state's coastline. Media coverage of the event prompted a huge outcry from the public over the legislature's refusal to approve HB 1601, and within two months, McCall was able to sign the the bill into law. (81"x 72-1/2")
Copyright 2005 Janet Bassett