The Importance of Protecting Public Access to Oregon’s Shores

by Mike Sargetakis | June 12, 2023

Oregon has a rich history of protecting access to public beaches and waterways. As Crag’s new Coastal Law Project attorney, I’m proud to work on a broad range of matters to help restore and enhance our iconic shores and the ways people use and enjoy them.

The coastal environment is a place where balance is key. Coastal streams, estuaries, and the ocean shore are dynamic, but sensitive places. Cold, fresh water high in the coast range tumbles to sea level, where it mixes with the salty sea. These relatively small watersheds provide habitat for a wide range of saltwater, freshwater, and anadromous species (anadromous species, like salmon and steelhead, are species that spend part of their life cycle in freshwater, and part in saltwater). Likewise, these smaller watersheds are more sensitive to small changes within them. 

Mike Sargetakis and his dog Wesley enjoying the beach in Newport. Photo by Sarah Martin.

Me and my dog, Wesley, enjoying the beach in Newport. Photo by Sarah Martin.

The coastal environment is a place where balance is key.

Coastal streams provide not only habitat for fish and plants, but also drinking water for the communities that dot the Oregon Coast from Warrenton to Brookings. The ocean moves sand and water, and the waves are home to fish and plants that rely on their motion for protection, habitat, and foraging grounds. Meanwhile, salmon and steelhead migrate between their freshwater spawning and rearing habitat, and the sea where they spend the bulk of their lifecycle foraging for smaller fish. All of these processes are interconnected, and each is important to the other.


Oregon coast sea stars Photo by Mo Wieser, Kizo Photography (1)

The Oregon coast is teeming with life, as these sea stars and sea anemones show. Photo by Crag Board Member Mo Wieser, KiZō  Photography. 

The ocean shore and coastal streams face numerous challenges. Private property rights have always been in tension with the public’s rights to use the shores. With climate change and development combining to increase the pace of erosion and sea level rise, the desire to install beachfront protective structures has never been more present. As more and more people use our shores, forests, and streams, the pressure on them can degrade their quality, and the tension between private and public use can flare. Litter, crowds, habitat degradation, and other conflicts can arise when too much is asked of our precious few beaches, rivers, and trails. 

My role as the Coastal Law Project attorney includes a broad array of strategies to protect and enhance these places alongside our community partners.

Whether fighting shoreline armoring projects that degrade and encroach on our beaches, or defending against over-reach by private landowners seeking to limit the public’s use of beaches, rivers, and streams, Crag is fighting alongside our partners to protect our access to the shore.

Sea Lions on Tillamook Rock on northern oregon coast. Photo by Brent Lawrence, USFWS. (1)

Oregon’s north coast supports a variety of aquatic species, like these Sea Lions on Tillamook Rock. Photo by Brent Lawrence, USFWS.

Mike Sargetakis - Hatcheries

Protecting access to nature

As a kid who grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, I developed a deep appreciation for the mountains and rivers surrounding my home. Those memories and the lessons I learned from my mom and grandmother’s work to preserve a wetland complex slated for development in Summit County, Utah taught me the value of protecting nature and shared access to special places.

I’m honored to work with Surfrider, Oregon Shores, and other organizations and individuals up and down the coast to protect the public’s access to Oregon’s shores and enhance the beaches, waters, and uplands that make the Oregon coast so special.

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