Sand Lake estuary in Tillamook County is one of only five estuaries on the Oregon coast zoned as a “Natural” estuary — meaning that there is only minimal development in and around the estuary. Oregon Coast Alliance would like to keep it that way, and an unprecedented opportunity to protect the last vulnerable parcel, the Beltz property, has finally concluded successfully. The Parks Commission directed the Department to purchase the Beltz property in June 2014 for a new State Park.
The north side of Sand Lake estuary is already protected in Clay Meyers State Natural Area, also known as Whalen Island. Much of the south side of the estuary (and some acreage on the east side of Sand Lake Road as well), is known as the Beltz property. Zoned “Recreation Management” by Tillamook County, it is a stunning area of estuary, tidal mudflat, open dune, shorepine forest and wetland. There are seasonal swamps, dunal ponds, intertidal marsh, and several pioneering communities of rare native dune plants. But the owner, Frank Bastasch, long desired to develop a golf course or some kind of resort on the property.
In 2003 there was an attempt to develop a Scottish links-style golf course (Pacific Gailes Golf Resort) on 120 acres of the Beltz Farm dunes, but the proposal never came to a hearing before the Tillamook County. In 2007 the Bastasches filed a Measure 37 claim to allow a resort development, but the claim was ultimately dismissed by Tillamook County. Since then the Beltz property has remained unspoiled and natural, free of development proposals.
For the past thirty years many agencies and conservation organizations have tried to purchase the Beltz property for conservation, including the U.S. Forest Service, Trust for Public Land and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. All attempts failed. But early in 2014 Ecotrust Forests LLC acquired an option from the Bastasches on the whole 357-acre Beltz property. They subsequently purchased the land from the Bastasches, and the Parks Commission directed the Department to complete purchase from Ecotrust by August 2014.
The Beltz property becomes Oregon’s newest State Park as of late Summer 2014, followed by the master planning process to create a blueprint for the new park’s future management. Parks will manage the Beltz property mainly for habitat restoration and light recreation, which is in accord with surrounding residents’ wishes. Oregon Coast Alliance fully supported this purchase. It will conserve marsh and dune habitats long sought for conservation, eliminate inappropriate development efforts and complete the protection of lands bordering Sand Lake estuary. It also crowns thirty years of conservation effort with success.