Tillamook County Estuaries- Part 1/6

Bayocean Spit – 1914

Ecological Dilemma:  Will Human Activity Impact Nature/ Natural Systems with Positive or Negative Outcome(s)?

Back in 1914… if the folks at the TB Potter Realty Company were asked “Will the construction of Bayocean Park impact nature/natural systems with positive or negative outcomes?”

I imagine the answer may have sounded something like this: “Construction of Bayocean Park will create very positive outcomes for the people who invest at our resort. Buying a lot in Bayocean Park will generate opportunities for property ownership in a first class resort community.”

At the turn of the twentieth century, investors believed that a 1,000 foot wide sand spit with four miles of uninterrupted beach would be the perfect location for a grand scale building project. The spit was a tree-covered knoll. One hundred-forty feet above sea level… the views promised to be spectacular! Best of all, the property was relatively inexpensive.

Consideration of impact to nature and natural systems was most likely done only in terms of how the obstacles they created would be overcome for human activities.  As was the case in bringing water, roads, and utilities to the spit.

It sounded like a fantastic opportunity. However, the writing was on the wall. At least it was at the Pioneer Museum in Tillamook, Oregon. Gary Albright, museum director, provided an introspective talk about the “Grand Notion” that sparked the beginning of construction at Bayocean Park. That spark turned out to be a flash in the pan when grandiose plans quickly unravelled and were gone- along with construction, and the resort’s residents- in less than four decades.

A photo-essay on the walls of the museum  chronicle the:

  • marketing of lots,
  • challenges to construction,
  • impact of Army Corps of Engineers construction of a North Jetty,
  • consequences of catastrophic erosion that breached the spit when Tillamook County was unable to come up with funds to support the Army Corps of Engineers construction of a South Jetty,
  • loss of the resort by the 1950’s when it was fully destroyed due to disruption in natural cycles of seasonal littoral sand movement.

I’m surprised at how few artifacts remain. A fact that leads me to view the TB Potter Realty Company and its determination to “out-smart” nature as a potent example. This misbegotten land-development enterprise, exacerbated by the Army Corps of Engineers’ inability to fund and build the South Jetty,  illustrates how vulnerability is created when  dynamic earth processes are ignored or not understood.

Eventually, in 1970, the South Jetty was constructed. Sand erosion ceased and accretion has almost restored the spit sands to original levels.

Consider again… Ecological Dilemma: Will Human Activity Impact Nature/ Natural Systems with Positive or Negative Outcome(s)?

Learn More:
Tillamook museum remembers Bayocean Park, the resort town that fell into the sea: Oregon Live, 04-04-14.
Ocean Bay Spit: Terich and Komar, 1973.

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