Free Lighthouse Beach

Oregon Coast’s Lighthouse Beach, located just outside of Charleston, Ore., is beloved by many. It takes its name from the Cape Arago Lighthouse a few miles away, which appears to stand guard over the beach. For over 80 years, people have been using a trail to access the beach for surfing and watching the waves, but as of late, the property has been blocked off with a barbed wire fence. 

This has caused a great deal of discontent amongst the local population, and the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit with a goal to protect all coastal environments, is now taking legal action against the property owners in order to restore public access. Many people have been reaching out and trying to help with this movement of taking the beach back–often volunteering their own time to gain support for public access for this local treasure. Surfrider, a national organization of environmental activists, will be heard in Coos County Circuit Court on this matter on April 25-28.

“There are people who have used this access to the beach for over 50 years,” said Heather Sullivan, the vice chair for Coos Bay’s Surfrider Chapter. 

For generations, she explained, the beach has been loved for its reputation as a hotspot for many activities, such as surfing, rock collecting, and beach clean-ups. Marshfield High School instructor Mark Lorincz has seen this too, and is confused as to why the beach would ever be privatized

“We have always had access to the beach,” said Lorincz, an avid surfer and outdoor enthusiast. “In fact we can date the access back all the way to the 1940s, so for me it seems just like a right for people who live here to have free and safe public access.”

The closure was brought on by the owners of property adjacent to the beach. The beach access point ran through their property, which provided a lack of privacy for them. In addition, parking near lighthouse beach has always been treacherous, as the street is narrow with little to no shoulder.

“It’s evident that they are doing everything they can to get this problem solved as soon as possible,” said Coos County Commissioner John Sweet, who has been investigating an alternative route through another beach-adjacent property. “Our community has worked hard to find a way to access Lighthouse Beach, despite the recent closure.” 

Lorencz has noticed that the town is now filled with signs that advertise free access to the beach. People in the community have been passionate about this beach for many years, and have done countless beach clean-ups to keep it clean and beautiful. The closure of the beach has been heartbreaking for many, as they are no longer able to enjoy the stunning views of the lighthouse or the sunsets.