How Oregon's Oswald West State Park Was Born
The following information is from an article written by Sam Boardman, the former Oregon State Park Superintendent, published in the September 1954 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly.
“Short Sand Beach Park contains today 2,401 acres costing $91,000. Today's recreational value can only be computed by an extended slide rule. One hundred years from today and all the gold buried in the Knox caves would be but pennies. Such things cannot be judged in currency. What is the value of a soul? The spiritual things it feeds upon. To abide in the presence of your Maker. Parks such as Short Sand Beach should be kept as a wildlife sanctuary.” — Samuel Boardman
Originally named “Short Sands State Park,” the park was conceived by Everell Stanton (E. S.) Collins, a successful Portland timberman who was raised in Pennsylvania and part of the wealthy Collins lumber company.
In the early 1930s, Collins and Boardman took several trips throughout western Oregon looking for timbered tracts that Collins felt were suitable for a park before Collins settled on a 162-acre oceanfront tract in Tillamook County on Short Sand Creek. The cost was $12,000. At that time, Collins set aside 42 acres (mostly along the beach) that he designated for YMCA/YWCA camp sites.
Over the next several years, Boardman attempted to persuade Collins to donate the 42 acres to the state, but Collins died in 1940 before making up his mind. Six years after Collins’ death, the parks commission purchased the 42 acres from his estate for $14,800.
Mr. Samuel Reed, developer of Neahkahnie and a former Tillamook County Commissioner, donated 97 acres and sold to the state 239 acres in one of the most scenic parts of the park, including the scenic Manzanita overlook and the area east of Highway 101 featuring the western slope of Neahkahnie mountain.
According to Boardman, the next section of land included the purchase of 354 acres from George E. Huntley of Aberdeen, Wash., for $18.000. “The Commission tied a string to this purchase,” wrote Boardman. “ItI had to sell enough timber off the tract to meet the $18,000 payment. The timber was advertised for bids. The terrain of the park is very rough for logging purposes. The bids were low and unacceptable to the Commission One other try was made and failed and the timber was saved for the park.”
Boardman notes that in 1932, Huntley donated 46 acres to the state (Section 1, T. 3, 11), “a very sightly area fronting the ocean. The tract was given as a memorial to an early-day teacher of Mr. Huntley, Miss Eunice K. Armstead (a teacher in the New Haven, Connecticut, school system), who taught him his love for trees.”
Cape Falcon proper was the next area of acquisition. Boardman claims he was given the choice of one of two parks he had planned for consideration: The Cape or the Mead property on the Columbia River just east of Shell Rock Mountain on Lindsey Creek. “I took the Cape,” wrote Boardman.
The Cape purchase consisted of 145 acres and was bought in 1942 from W. P. Sinnott, brother of the late Congressman Nicholas Sinnott.
“Out on Cape Falcon where there is sufficient wooded area to protect against the north and south ocean winds there is a more or less level area for the development of overnight camping and picnic facilities. This area is accessible to the beach, and to the Cape for fishing purposes. The Cape is one of the noted fishing points on the entire coast, there being no failures to those who wet a line. Stress should be given to the development of ocean fishing in every ocean park we have. To hook a whale or shark is to store the piscatorial mental larder for a life time with caviar. It isn't everyone that has an ocean. Put every attribute of it to use. In this Cape area is the solution of sufficient terrain for the full development of the park for a long time to come.”
In 1943, Boardman began work on acquiring property owned by the Preston Timber Company. “After acquiring a narrow wayside strip of nine acres through their property for $365, the company failed and the county took over the property for delinquent taxes, and promised to turn it over to the state as a unit of the park, but instead it was turned over to the State Forester.”
Boardman began a campaign to get the State Forester to turn the property over to the Parks Department. In 1951, “a trade solution was finally worked out wherein excess wayside lands bordering the Wilson and Sunset highways were exchanged for the State Forest property.”
In 1941, Boardman attempted, but failed, to purchase 112 acres (located in Section 6) from the Neppach Company of Portland. In 1942, he wrote to the company asking permission to buy the cutoff land when the timber was removed. At that time, land was selling for $5/acre, according to Boardman. On October 12, 1943, the Parks Commission authorized the right-of-way department to purchase the property. Four years passed when, on April 22, 1947, the right-of-way department reported that the property’s price had increased up to $5,500. “The Commission turned down its purchase,” wrote Boardman.
Boardman brought the matter before the Commission again, this time on September 19, 1949. At that time, commissioners voted to purchase the property at $50 an acre, “with stem orders that I was not to bring any further acquisitions relating to Short Sand Beach Park before them,” wrote Boardman.
“An eight-year love's labor won for one unit of a park. What could have been wrong with me!”
Boardman wrote of one interesting scenic tract that was acquired at the newly-completed Arch Cape tunnel consisting of 83 acres at a cost of $2,075 ($25 an acre). “This was acquired in 1940 when prices hadn't become inflated.”
Neahkahnie Mountain rises directly above the sea at an elevation of 1,710 feet. While the ocean view is majestic, the rolling green timbered hills to the east are intensely inspiring. To the west, the infinite space of conjecture as to what lies beyond the horizon. The enigma of all who partake of life. To the east, the material world that composes life itself. Where you have height such as Neahkahnie, raise the people to it. Too much time of life is spent in the valleys.