In the 1960s, Brookings resident Ron Hedenskog would take a daily walk to Mill Beach, hiking down a dirt road overgrown with vegetation to reach the sand.
In 1974, Hedenskog received phone calls from Mill Beach residents worried that a new condo complex was going to block public access to the sand. He worked hard to protect that access.
This week, Hedenskog, now mayor of his city, made the same trek to Mill Beach — only now the dirt road is paved, the bothersome vegetation is gone, and a new bathroom and picnic benches have been installed.
“Now we have a wonderful park; more than I ever hoped for,” the mayor said Wednesday during the official dedication of the Mill Beach Access Project.
A beaming Hedenskog was joined by dozen city and state officials at Mill Beach, set in a protective cove at the end of Macklyn Cove Drive, which extends from Mill Beach Road to the sand.
Improvements include paving the roadway to a width of 14 feet, paving two parking areas, and installing a restroom and picnic tables that are designed to ADA-accessible standards.
“This has been a commonly used beach access for local residents and visitors alike for many decades,” Hedenskog said. “For me, this is the fulfillment of a 40-year dream.”
The city had owned a narrow strip of roadway to the beach for many years and, in 2011, purchased additional property to widen the road and expand the parking area.
The city improved the road and saw an immediate jump in public use of the park. The previous condition of the road limited access to four-wheel-drive vehicles and adventurous hikers, according to City Manager Gary Milliman.
The total project cost was $101,538, paid for with a combination of city System Development Charge (SDC) funds, which are derived from new development, and $34,973 in state grant funds, Milliman said.
During Wednesday’s dedication ceremony, Hedenskog credited the city’s many employees for making it happen.
Tony Baron, park and technical services supervisor, designed and oversaw renovation of the park.
“This project is most gratifying; it’s a great park,” Baron said. He praised the efforts of other city employees.
“Loree (Price) and I applied for the grant with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and Gary (Milliman) cultivated it,” Baron said. “The public works crew did a great job of clearing out the brush and doing most of the work.”
He added, with a grin, “It was a tough job ... working every day at the beach.”