Mill Beach Photo

Recreational hikers on the Oregon Coast Trail are still allowed to camp at Mill Beach in Brookings. City Council considered placing the beach on the Oregon State Parks no-camping list. Photo by Brian Williams.

Council considered adding it to state parks no-camping list 

Mill Beach will not be added to the Oregon State Parks’ no-camping list after a tight vote by the Brookings City Council. 

The motion to start the process of Oregon State Parks prohibiting all camping on the beach that sits within Brookings city limits failed due to a 3-2 vote Monday, Jan. 27.  

Councilors Bill Hamilton, Brent Hodges and John McKinney voted against it. 

“The little bit of rights and liberties that we have are just slowly taken away from us and to take another one away to me I am not in favor of at all,” Hodges said.

Mayor Jake Pieper and Ron Hedenskog were in favor of the camping prohibition and acknowledged that their stance on Mill Beach had changed over time.

“It is frustrating the neighborhood, there is a lot of unlawful activity taking place, trash was mentioned, defacing and damage to restrooms,” Hedenskog said. “I am inclined right now to install this no-camping until we get a grip on the unlawful activity that is going on and then sometime down in the future the City Council could ask to open it back up.”

The City of Brookings is responsible for the Mill Beach Access, while Oregon State Parks oversees Mill Beach. The Access area is open to people a half-hour before sunrise to midnight each day. Since the beach is within city limits, Brookings has to request state parks add it to their no-camping list. 

Camping is allowed on the beach, according to Oregon state law, but only to recreational hikers on the Oregon Coast Trail, a 382-mile route along the Pacific coast. It follows the coast of Oregon from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border south of Brookings.

The city and state parks have received complaints of people abusing the facilities and not following the Oregon law related to camping.

At a Jan. 9 City Council workshop, state parks officials said field contacts by park rangers increased from one in 2016 to more than a dozen in 2019.

Over one two-week period last summer, staff reportedly cleaned up three different homeless encampments, at a cost of $695 in dump fees, plus labor.

Dani Padilla, the unit manager at Harris Beach State Park, said at the workshop, “Mill Beach is taking up a lot of our time.”

This was the third time a vote to ban any camping on Mill Beach was taken. The two others were 2009 and 2016.

State parks, according to Jay Trost, Brookings Deputy Director of Public Works and Development Services, was recommending Mill Beach be added to its no-camping list.

“They have had a significant increase in compliance issues, illegal activity and garbage at the Mill Beach location and they suggested that overnight camping be prohibited,” Trost said, relaying information available in the staff report to the councilors. “An overnight camping prohibition may be beneficial to both city and Oregon State Parks.” 

The cities of Cannon Beach, Lincoln City, Seaside, Newport, Bandon, Gold Beach, Rockaway Beach and Manzanita currently prohibit overnight camping on the beach under this provision.

There was concern that if Mill Beach was added to the list it would be near impossible to get it removed.

“I do agree that once prohibition takes effect it would be pretty tough to ever get it back. I’m not so sure it would ever come back,” Pieper said.

With the motion failing, McKinney after the meeting said a multi-agency approach was needed to deal with the issues.

“I think the solution to this is a uniformed effort by Brookings PD (police department), OSP (Oregon State Police), Curry County Sheriff’s Department in conjunction with the parks department to go down there and clean that beach up and keep it clean,” he said. 

The next regular Brookings City Council meeting is at 7 p.m. on Feb. 10. 

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