Background image of Sand Lake estuary. A yellow grassy hill in front of a beach. In the background are hills and cliffs.

Protecting Sand Lake

Permanent conservation for one of Oregon's
last intact coastal estuaries

Located on Oregon’s North Coast between Cape Lookout State Park and Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area in Pacific City, Sand Lake is one of Oregon’s least developed estuaries. At the southern end of the estuary is the 357-acre property once known as Beltz Farm, containing ocean beaches, wetlands, and forests that are important habitat for birds, mammals, and salmon. The property connects the ocean and estuary to the Siuslaw National Forest to the east.

A view of the Sand Lake estuary from above. A large sandy area with a river running through it and opening into the ocean.

Brokering protection

In order to secure permanent protection of this piece of Sand Lake, Ecotrust purchased the Beltz Farm property for $1.8 million in May 2014 and then sold it to Oregon State Parks in September for the same amount. Ecotrust’s role as an interim landholder allowed the state the time to approve a purchase with the necessary public process and due diligence. The purchase of Beltz Farm was the last step assembling what is now one of the largest stretches of coastal open space in Oregon and the first step in opening a new park, a project that will continue into 2015 and beyond. For a wild stretch of the Oregon Coast, “This is as good as it gets,” says Ecotrust executive chairman Spencer Beebe.

“All of Oregon is wealthier today, with this land in the public’s hands.” –Spencer Beebe, chairman of Ecotrust

Oregonians marshal support

To cover the purchase, Ecotrust used a $1.3 million short-term loan from non-profit lender Craft 3, a recoverable grant from Bandon Biota, LLC — operated by Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser, and another recoverable grant from an anonymous donor. The organization also used grants from the Hitz Foundation, the Oregon Community Foundation’s Donor-Advised Funds, the Autzen Foundation, and 60 crowdsourced small donors to cover the transaction costs. All of the main donors and investors marshaled in support of the project within three months during the winter of 2014. Ecotrust Forest Management (EFM) arranged the Beltz Farm transaction on behalf of Ecotrust.

Many different types of birds stand a marshy area of the Sand Lake estuary, including ducks, great blue herons, seagulls and other seabirds.

Supporting human and natural communities

The property and Sand Lake estuary support a large bird population, with recent surveys identifying more than 43 species, including the bald eagle, dunlin, rufous hummingbird, and willow flycatcher, which are all North Coast basin priority species. Bear and cougar have been sighted on the property, and it provides important habitat for coho and chum salmon and steelhead.

The state’s documented interest in acquiring this property dates to the 1960s. In recent years, golf course developers have unsuccessfully tried to acquire and develop the property. Development is challenging because of difficult access and abundant wetlands.

Communities around the property have shown strong support for its protection during recent public meetings. The purchase by Oregon State Parks is unanimously supported by Tillamook County Commissioners.