Samuel H. Boardman State Park

The Samuel H. Boardman State Park is a 1,471-acre, 11-mile, linear park consisting of a stunning swath of coastal Curry County. Stretching west of Highway 101 in a continuous corridor from Brookings north to Pistol River State Park, Boardman State Park (now administratively referred to as a State Scenic Corridor) is one of the most iconic of Oregon’s coastal parks. The park features forested headlands, seaside prairies, shimmering beaches, towering sea stacks, magnificent vistas, and booming surf. The Oregon Coast Trail meanders through the entire park, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department maintains seven marked trails, ranging from very short to several miles in length. There are also opportunities for informal hikes down to and along the many beaches.

The park is one of the few landmarks that honors Samuel H. Boardman. As Oregon’s first superintendent of State Parks, from 1929 to 1950, Boardman shaped the Oregon state park system and orchestrated much of the land acquisition for the park named after him.

Land now within the park was home for thousands of years to Native people known in Oregon as the Tututni. Despite nearly a century of EuroAmerican occupation, the shoreline of modern Curry County remained remarkably undeveloped by the early decades of the twentieth century. Prairie lands formerly cleared by Native burning were used for livestock grazing and harbored ruggedly independent farmsteads that produced meat, wool, and dairy products. Yet, lacking a substantial navigable harbor and being relatively inaccessible to urban tourists, the Curry County coast lagged in development except for spurts of gold mining and industrial timber-cutting. Property values, low already, had plummeted during the Depression, and by the 1930s visitors could still view a largely undeveloped coastline of outstanding geographic diversity.

The potential of Curry County as one of the last venues for a large coastal park was widely recognized. In 1938, both the National Park Service and the State Parks Division independently studied the Brookings-to-Gold Beach stretch of the coast for possible protection. Glenn O. Stevenson, a Highway Department landscape architect and draftsman, and Boardman’s deputy, W.A. Langille, backpacked the area and wrote a report recommending protection of 4,935 acres, focused mainly on the shoreline. National Park Service planners recommended a 30,000-acre national park stretching north from Cape Sebastian to Brookings and reaching into the hills up to a half mile east of Highway 101, which ran inland through Carpenterville, as had the pre-existing road since at least 1922.

Despite Sam Boardman’s enthusiasm for the federal proposal, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes extended only token support, and he advised Boardman that there was no funding for it. Despite support from Governor Charles Sprague and Curry County residents and some positive publicity, Ickes never put his full weight behind the Oregon Coast park project, focusing instead on shoreline acquisition efforts along the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

On May 29, 1940, Oregon Senator Charles McNary introduced a bill in Congress that would create the park, but it died in session because of local opposition and a negative recommendation by the Bureau of the Budget. Ickes remained largely noncommittal, but Boardman carried on where the National Park Service had halted.

In 1941, state highway engineers completed a road location study for the ultimately successful effort to realign the Carpenterville-Brookings portion of the Oregon Coast Highway to bring it closer to the coast. With the study in hand, Boardman negotiated directly with rural landowners, but he also employed a statewide network to garner behind-the-scenes support. His principal goal was the purchase of 2,000 acres fronting the realigned coastal highway, which he called the “biggest scenic, recreational project that has ever been presented to a [highway] commission from an acquisition standpoint.” The State Highway Commission, often reticent with acquisition funding, was supportive.

After reporting back to the commission on the feasibility of the project, Boardman initiated negotiations with local landowners in the summer of 1947. By 1950, the state had acquired, through purchase and condemnation, 1,095 acres for just under $150,000. The keystone piece was 367 acres donated by Pacific Borax Company of Los Angeles, a division of the British company Borax Consolidated. The donation, completed in 1950, provided both a parking area and additional beach access. The state was also able to purchase 83 acres of federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in May 1957 for $14,860, which helped add to the expanding park. Remaining park acreage was acquired that same year.

The State of Oregon named the park in honor of Boardman when he retired in 1950, three years before his death.

 

Boardman Park, near Brookings, P057acc91156
Coast at Boardman State Park near Brookings.
Photo Oreg. State Hwy Dept., courtesy Oreg. State Univ. Libr., P057acc91156

Authors


Map It


Further Reading

Armstrong, Chester H. Oregon State Parks History, 1917-1963. Salem, Ore.: State Printer, 1965.

Langille, W. A. A Report on the Shorelands of the Crook Point – Cape Ferrelo Section of the Curry County, Oregon, Coast Line, [1938], p. 3, Ax 635, Langille Papers, University of Oregon Special Collections, Knight Library, Eugene.

Mark, Stephen R. Remaking an Inhabited Wilderness: Sam Boardman's Struggle for the Curry County Ocean Waysides. Draft typescript (in author's possession), 2015.

Merriam, Lawrence C., Jr. Oregon's Highway Park System, 1921-1989: An Administrative History. Salem: Oregon State Parks, 1992.


Related Articles

Bates, view from the north, 1959.
Bates State Park

Bates State Park, located in Grant County, one mile north of Austin Junction on U.S. Highway 26, is on the site of the former Oregon Lumber Company mill and company town of Bates.

Bates was named for Paul Chapman Bates, a Portland businessman who assembled large tracts of timberland ...

Charles McNary and his personal secretary, 1932
Charles L. McNary (1874-1944)

Charles Linza McNary represented Oregon in the U.S. Senate from 1917 until his death in 1944. In an era that saw the challenges of World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, he established a national reputation as a thoughtful, effective, and independent legislative leader. 

One ...

Nehalem Bay State Park

Nehalem Bay State Park occupies almost 900 acres on a sand spit separating Nehalem Bay from the Pacific Ocean. Native Americans once occupied seasonal homes along the bay side of the spit. The area was surveyed for white settlement in the 1850s and platted for real estate development in 1908 ...

Oswald West State Park

Shortly after Samuel Boardman became Oregon’s first director of state parks in 1929, he received a proposal for a park along the north coast. Helen Drollinger, who owned land on the coast, wrote Boardman proposing a new park and suggesting that Sam Reed, the founder of the town of Neahkahnie ...

Samuel H. Boardman (1874-1953)

As the first state parks superintendent in Oregon, serving from 1929 to 1950, Sam Boardman is often called the father of the state park system. He had a germinal role in building a system that attracted a steadily increasing number of visitors, and he was the catalyst for the state’s ...

Silver Falls State Park

Silver Falls State Park, located about twenty miles southeast of Salem, is the largest state park in Oregon. The 9,064-acre park is notable for its numerous waterfalls, the tallest of which is Double Falls, at 178 feet. The best-known falls in the park is South Falls, at 177 feet ...

Tuff of Smith Rock along the Crooked River along the Wolf Tree Trail near the Horse Ford in Smith Rock State Park.
Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park encompasses 652 acres near Redmond and Terrebonne, in the semi-arid High Desert of central Oregon. This landscape of rock spires, cliffs, and canyonlands lies along the northern edge of the Crooked River caldera, a 26-mile long, 17-mile wide volcanic depression formed through a series of super-volcanic eruptions ...

Tryon State Park trails
Tryon State Park

Located in southwest Portland, Tryon Creek State Park is a 635-acre, undeveloped natural area that contains numerous native species of both flora and fauna. The park is maintained through the efforts of Oregon State Parks and Friends of Tryon Creek State Park, a civic organization that is responsible for education ...

Highway 101 (Oregon Coast Highway)
US 101 (Oregon Coast Highway)

Many places on the Oregon coast were virtually inaccessible in the early twentieth century. Small fishing villages existed as remote outposts, separated by rocky headlands and timber-covered hills. The Roosevelt Coast Military Highway, named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, was a result of a renewed national sense of isolationism ...


This entry was last updated on Oct. 4, 2018