The Origins of the Marsh
In the beginning there was the Nehalem River, flowing down from the coast range, widening into a bay at its mouth, and emptying into the Pacific Ocean. When the early European settlers arrived in Tillamook County in the 1850s, what is today the Nedonna neighborhood was a landmark on the trail that ran up and down the coast. Southbound travelers would stop at the Nehalem Tillamook village on the Nehalem spit opposite Fishery Point and hire a canoe to take them across the river to about where the Nedonna marsh is today. Northbound travelers would make a fire or wave a blanket and a canoe would come across to ferry them to the village.
When loggers arrived in the 1870s lumber schooners crossing the Nehalem bar and traveling upriver serviced the sawmills that grew up as the area was logged, including a very large operation at Wheeler and carried cargo for the homesteaders in the area. The shifting sand bar at the mouth and the meandering river banks were a constant problem. Local efforts to build some kind of jetty to coax the Nehalem into a regular channel were unsuccessful but the Army Corps of Engineers stepped in and built a jetty to channel the river and scour out the bar at its mouth.
In addition to channeling the river and controlling the bar, the new jetty changed the dynamics of sand movement. In general, sand on Oregon beaches moves gradually northward over time. With the jetty in the way, new land began to build up, restoring the Nedonna Beach area and creating the mix of wetlands, tidal areas, and forest in the lee of the south jetty that is the Nedonna Marsh.
Mr. H. Robert Riley purchased a tract of land north of the town of Rockaway Beach in 1943 with the intention of subdividing and developing it. Despite some ambiguities in deeds and surveys, Riley platted and began to develop Nedonna Beach, treating Section Line street as the northern boundary but laying claim to the marsh as well. Some of Nedonna Marsh, however, was also claimed by Publishers’ Paper Company who later sold their rights to Mr. Loren Parks, who has more than once stated his intention to donate it as a park.
The plot thickened when Riley sold his interest to 3&3, a limited liability corporation (LLC), that tried to persuade and pressure Mr. Parks to sell the land he claimed. When 3&3 LLC went bankrupt, their rights were purchased by the Federated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community who sold it two years later to Sea River Properties, the current owner.
A Zig That Didn’t Zag
In the mid 1960s the Oregon Department of Transportation seriously considered plans rerouting US 101 through Nedonna, over a bridge across the Nehalem River, and up to Manzanita through Nehalem Bay State Park. The intent was to eliminate a stretch of road subject to frequent slides and sinking pavement.
The state prepared for the consequences of shortening the highway by four miles by prefixing mileage markers in the area with a “z” and that designation, as well as a discrepancy in mileage between mileposts z45 and 49, are reminders of what might have been.
The Courts Decide
The dispute between Mr. Parks and Sea River ended up in the courts. At issue was the legal status of accreted land (that is, land that has been added by natural processes to existing tracts). The Tillamook County court’s ruling in favor of Mr. Parks as the sole owner was upheld on appeal but ultimately reversed by the Oregon Supreme Court.
In the Fall of 2015 the Friends of Nedonna Marsh was formed to to support efforts to keep the marsh and woods wild and free. There were preliminary discussions with Mr. Loren Parks who has donated significant parcels of land in Tillamook County for conservation of public use. In early 2018 the Director of the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum http://www.tcpm.org/ joined the discussions. The Museum already owns the Kilchis Point Preserve, an ecologically and historically significant parcel some 10 miles south of Rockaway Beach. [Visit https://kilchispoint.wordpress.com/ ] In the summer of 2018 the Museum successfully negotiated the acquisition of Mr. Parks' share of the marsh and will manage it to preserve the it with some minimal improvements for public access.
The Future of the Marsh
While the legal battle over ownership seems resolved, the future of the Marsh is will be affected by state and county zoning laws and regulations. Click here for a discussion of the various zoning regulations affecting the Marsh.