Thanks to Lighthawk, we are literally gaining perspective on the shoreline armoring problem affecting Oregon’s coast.

Lighthawk is a non-profit that organizes pilots willing to volunteer their time and their planes to assist conservationists. On May 8, pilot Lane Gormley flew two photographers along the length of Oregon’s north coast, from Newport to the Columbia River and back again. Flying for Oregon Shores was Rena Olson, our former communications coordinator and a long-time photographic contributor to our work. Joining her was Chanel Hason, who also happens to be a former Oregon Shores communications coordinator, but on this occasion was representing our Surfrider colleagues.

The purpose of the expedition was to document the extent of shoreline armoring fronting the Oregon shore, and conversely to reveal stretches without riprap or seawalls, where we can prioritize protection. The images, and what they reveal, will help to support the Oregon Beaches Forever campaign, in which Oregon Shores and Surfrider are working together to address the long-term future of Oregon’s beaches and shorelands.

It was a clear if blustery day for flying, and both photographers rhapsodized over the beauty of Oregon’s coast. “Our dazzling coastline took my breath away,” says Rena. Adds Chanel, “The pristine deep teal hues of the ocean waves crashing against the rugged cliffs resembled a scene from a movie.”

But there was a dark side to the journey. “I was astounded at how much riprap I witnessed on our shoreline,” says Rena. Notes Chanel, “It was jarring to photograph the numerous instances of coastal erosion threatening local communities, where homes are precariously perched on unstable cliffs.”

Sea level rise, increased storm surges, and landslides, along with the relentless drive to develop in risky areas, threaten the future of our coast. We could find that beaches shrink to the point that Oregonians will lose their iconic public shoreline. Oregon Shores and Surfrider are working together to build support for improved shoreline management and long-term solutions. The hundreds of photos obtained during the flight will help us sound the alarm and identify priorities for protection.

Lighthawk has assisted Oregon Shores in the past, particularly in helping us document the reach of high tides for the King Tides Project. This isn’t the first time that Lane Gormley has provided us with flight time. Rena Olson describes him as “knowledgeable, helpful, and patient.” We are deeply appreciative of the contributions of Lane and Lighthawk.


– Written by Phillip Johnson, Shoreline and Land Use Maager