*This is part one in a ten-part series about the central Oregon coast and how people here are fighting the recession blues.
By Dave Masko
FLORENCE, Oregon — Just as European beach grass invaded what is now the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area back in the early 1900’s, so too have local people from nearby Eugene invaded the central Oregon coast as a place to find peace from what has been dubbed “the 21st century recession.”
This area of western Lane County has been hit hard by the recession with local officials pointing to high unemployment in the double digits. Locals say nearly one in three are out of work, and those with a work situation are seeing fewer tourist dollars being spent.
People who live on the coast depend upon these tourists or “invaders” to keep the local economy alive. Spending money at coastal antique shops or in fish and chips joints is the draw here, but many visitors are just looking or opting for a cheap ice cream cone with their seaside excursion.
“Cape Perpetua and alike are beautiful. The vast Pacific and Coast Highway are beautiful. But you can’t eat the scenery,” quipped Gary Knudtson who works part time s a Florence short order cook.
“I moved here from Eugene to get away from you know, the hassle. It’s peaceful here but hard to make ends meet,” Knudtson added.
Nicknamed “coastals,” these resourceful men and women eke out a living my catering to visitors in both the spring and summer tourist season. The coast is also a draw during the gray winter months. February is known for the big waves and stormy beaches.
“At this time of the year there’s more wood and lumber on the coastal beaches than in the nearby woods,” said Cynthia Phinney who along with her husband Wesley and three kids are regular Florence beach visitors.
“Yea, I’d say that the coast is the lungs of Eugene. We come here to get away, and de-stress a bit. Certainly these unsure times have got us all very stressed,” she added. “said Cynthia Phinney who along with her husband Wesley and three kids are regular Florence beach visitors.
In fact, it’s 65 miles for us from Eugene along Highway 126 West to the coast,” added Phinney. “It’s a nice hour and a half drive from our busy neighborhood to this quiet beach.”
And, just as European beach grass is tough as old boots, so too is the resolve for both visitors and locals to enjoy themselves at the beach because it helps make the recession go down just a bit better.