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Be Smart. Be Safe. Oregon Coast jetties: no place for having fun
Oregon Coast Notes - News

By Lori Tobias for the Oregonian

OregonianImageNEWPORT – Last month, witnesses watched in horror as waves washed a young couple off the South Jetty of Yaquina Bay. Both drowned. Two years earlier, it was two young men. One lived. One did not.

In 2005, incoming tides stranded seven people on a jetty near Oceanside. A Coast Guard helicopter plucked them to safety. A year earlier, it was a 64-year-old man who needed rescuing after he fell on the jetty rocks.

And on the list goes.

There is just something about a jetty that seems to beckon people onto its gnarly spine.

"It's a visual lure," said Eric Bluhm a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"You're closer to the waves. It's enticing. It's exciting."

And it is so very dangerous.

That's why the U.S. Corps of Engineers – which builds and maintains ocean jetties – is trying to get the word out: a jetty is no place for having fun.

"Anyone who walks out onto a jetty risks any number of accidents," said Michelle Helms, spokeswoman for the Corps. "We want people to understand these are not structures that were built with recreation in mind."

Jetties help oceangoing vessels navigate safely from harbors to sea. They are primarily built from boulders weighing as much as 30 to 50 tons and often stretch into the ocean for miles.

It's that long rocky link to the sea that people can't seem to resist.

"It's the proximity to the ocean," said Oregon State Police Sergeant Justin McGladrey. "It affords people a chance to get as far out from land without leaving land. It is a pretty unique thing, the ocean. But even on a nice day, it can be a dangerous situation, the waves can still come over the top."

That's what happened to Katie and Mike Myers last month when they came to Newport to celebrate 15 years of marriage...

"There are crevices between these boulders," Helms said. "You're on an already slippery surfaces. There are no handholds. Even if you are wearing a life jacket, your foot can get caught between the boulders. You could get wedged in between. It's so unpredictable out there."

So next time you go to the coast, and you want to experience the power and beauty of the ocean, find a safe place, said Helms.

"Respect that not every viewpoint is the safest and be able to walk away from the coast acknowledging that without getting hurt. Or worse. We know that people want to be out on the jetties.

"The fact is they weren't made for people to be on them safely; they were made for something else. It is beautiful out there and the power of the ocean is incredible, but we want people to see that from a safe location and the jetties are not that safe location."

An unmarked cross sits wedged between some rocks on the south jetty at Yaquina Bay. The U.S. Corps of Engineers, which builds and maintains ocean jetties, is trying to get the word out: a jetty is no place for having fun.

Read about Katie and Mike Myers, George Bulawka, Daniel Swiercinsky and Arnold Halstad Jr. in the Oregonian Article