Wednesday, August 09, 2006


One of my favorite places to go as a kid was the Long Beach Peninsula of Washington state. Bordered by the Columbia River and Willapa Bay, this remote spit of land thriving in wild salmon, oysters, cranberries, and coastal rainforest was an adventurers paradise--especially for foot loose kids.

As I grew older, we went there to play with our dogs on the immense beach and explore mossy Sitka Spruce forests while hunting mushrooms every fall. Eventually, as the sand accumulated behind the river jetty built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the beachfront cottages we loved so much grew to quarter mile hikes through the dunes, and we found other coastal resorts in Oregon more to our liking.

Since we still had family in the area, we returned off and on to Long Beach, Seaview, and Ilwaco, but during the interim, the area had been turned into a gaudy Disneyesque amusement park with traffic congestion and fast food franchises. All that remained of our fond memories were the cranberry bogs, a few old shake cottages, and the oyster barges that hauled the bags of delectable Willapas up river to the South Bend shucking and canning plants.

The next kiss of death to our old haunt was an invasion of spartina in the oyster beds which the oyster growers chose to deal with by spraying herbicides in the bay. Then the cranberry farms began using pesticides to prevent blemishes on their beautiful red berries, and we figured there wasn't much chance of the groundwater remaining uncontaminated for long.

There is, of course, the mighty Columbia River nearby should they ruin the local aquifer with petrochemicals, but this winter, Washington's governor announced on CBS 60 Minutes that the U.S. Hanford Nuclear Reservation upstream was on the verge of introducing leaked radioactive waste into the river that supplies municipal drinking water to several cities on its way to the ocean at Long Beach. This would seem to be the last straw for our previous paradise.


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