Rebecca and Brian (and Sky)

Rebecca and Brian moved from Portland into their new home just 6 months ago.  They have visited the coast dozens of times over the past twenty years and fell in love with the area.  What’s not to love? Their daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter – Sky – loves it here too.  She is adorable, but camera shy.

When it was time to think about retiring, they both agreed that Seaside was going to be their new home – if they could find the right house.  They thought they had found the perfect one in a new development on Forest Drive, just up the hill from the wetlands.  “The seclusion offered by the forest in their backyard was the single most important factor in choosing Seaside. It offered a sense of place.”

The area is thick with native vegetation, plenty of trees and an abundant stream that brings peace to all souls who visit or call the canopy their home.  The soils are covered in soft ferns and vegetation, along with a few mushrooms.  The mature tree roots have grown deep.

Stream bank mushroom (don’t eat it)

Brian is calm, tall and has broad shoulders.  He owned a small business, but in his youth, he worked on a forest crew, both thinning and planting trees.  He has spent years under the canopy, and he knows the land.  He notes that “tree felling is not an exact science.  It’s fine in out in the woods, but a lot trickier in a residential neighborhood.”  There are hundreds of mature trees on the property, many over 100’ tall. “Things don’t always fall where you want them to and if that happens (which it will) the damage to the stream would be irreparable.”

Although trees along the stream bank closest to his house won’t be cut, the small setbacks proposed make it likely that the ridge on the other side will be.  Brian says “the removal of a big tree permanently alters the land below and around it.  Nothing like it will ever grow there again.”  He then points to a tree across the stream “If the vegetation is removed at the peak of that ridge, the roots will be exposed, and that tree will come down.”  There may be two hundred trees along the length of both streams; way too many to avoid irreparably damaging the water flows.

Under the canopy

Rebecca projects a gentle presence behind her reading glasses.  She loves the earth, and everything about the natural world.  After a career in the insurance industry, she also owned a small business, but insurance plays a role in her comments about the proposed development.

The insurance industry has seen rising costs as a result of losses from more frequent and severe storms.  Changes that are caused by climate change.  Rates for beach front homes and those in geologically hazardous areas like this canyon, are set to rise dramatically as insurers look to recover those costs.  “The price of insurance for a home in that potential development might be two or three times the rate of those in other areas around here.”

She also thinks about other potential challenges. Like Kathy in the previous story, Rebecca’s daughter works remotely from their home. “Affordable housing is nearly impossible to find here on the coast,” she says. “This proposal won’t fix that and the potential for ten years of construction noise is terrible to think about.  That’s not what we thought we were buying.”

Both streams lead into the wetlands next to the Suzanne Elise assisted living community at the bottom of the hill.  She asks “How would sewage be installed without tearing up those wetland areas?  Where are the details?”  Neither of those questions have answers.

She adds “The canyon and stream are rich with life, and the trees shield our home from the wind and heat.”  Clearcutting will change all that.  It will create a heat island and leave their homes exposed to the fierce storms to come.  The stream will dry up over time as the canopy cover disappears.

When they were buying the house, they were told that the forest was “protected land and could never be developed.”  They both agreed thinking “Who would be so irresponsible to take on that kind of project?”

Forest friend

Sky lays on Brian’s shoulder, slowly waking up after an afternoon nap.  Rebecca wonders what will be left for Sky.  “We want to save this forest for Sky.”  Brian adds “This place was way more special than we ever thought it would be.”  This was to be their forever place.

With more powerful and frequent storms coming as a result of climate change, and the potential blight of another development tearing through a forest wonderland, Sky’s future tears may become less about waking up from nap time and more about the loss of her abundant, natural playground.