A Living History

For centuries, the coastal fog-belt forest — a rich and diverse ecosystem blanketed with towering Sitka spruce trees — was the predominant landscape of the central Oregon coast. 

But like so many once-wild regions, human activities have left their mark on the landscape. Cities were built. Highways were created. Animals native to the area lost their habitat. Then during World War I, the area’s mighty Sitka spruce forests were clear-cut as the strong, lightweight wood was needed to make aircraft. The natural spaces that had thrived for millennia were rapidly disappearing. 

Newport residents Bill and JoAnn Barton are working to change that. In July of 2012, they began buying land parcels in the area, working to piece together one of the last natural areas of its kind on the Oregon coast. To date, they've acquired 168-acres on a large peninsula on Yaquina Bay that’s home to elk, black bears, cougars, eagles and more. Working closely with a skilled forester, the Bartons seek to return the land as closely as possible to what it might have looked like hundreds of years ago. The Bartons have planted nearly 10,000 native trees and shrubs, including 7,000 Sitka spruce.