Help Me Plan a Remembrance
April 26, 2021 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Short version: My mother passed away last summer in the midst of the Pandemic. I am finally able to plan a small, close-family remembrance for her this summer during the last week of July at her favorite place - Cannon Beach, Oregon. I have never planned anything like this, and I (who lives in Central Florida) have not been to Cannon Beach since 1993. I have SO MANY QUESTIONS.

1. Is it legal, and acceptable, to scatter her ashes into the ocean near Haystack Rock? Do I need a permit or permission to do it? Is there anything I should be concerned about here?

2. Per her wishes I have hired a bagpiper from Portland to come and play for fifteen minutes or so during the remembrance. This will be at sunset on a weeknight, so around 8:30 pm. Again with the permit/permission question, and do I need to be worried about noise ordinances or the like?

3. There will likely be 8-10 adults and one small child present. Are bonfires permitted on the beach after dark, or are there possibly proscribed fire pits/locations available if we want to hang out for a while after the service proper?

4. Again, with 8-10 adults and one child in mind, can anyone with local knowledge recommend a restaurant for a casual dinner earlier in the evening?

5. Are there any other practical considerations I am not thinking about that I should be, regarding a fairly small and fairly short informal gathering on the beach? Any and all advice would be most appreciated. Presume that some attendees will have lodging within walking distance to the beach, while others may be driving in from elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. I am also aiming for closer to a wake than a funeral, but certainly not for a wild party.
posted by Lokheed to Travel & Transportation around Clatsop County, OR (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am very sorry for your loss.

I hope this is helpful, and maybe you know this, but that time of year is really peak tourism season at Cannon Beach, which is an incredibly popular spot for Portlanders and other folks from the Willamette Valley (so that's probably a bit different than 1993?). I'd encourage you to make your lodging reservations soon and expect that that the beach will be busy. We are crowding our beaches even more these days, with the pandemic.

I'd suggest making reservations for dinner as soon as possible too.

Also, in case you don't recall: it's often not hot at the Oregon coast in the summer! Bring pants and a fleece or other jacket. It can be chilly.

It can also be very windy at the coast. Keep that in mind when you are thinking about scattering ashes. More importantly, Travel Oregon says you have to be three miles out to scatter ashes, and the EPA forbids spreading ashes on the coastline.

Here's the information on bonfires from the Cannon Beach fire department:
All beach fires must be a minimum of 50 feet away from seagrass or other combustible materials (driftwood, seawall, etc.). The fire must be attended at all times. Do NOT burn driftwood as it can smolder for several hours after it has been extinguised, later causing a fire to ignite.

The best way to extinguish the fire is by pouring water over it until all the red embers have gone out. If possible try not to cover remanants with sand as people might walk over the hot sand.

If you do not have water, spread fuel pile outward instead of it being in a pile. This eleminates fuel for the fire to burn.

You'll want to check local conditions during your visit, though, as there might be a burn ban. It's already dry in April, which is typically a wet month.

I'd ask the bagpiper about how loud they are, and then check local noise ordinances (or maybe they have experience).
posted by bluedaisy at 1:20 PM on April 26, 2021

I am sorry for your loss, and having to wait to be able to come together in remembrance.

Scattering ashes on a beach, aside from being illegal, is likely to blow the contents onto (and...into) the attendees. Some people react really strongly to that and it's really distressing, so I would not risk it. Find a nice cemetery in the area and see if they have a scattering garden, or take them quietly into the woods somewhere, or rent a boat to take you 3nm out.

The wind can also be a detriment to being able to hear each other, including the piper. I'm not an expert on Oregon beaches, but if you were asking about doing this in SoCal I would strongly suggest you find a nearby restaurant with a private room or patio to gather for any sort of talking, and do a group sunset walk with the piper before or after that gathering. You'll want to check if people are even allowed on the beaches after sunset, as that is often closing time in this state (and the area parking lots are shut with any stragglers either locked in or towed). Beaches are dangerous after dark, just even to physically walk onto and off of, and if any of your guests are elderly or unsteady on their feet I'd be worried about dealing with that. Even for very steady people, it is dark and sand is trudge-y.

This might be a little easier and worth a bit of money to google around for any kind of local independent "officiant" or event planner - even if their usual gig is weddings, they'll know all the same rules about beaches and gatherings and what restaurants nearby are accommodating.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:04 PM on April 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Cannon Beach Visitor Center says they answer their phone 9-5 Monday through Friday and I bet they could answer a lot of your questions. Cannon Beach is super touristy and people go out there to have weddings frequently so I bet the person at the Visitor Center would either have answers or be able to point you in the right direction.

My only real input is that on a summer's day Cannon Beach is going to be jammed with tourists. You may be OK with that or you might like to have a rented spot where your party can be more alone. I'm sorry for your loss <3
posted by hungrytiger at 2:32 PM on April 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

I checked bluedaisy's link to the official Oregon tourism site which lists charter-boat companies that will assist with a sea scattering of ashes outside the EPA's three-mile limit.

- Garibaldi Fishing Charters in Garibaldi, about 30 miles south of Cannon Beach, charges $1000 for up to 21 people on a boat to sail from Garibaldi to Cannon Beach and back - they say it takes about four hours.

- Pacific Salmon Charters are based in Ilwaco, across the Columbia from Astoria. It's not clear to me from their site where they'll go or what they charge.
posted by mdonley at 10:05 PM on April 26, 2021

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