Monday, 13 November 2017
Jenny Bocko, Writer & Photographer
Shore Acres State Park, near Charleston OR, known for its 5 acre botanical garden and stunning rugged coastal views, may be one of the best year round places to visit on the Oregon Coast.
Nestled between Cape Arago State Park and Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Acres got it's start as the estate of Louis J Simpson (a shipbuilder and lumberman) and his wife, Lela. They developed an exquisite botanical garden and an elaborate mansion. This mansion burnt down in 1921 but was replaced by Simpson with another, bigger, mansion. As the country fell into depression, the property fell into disrepair; in 1942 the property was sold to the State of Oregon to be used as a public park. Between 1942 and 1980, other properties were purchased and made part of the park.
While the mansion had long been raised due to disrepair, the garden remained, but in poor condition. Oregon State Parks, in the mid 1970s, worked to rehabilitate the 5 acre garden with the help of landscape architect Joseph Paiva. Although changes were made to the garden, the design remained relatively close to its original design. The garden was rededicated 18 September 1975.
In 1987, over a decade after the rededication the gardens, Friends of Shore Acres, a local non-profit support group, decided to add some lights and a tree for the holidays. Roughly 9,000 people came out the first year. It is estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 now come out to see the garden decorated for the holidays.
The decorations have come a long way from the humble 6,000 lights and sole Christmas tree. Now visitors can experience over 300,000 lights, numerous decorated trees and lighted statues, and a performance pavilion.
2017 marks the 31st year that Friends of Shore Acres will be decorating the garden. Decoration is done by volunteers who come out to the park over a period of 6 weekends and an additional 5 to 10 days scattered in between. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the lights from 4pm to 930pm from Thanksgiving to December 31st, while normal daylight visiting hours are 8am to dusk.
While the holiday lights in the winter tend to be the attraction at Shore Acres, stormy seas can provide quite a performance. A permanent viewing shelter sits where the Simpson Mansion used to sit, allowing guests a dry place to enjoy the views. Walkways and viewing areas are all along the cliffs, allowing for even better exhilarating views that shouldn't be missed, especially in stormy weather.