Sunday, January 12, 2020

OPB On Bayocean

On the south jetty, with the inlet and Garibaldi in the distance, from left to right: 
Todd Sonflieth, Jule Gilfillan, Nathan Woosley, Heidi Moritz, and Jeffrey Henon.
Bayocean fans will enjoy two recent productions by Oregon Public Broadcasting journalists. The first, by Jule Gilfillan, is a 30-minute Oregon Field Guide special titled "Lost City of Bayocean" that aired on January 16, 2020. A 20-minute OPB Radio program written and produced by Kristian Foden-Vencil, has not yet aired but will be posted on his OPB page when it does. Kristian and Jule collaborated in writing "Bayocean: The Lost Resort Town That Oregon Forgot" which includes additional information, photos, and a link to use for streaming the OFG special. The OFG Facebook page provides even more videos and photos.

In 2015, I gave a behind-the-scenes look at Grant McComie filming a program on the spit which readers enjoyed, so I'm doing the same for Jule and Kristian. It was fascinating to watch each of these professionals at work, applying their unique styles, and pulling different narratives and conclusions out of the Bayocean story. 

My involvement with OPB began in August 2017 when Oregon Experience writer/producer Kami Horton requested story ideas on the Facebook history group Oregon History and Memories. Kami liked what I had to say about Bayocean and put it on her list. Later that year, Jule Gilfillan learned about Bayocean from Oregon Field Guide cameraman Nick Fisher (since retired) who bikes on the spit and thought it would make a good segment. After doing some research, she agreed with Nick and then checked in with Oregon Experience. Kami said it would be some time before she could get to Bayocean, so she encouraged Jule to run with it. Having learned about my work in the process, Jule contacted me on September 17, 2018, to ask for my assistance. 

A light moment between Todd and Jule.
Nathan assisting Todd with an action shot of Heidi.
Two days later we met at the Bayocean parking lot. Jule introduced me to OPB videographer/editor Todd Sonflieth and production assistant Nathan Woosley, a native of Tillamook. We headed out to the south jetty where Jule interviewed Army Corps of Engineers Coastal Engineer Heidi Moritz with Jeffrey Henon, Public Affairs Specialist standing by. It was good to hear Heidi say Bayocean's destruction was caused by the north jetty being built without a south jetty to match because the Corps had denied that well into the 1980s. 

When Heidi and Jeffrey left, the rest of us went to the Bayocean townsite signpost set up by Perry Reeder and his family. I enjoy telling the Bayocean story, but not so much being on camera. Jule and Todd did the best they could to put me at ease. Next, we visited the pit Perry's family had dug that exposed a section of sidewalk and street and then hiked up to the top of the dune ridge to look out at the shoreline where the Bayocean Natatorium and Hotel Bayocean Annex had stood. That was it for the spit. Jule informed me the story would be a standard eight-minute segment airing sometime in the spring of 2019.  Once home, I sent Jule answers to some questions she had asked, photos requested, and contact information for Bayocean alumni and others she could interview and ask for photos. Some of those photos were in pretty rough shape. Then volunteer Wes Mahan applied his editing magic. The transformations were amazing. Now I know why photos in OPB programs look so good. 

As the weeks went by, Jule kept coming back for more information, which I liked because it meant her interest was growing. I also enjoyed seeing her find new sources and obtain interviews with folks who had eluded me. Eventually, Jule gave me the good news that she had received approval to expand her story to feature-length. But this meant it would take longer to produce, more questions, and another visit to the spit. What I remember most from our June 5, 2019 trip was Todd's use of a drone-mounted camera to hover where the hotel chimney had once stood 100' feet above me standing on the shore below. 

Kristian descending from the highest
point in the southern part of the spit. 
Two months later, Kristian Foden-Vencil (whose British accent I had listened to for 20 years on OPB Radio) emailed to ask me for an interview. He had just recently learned about Bayocean while staying at the Hicks House (which was then a bed and breakfast, but no longer), and in asking around the office, he learned about Jule's story and got approval to write his own. After an initial meeting in Portland, we hiked around the spit on August 8th.  I noticed a new three-sided historical kiosk installed along Dike Road which I later learned was the result of a Tillamook High School student's senior class project. Another kiosk was later installed at the Bayocean townsite. Later, I provided contact information and other resources to Kristian that were different than those I provided Jule. Bayocean is a big story with room for many narratives. 
Assisting Jule and Kristian was fun but challenging at times. They would often begin an email or phone call with a "quick question," for which I could not provide a quick answer.  After five years of research, I knew that the story of Bayocean was more complicated than houses falling into the sea. But the 25 GB of information and photographs on my computer's hard drive, a box of physical manuscripts, and a shelf of books made me think that I had figured it all out. Answering questions for Jule and Kristian dissuaded me of that illusion: I had the data but I hadn't parsed it all out, and the only way to do that was to write a comprehensive narrative from beginning to end. I needed some additional motivation to commit to the time and effort that would entail, so I contacted a couple publishers. They provided enough encouragement to get me started writing. So, you may not hear from me for a while. 

Update:  On March 18, 2023, I announced the publication of Bayocean: Atlantis of Oregon. A month later, Oregon Field Guide  gave their take on what it was like working with me on their Facebook page