Save our billboards!

RUMOR has it that Oregon is not crowded with tourist traffic. Studies are being made to correct this situation. The main reason hordes of people are not jamming Oregon roads is that the state has no billboards. There are vast areas with nothing to look at. The modern tourist cannot be expected to travel any distance exposed to frightening expanses of what might be described as raw scenery. Many have not seen it before and of course feel threatened.

Tourists will drive miles to anywhere as long as a road is protected from unsightly wooded hillsides by continuous lines of billboards, reassuring the traveler that he is in no danger of leaving civilization. Preferably the signs should be about the standardized comforts ahead, such as motels, fast-food houses, and stores selling cheap candy and souvenirs.

This is one reason that places like Florida, southern California, and even Cape Cod are so popular. They have no scenery left to spoil the view. Everything is filled in and paved over, leaving no ugly contours caused by trees, hills, or bays.

Also, Oregon is blemished by what can be described as ``natural'' shoreline. This is land that consists of grass, trees, and beaches going right down to the ocean. It means that tourists have nothing to look at except plain, ordinary water, sand, and misshapen rock formations.

Florida has wisely corrected all this and hidden the water from view by building huge condominiums in front of it, thus presenting an unending panorama of pink stucco, nighttime orange and blue lighting arrangements, and large parking lots painted with interesting diagonal white lines. The parking lots are believed to hold the greatest attraction for tourists.

What Oregon can do at this late date to hide its unsightly natural scenery is not immediately apparent. Usually cutting down the trees and bulldozing the land for commercial construction is a starting point.

Tourists stand ready just outside the Oregon border, waiting, one might say, for the high sign.

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