Nehalem, Ore. – An Oregon equestrian outfitting and guide company, Oregon Beach Rides, was found to have made over two-hundred thousand dollars in revenue in all 2021 and part of 2022– within the scope of less than 6-months of operation– while operating illegally and under contract and support from the State.
Months ago, NW Horse Report started an investigation into complaints being made by multiple equestrian outfitting companies. The allegations were about unfair enforcement by law enforcement and the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB), who overseas all outfitting and guide services across Oregon, leading to unfair competition and putting consumers– as well as equestrian workers– at risk.
The investigation which involved inquiries and records with multiple State and local agencies, as well as the United States Forest Service, showed that the vast majority of Oregon’s equestrian outfitters were violating license and permit requirements at the State and Federal levels, along with various labor laws and tax evasion. Several businesses with known employees, some minors, were also found to not have required minor exemption certificates or workers compensation insurance which is required by law.
A smaller outfitting company claimed that they didn’t have workers compensation coverage due to the high cost– and also (falsely) believing the workers personal health insurance would cover them if injured on the job. That company has since obtained required workers compensation coverage. Officials with OSMB said they do not enforce workers compensation requirements.
That task is left to Oregon’s Department of Consumer & Business Service (DCBS), which despite numerous complaints and evidence from other State agencies, does not appear to have taken action against some of the even larger outfitters. One of the other outfitters, Green Acres Beach & Trial Rides, even provided false statements to DCBS earlier this year that they no longer have employees, despite listing their employees with the OSMB. Green Acres also only submitted a current list of employees with the OSMB after NW Horse Report’s previous story on our “shadow outfitting” investigation, despite one of their owners of Green Acres claiming the allegations were completely false on Facebook.
Some of the listed employees included minors, but past records showed Green Acres also didn’t have a “minor exemption certificate” in violation of child labor law. Labor department officials have previously told NW Horse Report that such certificates are limited, and if issued come with strict restrictions for minors.
One of the businesses found to be operating illegally without an outfitter license with OSMB was Oregon Beach Rides, which offers trail rides at Nehalem Bay State Park. In our previous Shadow Outfitting story, the company was found to have not renewed their license as an outfitter, allowing it to expire in June of 2021.
NW Horse Report also uncovered that Oregon Beach Ride’s operation is conducted through an exclusive State awarded contract under the Oregon Parks & Recreation Division (OPRD). OPRD also makes a flat percentage of gross revenue charged by Oregon Beach Rides from, which includes approximately $30,000 the agency made just from the period of illegal guiding operations by Oregon Beach Rides.
In July of 2022, in trying to determine how a company with an exclusive and lucrative state contract could operate without the license, an official with OPRD said that the company reported issues with their insurance as being the reason they forgot to renew their registration with OSMB.
“…there was a delay in their securing liability insurance – insurance we require for a concessionaire and the Oregon State Marine Board requires to register as a Guide/Outfitter – but it was issued in May naming both OPRD and OSMB as certificate holders. Oregon Beach Rides neglected to follow up and complete their OSMB registration.” said the State official.
The OPRD official later walked back the explanation originally given by Oregon Beach Rides itself, as it was discovered that the outfitter license expired in June 2021, not June of 2022 as they implied. Chris Havel with OPRD told NW Horse Report that the agency places an obligation to maintain all the required licenses squarely on the business.
“The fact we don’t verify a concession’s Outfitter Guide registration is an oversight on our part, and one we are correcting immediately. We should have been checking this, and will be from here on.” said Havel.
Over the last two years the company has also failed to carry workers compensation insurance, even telling OPRD officials that only the owners, Judy Winters and Justin Hughes, are involved in the services. The company previously had workers compensation coverage and reported employees.
However, a source pointed NW Horse Report to online postings on social media that clearly showed individuals other than Winters and Hughes involved in the guiding services in 2021 and 2022. One video included an unnamed worker going along on the guided rides and instructing riders, casting doubt on the business’ claims that they have no employees.
Following the company’s OSMB license expiration at the end of June, 2021, records show Oregon Beach Rides continued operating both in 2021 and for most of their 2022 season. The revenue reports for some months in 2021 and 2022, when compared to past years, also called into questions on the company’s ability to operate without employees as it had the years before.
The contract awarded to Oregon Beach Rides states that the “Contractor shall comply with all federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and ordinances…”. It further stated that the “Contractor shall: Obtain and maintain during the term of the Contract, at its own expense, all necessary licenses and permits required for the successful performance of the Services.”
New attempts seeking comment from Oregon Beach Ride’s owner Judy Winters again went without a response. Winters didn’t respond to requests for comment prior to publication of our initial Shadow Outfitting story.
Other equestrian outfitters, as well as non-equestrian outfitters alike, have expressed their displeasure in the State’s apparent unequal enforcement of outfitter guide laws. While it appears OSMB, Oregon State Police, and some county sheriff’s offices are more aggressive with resources into investigating fishing guides, OSMB did detail that fishing guides far exceed the number of equestrian guides, or even guides in other outfitting categories.
It still didn’t explain the vast disparity uncovered by NW Horse Report that showed that even when violations are discovered, most equestrian and other outfitters are not facing any where close to the same consequences, despite making hundreds of thousands, while some fishing guides are facing criminal charges over mere thousands in illegal guiding revenue, a fraction compared to equestrian outfitters like Oregon Beach Rides and others who have been caught operating without a license. One example included a 2020 case involving a Oregon fishing guide, Kyle Buschelman of Eugene and his business, Willamette Valley Outfitters, LLC.
Buschelman was operating illegally in Tillamook County where Oregon Beach Rides and Green Acres Beach & Trial Rides are based. In that case, the Tillamook County Pioneer reported that, “Buschelman eventually admitted to booking guided fishing trips online through his website, promoting himself as a licensed and registered guide. Trips were generally for the Willamette and McKenzie rivers, and recently in Tillamook County waterways as well. He said he had not gotten around to completing the licensing renewal process. He and his passengers did have valid fishing licenses and tags.”
“This maintains an even and fair playing field,” Trooper Ryan Kehr with OSP said, “This makes it fair for everyone else who is taking the time and paying the fees and following the rules.”
Buschelman ultimately pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal, but instead of facing jail time he was issued $2,500 in fines, and had to provided an apology statement to the Oregon State Marine Board. In Oregon Beach Rides case, they were only issued a civil fine by OSMB to the tune of $200 and their license placed on a “probation” status. OSMB stated this fine was the maximum the agency could issue, despite previously saying they were consulting with the Oregon State Police.
Despite Buschelman stating he just hadn’t got around to renewing his license, a similar claim made by the equestrian outfitters, the State still took far more aggressive action against him and reportedly other guides.
“Oregon Beach Rides was issued the $200 civil penalty as the records shared by OPRD who collected revenue records from the business as a contracted concessionaire showing the business was operating without an Outfitter Guide license. The guiding without a license was not observed by law enforcement, so no additional citations were issued.”
A NW Horse Report source who is a current Oregon law enforcement officer claimed that such investigations do not need to involve it being witnessed by law enforcement as OSMB claimed, but there just needs to be evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict. To even bring charges only required a lower burden of “probable cause”. He stated the financial records themselves were pretty convincing considering they were submitted by Winters and the company, and there would have been plenty of witnesses including park officials.
Outfitters following the rules and are upset with the enforcement say this is just one of many examples that show that the actual enforcement action has been unfair and continues to allow illegal equestrian outfitters an unfair advantage, an advantage which OSP itself has claimed the outfitting laws are intended to prevent.
When offered some comparisons and why Oregon Beach Rides and Green Acres Beach & Trial Rides have not faced further action, Brian Paulsen with OSMB appeared to place blame with the Tillamook County District attorney, referencing other unknown investigations by Oregon State Police.
“As to Green Acres Beach & Trail Rides, we have had County and State law enforcement officers investigate their operation, only to have the Tillamook County DA’s office refuse to take the case to court.”
Tillamook County District Attorney William Porter categorically denied Paulsen’s implications when speaking several months ago with NW Horse Report, saying that there had only been one case brought before his office, a case which was investigated not by OSP but by the sheriff’s office involving Green Acres Beach & Trial Rides which was not initiated by OSMB. Porter made clear that his office can only work off the cases that are brought to him by their law enforcement partners.
It appeared Tillamook Deputy District Attorney Paul Binford dismissed the one case in March of 2020 after the owners of Green Acres indicated it was a simple oversight, although the company ended up going another several months while operating before getting licensed. It was discovered that the companies owner had provided false statements regarding it’s insurance coverage shortly after the citation.
Paulsen also went on to say, “We work closely with our state and federal partners to increase compliance with all of our regulations, but the number of districts and regions for the agencies across the state with differing management practices leaves room for gaps and oversight over some aspects of guide regulations.
NW Horse Report is currently awaiting for additional information and records to determine if OPRD has conducted any audits of Oregon Beach Ride’s revenue reports as provided in the company’s contract with the State of Oregon.
This is part of a serious of ongoing stories titled Shadow Outfitting, part of our investigation into illegal equestrian outfitters across the Pacific Northwest.
Join the discussion on Facebook