Twenty five years ago, Tillamook Bay was just one of many estuaries in the country. An integral piece of the North Oregon Coast’s economy, a few grassroots volunteers felt Tillamook Bay deserved to be protected for generations to come.
It was around that time that Tillamook Bay was designated as a “Bay of National Significance” by the Environmental Protection Agency. This designation secured Tillamook Bay’s spot in the National Estuaries Program, which works to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of 28 estuaries located along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Coasts and Puerto Rico.
With this new designation came the birth of the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP).
“Even all those years ago, marking Tillamook Bay as significant was about promoting clean water, abundant wildlife and a vibrant way of life,” said Kristi Foster, TEP’s Executive Director. “It’s about conserving America’s iconic estuaries, and Tillamook Bay is special enough to be one of them.”
To celebrate, TEP is collaborating with the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum on a new art exhibit to highlight the beauty of Tillamook County’s estuaries and TEP’s vital role in keeping them vibrant and productive.
Titled ‘Discover the Bounty of the Bays’ the new exhibit opens August 3rd and runs through September 28th and features the history of Tillamook Estuaries Partnership, information about TEP’s work and programs, and artwork from local artists featuring the natural landscapes, wildlife, and communities TEP works to enhance.
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate local artists and learn more about the work that TEP has accomplished over the last two and a half decades, and the work still left to be done,” Foster said.
“Within the national estuary program we’re probably the only one that can still fix all of our problems,” she continued. “We still have salmon; we still have oysters; we still have the ability to clean our water; it’s very exciting.”
And, a healthy estuary is at the heart of the community, noted Claudine Rehn, Deputy Director. “Without clean water, we’re not going to have a healthy economy or a healthy community… Having these five estuaries that we are lucky enough to have, they are the touchstone for everyone who lives here. In some way, we are all impacted by the health of our estuaries and we want to raise awareness of what that means for everyone involved – farmers, fishermen, foresters; we are all in this together.”
The gallery opens August 3rd, and TEP will also be present at the Tillamook Farmers Market that day from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Stop by their booth to help create an estuary inspired window mural made from marine debris with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program’s Trash Talk Project. This is a great opportunity to meet TEP’s staff, Board Members and volunteers, and learn more about TEP’s programs while creating a beautiful piece of artwork.
Other celebratory events are planned throughout the summer including guided walks and hikes of conservation areas such as Kilchis Point Reserve and Hoquourton Slough. These events are part of the Explore Nature program and will provide an opportunity to Discover Tillamook County’s estuaries in person. .
For more information, follow the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership on Facebook or visit their website www.tbnep.org.