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Roughly 25 years ago 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.

This new designation gave a few grassroots volunteers, who had already felt that as an integral piece of the north Oregon coastal economy the bay deserved to be protected for future generations, the support they needed to form 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 an art exhibit highlighting the beauty of Tillamook County’s estuaries and TEP’s vital role in keeping them vibrant and productive.

“Discover the Bounty of the Bays,” opening Sat. Aug. 3 and on display until Saturday, Sept. 28, features the history and work of TEP 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,” said Foster. “Within the national estuary program we’re probably the only one that can still fix all of our problems. We still have salmon, we still have oysters, we still have the ability to clean our water; it’s very exciting.”

Stop by the TEP booth Tillamook Farmers Market on Saturday, Aug. 3 from 9 am to 2 pm and not only meet some of the members of the organization but also help create an estuary inspired window mural made from marine debris with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program’s Trash Talk Project.

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 www.tbnep.org.

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