By Sayde Moser
Imagine being able to trek through the forests of the Tillamook Coast with a mushroom foraging expert, hike Bayocean Spit with a local historian, kayak Netarts Bay in search of sand dollar beds, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Port of Garibaldi and learn where (and how) to buy fresh, sustainably-caught seafood. Now imagine that you get to do all this for free.
Welcome to the Explore Nature Series. Now in its fifth season, this popular program offers volunteer-led hikes, walks and paddles through a consortium of North Coast organizations and non-profits. Since 2014, hundreds of people have participated in mushrooming, beach clean ups, fossil hunting, clam digging, bird watching and much more. In fact, last year the Explore Nature Series hosted more than 60 events that brought people out all over Tillamook County to explore the natural world and learn about the work being done to preserve and conserve its natural resources.
The Explore Nature Series is comprised of several nonprofits including The Tillamook Estuaries Partnership; the Friends of Netarts Bay WEBS; Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve; North Coast Land Conservancy; and the Lower Nehalem Community Trust. Each organization hosts its own type of educational events that can be everything from whale watching at Cape Lookout to hunting for predator tracks at Alder Creek Farm or poking around tide pools in Oceanside with sea-life experts. No matter what event you choose to participate in, one thing is for sure: it means getting outside.
“To appreciate all the beauty our county has to offer, you have to get outside,” said Alix Lee, the Community Education and Engagement Coordinator for Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. “It connects you to the area around you. Whether it’s going for a hike in a forest or a walk on the beach, we want people to get outside and experience the beautiful natural area we live in, and be encouraged to enjoy it in a responsible way so it’s here for generations to come.”
Several of the organizations that are a part of the Explore Nature Series have also started adding action days along with their educational programs. These action days encourage participants to get involved in a more hands-on way, such as beach clean ups around Netarts, maintaining trails at Oswald West State Park, pulling invasive Scotch Broom on Whalen Island, or helping the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership pot native plants for use in restoration projects around the state.
“We work to sustain this beautiful area through education and stewardship,” said Chrissy Smith, with the Friends of Netarts Bay WEBS, an Explore Nature Series founder. “We think that if we can get you to love it, then when you are living here, visiting here or working here, you will think about the choices you are making and make wise ones to keep this place as beautiful as possible.”
Each event is free and open to the public, however registration is required. A seasonal calendar of events can be found at explorenaturetillamookcoast.com, or follow Explore Nature Tillamook Coast on Facebook to see what is upcoming. Some tours – such as Shop at the Dock, and kayak trips along Netarts Bay, are offered annually but have a limited number of spaces available and fill up quickly.
For more community events and activities, visit the Calendar page on tillamookcountyhealthmatters.org or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook.