Putting down roots

Kindergartners from the Cannon Beach Academy get ready to take a photo with a flag giving Cannon Beach the distinction of “Tree City USA” as a part of the 12 Days of Earth Day event in 2018.

Local and not-so-local environmentalists are flocking to Cannon Beach through Monday, April 22, for the 10th annual 12 Days of Earth Day. The celebration has become a city tradition and a way for committed local environmentalists to care for the Earth in community.

Organizers bring in different lecturers every year but maintain popular events like the Earth Day Street Fair and the Gaylord Nelson community potluck, where every year a citizen of Cannon Beach is honored with the Gaylord Nelson Award and leads the Earth Day Parade the following day. Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970.

“There’s a little bit of something for everyone, and there are chances to get your hands dirty with our an ivy pull, micro-plastic removal and tree planting,” said Barb Knop, chair of the 12 Days of Earth Committee. “I’m a retired school teacher, so I love the tree planting event we do. We have some trees that were planted by kids who are now juniors and seniors in high school and their trees are full size now, and so are they.”

A new event added to this year’s schedule is organized by Champions for Cetaceans, which Ed Johnson and his step-daughter Kirsten Massebeau founded. They have invited guest speaker Era Horton from the American Cetacean Society’s Oregon Chapter to discuss cetacean species and whale watching on the Oregon Coast, and threats to cetaceans worldwide.

Massebeau said one of the threats facing cetacean, which includes whales and dolphins, is Navy sonar and seismic testing to search for offshore oil and gas. They use seismic air guns that set off recurring loud blasts to identify buried oil and gas deposits. The loud noise harms and can even kill marine life.

“I’m grateful to say that we live on a coastline where there will not be seismic testing,” she said. “When the Navy came down here to talk to us we had a huge turnout in Astoria. It wasn’t just dolphin activists, but fishermen that are trying to protect their livelihood and jobs. We live in a pretty powerful ocean community here, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Massebeau and Johnson are enthusiastic to include an event about cetaceans this year, but they’re equally excited for all the events.

“The thing that makes it so wonderful is the interplay between people that have their hearts in this stuff,” said Johnson, a former science teacher and longtime environmental activist.

Planet patrol

Both he and Knop said that the 12-day event could not have happened without the city of Cannon Beach’s support. “They support us very much, and the Public Works staff goes above and beyond to help us with all the different activities,” Knop said. “The entire city staff is a wonderful group of people, and they support us in any way that they can.”

When U.S. Bank told the committee they couldn’t accommodate the street fair in their parking lot this year, they considered moving the fair even farther away from foot traffic. Johnson suggested they have the fair on a street instead. So the city is closing a minor street on Second Street between Hemlock and Spruce streets.

“We decided to bring it forward, not move it backward,” said Cannon Beach City Manager Bruce St. Denis. “Environmental stewardship is a core value of the city, and the fact that folks are looking at Earth Day and extending it out for additional events and additional opportunities for awareness makes it very important to the city of Cannon Beach and who we are.”

Johnson said that St. Denis has been instrumental in helping the committee through logistical challenges. “Even when Bruce doesn’t have to attend meetings, he’s there to help us,” Johnson said. “These things would not have happened without him.”

St. Denis has been the Cannon Beach city manager for a year and said he feels fortunate to be a part of a city that takes environmentalism seriously.

Knop said that, though it is difficult to organize a 12-day event, she works with a great group of people, and what they create makes it all worth it.

“The goal is to celebrate the Earth and make people aware that there are many things we can do to protect the Earth,” she said.

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