CANNON BEACH — In Cannon Beach, Mother Earth is not taken for granted.
In a city that has reserved more than 1,000 acres of forestland, built trails from one end of town to the other, celebrates the salmon’s homecoming and welcomes back its tufted puffins, Mother Earth has a special place in the hearts of Cannon Beach’s residents.
She’s so special, in fact, that at least 12 days are devoted to her, because one Earth Day just isn’t enough.
At first, many years ago, Earth Day was celebrated by a single day. But that didn’t last for long. It soon became three days of Earth Day. That’s about the time the Gaylord Nelson Award – named after the founder of Earth Day – was given out to a resident for demonstrating exceptional concern for environmental protection.
Then, three years ago, Donna Lineus, the former volunteer coordinator for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, made an offhand remark during a meeting of the Earth Day committee.
Maybe Earth Day should be like the 12 days of Christmas, she said, referring to the traditional Christmas carol.
And so, the Twelve Days of Earth Day began.
The committee doesn’t have a song yet, but it does have a calendar of events, ranging from the “welcome home” ceremony conducted by students from Cannon Beach Elementary School, to the People and Pets parade and including environmental lectures, tide pool interpretations, a street fair, hikes and tree plantings.
After the first year of the 12-day event, some of the volunteers suggested that maybe it was too much.
But Barb Knop – this year’s winner of the Gaylord Nelson Award – disagreed.
“We can’t stop now,” she said, recalling her enthusiasm for the project. “Now whenever things get a little rough, they remind me about what I said.”
During this year’s Gaylord Nelson presentation, Melissa Cadwallader, last year’s winner, reminded those attending the community potluck where the presentation was made, of the words of author and environmentalist Rachel Carson.
“If a child is to keep alive the inborn sense of wonder … the child needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in,” Cadwallader quoted.
She went on to list Knop’s experience with children and the environment: She spent more than 20 years as a teacher; she chairs the SMART reading program at Cannon Beach Elementary; she chairs the city’s parks and community services committee; and she is board president of the Cannon Beach Preschool and Children’s Center.
Knop also served as vice chairwoman on the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve Advisory Committee, which wrote the stewardship plan for the 1,040-acre Forest Reserve Plan.
Following Cadwallader’s announcement, Knop was presented with the award that goes along with the honor – a hat with a stuffed salmon running through it. Knop wore the hat as she and City Manager Rich Mays, a previous Gaylord Nelson Award winner, led the People and Pets parade the next day.
Also recognized during the dinner Friday was Bob Reid, who, as chairman, steered the 10-member Ecola Creek Forest Reserve Advisory Committee through numerous difficult decisions in more than a year of meetings.
As he accepted a plaque, Reid told the audience, “I get so much more from Cannon Beach than I give.”
Reid also walked the short route along Hemlock Street during the People and Pets parade Saturday. Meant to celebrate life’s nonhuman creatures, the parade often includes more pets than people. This year, it included numerous dogs, horses, a Shetland pony and a papier mâché sea turtle.
During the street fair following the parade, several local environmental organizations set up informational booths. Two-year-old Emma Sherman was fascinated with the sea stars swimming in a container of water. Pearl Rasmussen, field organizer for the Clatsop County chapter of the North Coast State Forest Coalition, talked to those who stopped by her booth, while Marc Ward, of Sea Turtles Forever, who was dressed in a green costume resembling a sea turtle, gave a “thumbs up” to people stopping to look at him and read his display boards.
Meanwhile Lianne Thompson, representing the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries wore a paper salmon on top of her yellow hardhat and distributed information about preparing for earthquakes and tsunamis.
“I’m so happy that I can help save peoples’ lives,” she said.
Earth Day – all 12 days of it – ended Monday with the film, “Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time,” about environmentalist and scientist Aldo Leopold, author of “A Sand County Almanac.”
Although the Twelve Days of Earth Day might be over this year, Mother Earth won’t be forgotten. Cannon Beach residents will continue to embrace her every day.
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.