Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP)
The most genuine gift a person can give another is their own time; every year in Cannon Beach over 100 volunteers donate their most precious commodity, their free time, to the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP). Dressed in red jackets, boots, and a friendly smile, visitors can find these knowledgeable volunteers Haystack Rock during every low tide from mid-February through October. Equipped with a diverse range of information, these volunteers are eager to educate visitors about the rich biodiversity that flourishes at the marine garden – some can be found at bird scopes showing guests how to spot a Tufted Puffin, others will be crouched down in a tidepool pointing out a nudibranch to a group of children, you can also spot a volunteer near rocks pointing out a sea star feeding on muscles.
These volunteers are the life force of HRAP’s environmental education program, but what they do is not a job rather it is a joy that anyone of any age and background can participate in. There are no mandatory hours for HRAP volunteers and entire families, including well-behaved leashed furry members, are encouraged to come volunteer together. This majestic rocky shore belongs to everyone and HRAP strives to create a program that is inclusive and mutually beneficial for volunteers. Many volunteers do not live in Cannon Beach but are themselves seasonal visitors! No prior experience or knowledge is necessary, just a passion for marine conservation. HRAP staff are around to train and mentor new volunteers and ensure that they feel confident in educating the public. The new 2021 season is set to begin February 13th.
HRAP began their private tour program to connect more intimately with visitors and locals and allow for a more in-depth exploration of our diverse natural wonders. Paying guests will meet Lisa Habecker, HRAP’s Volunteer and Education Coordinator, who comes readily equipped with the gift of gab and decades of ecological knowledge. HRAP’s private tours are 90-minutes long and offer dedicated attention to a group while catering to their specific dates, times, needs, ages, and interests. These new tours have also been an avenue for parents adapting to homeschooling and distance learning education by supplementing a personal field trip education for their children or students. HRAP offers discounted school and group rates as well as caters to specific educational requirements.
*(Due to COVID-19, all attendees must sign a waiver, have their temperature checked, not be exhibiting any symptoms, wear a face covering, and there is a maximum 20-person group size limit)
While the Tufted Puffins are away at sea from September to April, a fake plush puffin can always be found hanging around the HRAP office; recently HRAP staff decided it was time he finally had a proper name. During the month of December, a naming contest was held on HRAP’s social media where dozens of fans submitted their suggestions. One name out of the 78 ideas quickly became a fan favorite at City Hall. In January, HRAP proudly introduced their new mascot Tuff Ted!
Naming the mascot Tuff Ted is more than just a silly pun, it acts as a reminder how important the focus on marine conservation is. HRAP recognizes the Tufted Puffin to be a species in peril due to their dramatic population decline over the past few decades; the name Tuff Ted reminds us that this species still matters, it is important to us beyond being just a silly mascot, but a reminder of the struggles many ecosystems are facing and how important protecting our renewable habitats are. Tuff Ted reminds us about the plight of Tufted Puffins, their value to the ecosystems around Cannon Beach, and the passionate hope that this species truly is tough.