Each year, more than 1.6 million people visit the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Photo Credit: Bob Wick / BLM Flickr
As a nonprofit partner with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Friends of the Yaquina Lighthouses support a unique public land north of the city of Newport, Oregon. Unlike larger BLM sites out west, the 100 acre Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is compact, coastal, and bordered by small towns.
The area includes the Yaquina Head Lighthouse built in 1873 and more than a mile of coastline on a headland that extends into the Pacific Ocean. Visitors come for lighthouse tours, birding, whale and seal watching, and opportunities to view tide pool marine life such as sea stars, sea urchins and sea anemone.
The Tidepool Guide Leadership Program Benefits Visitors and Local Youth
To promote the unique qualities of the area, the Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses manage the interpretive store onsite, recruit volunteers for the BLM, and support ongoing visitor education programs. One of the programs they have managed for the past three years is the Tidepool Guide Leadership Program where they train local high school students to give demonstrations and lead hikes for visitors. These students educate visitors about tidepool biodiversity and teach safety precautions so visitors can enjoy the tidepools responsibly.
Amy Cauthon, Executive Director of the friends group, said that the Tidepool Guide Leadership program is not only a benefit for the visitors but also for the student leaders:
“This program allows us to enhance our interpretation programs and strengthen our community relationships by supporting local youth. We strive to provide the most inclusive and enhanced education for these students and we’re glad to offer these unique employment opportunities to them.”
Cauthon also explained that the majority of the student leaders in this program have later gone on to institutions of higher learning with a focus on science.
“This program engages students who are excited about science; it helps them share that excitement with the visitors to the area and then they later go on to focus on it in their studies,” she said.
A Tidepool Guide educates visitors about the area using a display table and interpretive materials.
Photo Credit: Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses
Through Transcription Project, Friends Group Engages Volunteers to Preserve Public Lands History
Each year, the friends group also identifies projects to support the BLM and to enrich the visitor experience at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. In addition to their education programs, this year they established a Transcription Project to archive historical documents online. Through the use of From the Page, open-source software for collaborating on texts, the friends group has enlisted volunteer help to transcribe lighthouse keeper records from the 1800’s and 1900’s and upload them in a growing online archive.
“Volunteers are transcribing stories written in the Lighthouse Keepers Logs that give us a better sense of what the area looked like at the time and the kinds of events that took place,” Cauthon said. “This information will help us improve our interpretive displays at the center and, by making this information available online, we feel that we’re helping people everywhere learn about this unique area.”
What’s Next for the Friends Group and Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
In 2016, the friends group proudly gave over $36,000 in direct support to the BLM as a result of fundraising efforts and retail sales at the interpretive center. While the friends group is confident it will provide support and will lead its programs and projects this year, Cauthon explained the friends group is concerned with recent changes that have impacted the site.
For example, the federal hiring freeze has caused BLM to cancel all lighthouse tours until July, 1, 2017 which will impact visitation numbers, especially families taking summer vacation in June.
Beginning May 1 of this year, the site has also restricted its hours to 8am to 5pm on weekdays, and 10am to 5pm on weekends. While this takes away only a few hours of operation, it impacts tidepool viewing hours which change daily and may occur during daylight hours before and after the site will be closed.
In light of these changes, Cauthon expressed that she hopes visitation will be high this summer.
“This area is very special to those who live around here. It’s a place where people come to make memories and, once they’re here, there is just so much to enjoy.”
To learn more about Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses efforts to preserve this unique site and educate visitors, visit http://yaquinalights.org.