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SEASIDE—Come visit the Seaside Aquarium on Sunday, Feb. 27, and take part in celebrating the local legacy of Neal and Neal’s late wife, Karen Maine.

The aquarium introduced The Maine Event last year as a way to honor the Maines—who spearheaded marine awareness and conservation along the northern Oregon Coast and beyond—and fundraise for causes close to their heart. The Maines have inspired countless educational programs, such as Sea Week and the Beach and Estuary Discovery Program. Most notably, Karen was responsible for what is now the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP), while Neal is credited for co-founding North Coast Land Conservancy (NCLC).

All funds raised from admissions to the aquarium during The Maine Event will be split and donated to NCLC and Friends of Haystack Rock

Creating HRAP to protect marine life

It all started with a camera and an aquarium. Neal, an avid photographer and former Seaside High School teacher, was photographing intertidal animals found in the tide pools surrounding Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. Karen noticed how interested people were in what Neal was doing and the marine life involved. It was then that Karen had a thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there were volunteers down at the beach introducing and educating people about marine life?”

With that thought, the Puffin Club was formed. This volunteer group would go down to Haystack Rock during the lowest tides of the year to educate and show off the abundant marine life surrounding the site, including the visiting seabirds, which return every year to nest and raise their young.

While the Puffin Club loved interacting and educating the public, visitation to Cannon Beach continued to increase, taking a toll on the small, fragile marine environment that happened to be right in the heart of Cannon Beach. Haystack Rock was being “loved to death” and it was clear that this highly trafficked area needed some protection.

In 1968, Haystack Rock became part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. This prohibited all public entry to the area above the high-tide line, but it did nothing to help preserve and protect the intertidal life surrounding Haystack Rock. The success and influence of the Puffin Club inspired the City of Cannon Beach to create the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, and in 1991, Haystack Rock was designated as one of seven protected Oregon Marine Gardens on the Oregon Coast.

To this day, not only does the intertidal life surrounding Haystack Rock continue to thrive, but the program also has inspired generations of marine scientists and conservationists, along with inspiring countless other marine educational and conservation programs.

Establishing a local land trust

1991 was a big year for the Maines. Karen’s vision came into being, and Neal’s was just beginning to. North Coast Land Conservancy was created in 1986, centered on the concept of approaching conservation cooperatively rather than confrontationally. The idea was to engage the whole community to do what was best for people, plants and wildlife. In 1991, the land conservancy completed a successful land swap that conserved a 15-acre parcel of private timberland adjacent to Saddle Mountain State Park, a park known for its rare plant species. This was the first biodiversity-based conservation proposal that state and federal agencies involved in the negotiations had ever seen. Since then, NCLC has conserved thousands of acres of land in Clatsop, Tillamook and Lincoln counties, mainly by acquiring land outright or by acquiring conservation easements on private land. They also have helped transfer hundreds of acres of land to public ownership.

Taking care of wildlife

So, what does this have to do with the Seaside Aquarium?

As many of you may know, the Seaside Aquarium has a long, rich history. Established in 1937, many people have participated in the aquarium’s success over the years, but few have dedicated as much time, energy and love as Neal Maine. Neal’s dedication to the Seaside Aquarium, the community and nature is inspirational.

He was involved with the aquarium for many years when he decided to join the board of directors in 1995. He joined the board in hopes of helping the aquarium expand their educational outreach and get more involved in both the community and the scientific world.

Neal spearheaded the beginning of what is now the Northern Oregon/Southern Washington Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a successful partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Portland State University and the Seaside Aquarium. In 1995, he brought an idea to the board asking them to participate in what he called the Seaside Beach and Necanicum Estuary Discovery Program.

This program was designed to be a free tool for both locals and visitors to discover and learn about the local beach and estuary environments. The goal was to get people to view their recreational sites in a slightly different way: as a living breathing ecosystem. While the program has evolved over the years, the mission is still the same.

After 25 years of dedication, Neal thought it was time for someone else to take the reins, and he resigned from the board of directors in early 2020. His time on the board will never be forgotten and he will be missed greatly.

So how do you thank a guy who means the world to you? And what do you give a man who gives back so much to the community? You do the same. The Seaside Aquarium has decided to do a yearly fundraiser, “The Maine Event.” All the admissions collected on the last Sunday in February will go to an organization or organizations of Maine’s choosing.

Long story short: Help us celebrate these two amazing beings and show your support for the programs they started. We hope to see you all at our “Maine Event.” Not able to attend but still want to support? Simply send a check made out to the Seaside Aquarium with a note indicating that it is for the Maine Event. Seaside Aquarium, 200 N. Prom Seaside, Oregon 97138.

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Seaside Aquarium, 200 North Prom, Seaside, Oregon 97138 Tel: (503) 738-6211.