PORTLAND, Ore. – The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport for new interpretive signage informing Aquarium visitors about Oregon’s coastal forests, sustainable forest management, and the connections between forest and ocean ecosystems.
The signage will be located near the existing estuary nature trail, and three new additions to the Aquarium: a children’s nature play area, a headwaters exhibit on the salmon life cycle and an outdoor amphitheater. Construction of the playground, headwaters exhibit and amphitheater is expected to be completed by fall 2021. The projects are part of an $18.2 million capital campaign to upgrade and expand the capacity of the Aquarium.
An OFRI staff forester will help develop content for the signs, which will narrate the progression of a raindrop from the forest to the sea while highlighting sustainable forest management practices. The signage will also serve as the basis for expanding the curriculum for the Aquarium’s on-site, online and outreach education programs to include lessons on Oregon’s forests.
These programs typically reach more than 525,000 people annually, with Pre-K-12 students making up over half that number. This audience offers OFRI a unique partnership opportunity to highlight forest management and sustainability messages for school groups, notes Oregon Coast Aquarium Director of Development Molly Dumas.
“By supporting new signage and interpretive programs, the OFRI grant will help us tell a bigger story about the forest and its connection to the coast,” she says.
A shift to distance learning over the past year necessitated by the pandemic meant OFRI’s spending to support in-person K-12 forest education programs was less than in a typical year. This led to unanticipated savings for OFRI’s K-12 Education Program, allowing the Institute to provide a grant to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, says OFRI Executive Director Erin Isselmann.
“The interpretative signage OFRI is supporting through this grant serves to maintain our longtime commitment to K-12 forestry education, and to help students for many years to come better understand the integral role forests play in Oregon’s coastal environments,” she says.
“These new signs will allow students, families and other visitors to the Aquarium to see firsthand how oceans and forests are connected, and the ways in which both are important to our state,” says OFRI Director of K-12 Education Programs Norie Dimeo-Ediger.
The Aquarium’s new children’s nature play area was funded largely by a donation from Corvallis-based Starker Forests. It will be built on a former mill site, and pay homage to its historic use with interactive components designed to engage children in the outdoors while informing them about forests and coastal ecosystems. Children will be able to scramble up massive logs, climb a fire tower, slide down a mock river chute and learn about forest animals. The adjoining headwaters exhibit will feature a circulating stream and salmon sculptures. Nearby, a new amphitheater will host educational presentations on coastal wildlife.
Starker Forests was honored to provide funding for the nature play area and the company is excited to partner with the Aquarium and OFRI on the accompanying interpretive signage, says Starker Forests Shareholder Relations Manager and Vice Chairwoman Anna Starker May.
“We have always felt the Oregon Coast Aquarium is uniquely situated to provide interpretation that would trace the journey of a drop of water falling on the crest of the Coast Range through the forest to the ocean,” she says. “This nature play project with interpretation support from OFRI accomplishes that vision of connecting the upland forest ecosystem to the ocean. We are excited to see the exhibit come to life, and to bring forestry education to children and families visiting the Aquarium.”
To learn more about the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s capital campaign, visit givetoaquarium.org.
About the Oregon Forest Resources Institute:
The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) was created by the Oregon Legislature in 1991 to support the state’s forest products industry by advancing public understanding of forests, forest management and forest products, and encouraging sustainable forestry through landowner education. A 13-member board of directors governs OFRI. It is funded by a portion of the forest products harvest tax.
About the Oregon Coast Aquarium:
The Oregon Coast Aquarium creates unique and engaging experiences that connect you to the Oregon Coast and inspire ocean conservation. An accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums institution, this nonprofit organization is ranked as one of the top 10 aquariums in the U.S. Visit them at 2820 S.E. Ferry Slip Rd. in Newport, Ore. Contact them at aquarium.org or 541-867-3474. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates.