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photo by Gary Hayes For the past 25 years, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach has worked to protect the community's iconic natural wonder. The City of Cannon Beach is in the process of purchasing 800 acres of adjacent forest land for preservation. Plans are being laid for a hiking trail that will traverse some the the city's eco-systems, from Ecola Creek, through Sitka Spruce forest to a viewpoint overlooking the Pacific. Citizens, businesses and city officials have recognized the importance of preserving the natural environments enjoyed by locals and that attract the visitors who are critical to the economy of this community. Non-profit, volunteer driven groups including Friends of Haystack Rock, Ecola Watershed Council, Friends of the Trails and others, work tirelessly to procure, preserve, and promote the natural areas in and around Cannon Beach. While these groups focus on each of these areas independently, that could soon change. In the works is a plan to create a natural history park in Cannon Beach, one similar to parks and open spaces found in other cities. The creation of this park establishes a network in which these various groups can connect to discuss, plan and implement programs that allow the pooling of resources for the benefit of all the natural areas. Katie Voelke, director of the North Coast Land Conservancy, has proposed a comprehensive plan to unite these area groups for a common greater purpose. The proposal calls on these volunteer groups to meet quarterly and share ideas, plan projects and devise better strategies for conservation and acquisition of natural areas. Under the plan, some of the area's wetlands and forest lands would be combined to form the Greater Ecola Natural Area. In keeping with a coastal theme, the boundaries of the targeted natural areas happen to form the shape of a whale, so the project has been referred to as the "Landscape of the Whale." A catalog of these natural areas would be maintained and managed as a whole, providing an efficient framework for analyzing the best use of resources. The plan also provides a proposal for a recreation strategy, connecting Cannon Beach with the Oregon Coast Trail. Voelke presented the proposed plan to the Cannon Beach City Council who was receptive and excited about what might be accomplished for the area. The plan is also in keeping with the vision statement of the city's land-use plan to preserve and conserve the natural environment. With this comprehensive plan, Voelke says "It becomes easier to be good stewards of our rich coastal environments."