VOLUNTEERS BRAVE DOWNPOURS AS DEP’S BARNEGAT BAY BLITZ GETS UNDER WAY
(12/P58) TRENTON - Volunteers from scores of schools and organizations braved off-and-on downpours today as they fanned out across the Barnegat Bay watershed in the second installment of the watershed-wide trash and debris cleanup.
“The enthusiasm today has been amazing despite the weather,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, who joined volunteers in picking up trash from several locations around the bay. “I thank each of the volunteers, especially the children from schools across the watershed, for their dedication, commitment – and for leading by example. You are truly making a difference.”
The volunteers cleaned up trash along creeks, in wooded areas, on school grounds, around lakes, and from marshes across the 660-square-mile watershed that encompasses 37 municipalities, 33 in Ocean County and four in Monmouth County.
The Blitz is an important part of Governor Chris Christie’s 10-point comprehensive restoration plan for the ecologically stressed bay. The cleanup is co-sponsored by the DEP and the New Jersey Clean Communities Council.
Other partners include the MATES Academy, the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, Waste Management, the Barnegat Bay Partnership, Clean Ocean Action, ReClam the Bay, Sustainable Jersey, Starbucks, Wawa, and the American Council of Engineering Companies.
“The Barnegat Bay Blitz is not just a cleanup – it is quickly becoming a way of life for folks who live and work in the watershed,” said Sandy Huber, Executive Director of the Clean Communities Council. “Twenty years from now, students who are cleaning the Barnegat Bay today will remember the lessons they learned and pass them along to their own children.”
As it did during the inaugural Blitz this past October, rain forced some schools and volunteer groups to reschedule cleanups. These cleanups are expected to be held in the coming weeks.
Ed Mann of Point Pleasant Beach was part of a contingent of kayakers and power boaters who, despite the rain, worked to pick up trash from marshes near Island Beach State Park. The kayakers worked their way into the ecologically sensitive marshes then brought out trash to the power boaters waiting a little farther offshore.
“We’re trying to help the bay sustain itself as it sustains us as kayakers and people,” Mann said. “We’re out here all the time. If we can help out, it makes us feel better.”
Bethany Hartney, a freshman with the MATES Academy, joined classmates and the Commissioner in cleaning up a stream in Stafford adjacent to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
“Without the environment, I wouldn’t have anything,” said Hartney, a Surf City resident. “I live outside, my swim team practices in the bay. I live on the beach in the summer. It’s important for us to keep our beaches and waters clean.”
“Anything we can do to clean up the bay is important,” said Harvey Cedars resident and Borough Commissioner Judith Gerkins. “I just love getting all of the volunteers out here and working together. I'm very proud of all of these volunteers coming out, especially on a day like today. These people are very dedicated to keeping the town clean and taking care of things.”
Public education about the complex ecological problem the bay and its highly developed watershed face is important to Governor Christie’s 10-point comprehensive bay restoration plan, launched in December 2010.
Other components of the plan include the safe closure of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant by 2019, enhanced funding for projects to better control stormwater that degrades water quality, reducing nutrient pollution to the bay from fertilizers and launching the first-ever bay-wide water quality monitoring network.
“Water quality in the bay has been degrading for decades, due in large part to stormwater runoff containing nutrients and other pollutants,” said DEP Blitz coordinator Lynette Lurig. “By getting people out into the watersheds’ diverse environments, the public develops ownership for the bay and becomes part of the solution.”
Commissioner Martin and other dignitaries will hold a ceremony at 3 p.m. at Ocean County College to acknowledge the efforts of the volunteers.
For more information on the blitz, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/bbblitz.htm
For information on the Governor’s Comprehensive Restoration Plan, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/barnegatbay/