30a 10k Donates $20,000 to CBA!

Over 3,000 runners competed in the 7th Annual 30a 10k. $20,000 of the proceeds benefited the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, with an additional $70,000 going to the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, the Bay Education Foundation, the Seaside Rep Theatre, and Sandcastle Kids, for a total of $90,000. Each organization donated volunteer hours to help the event run smoothly.

The organizers founded the race when they realized no other event in the area occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday, in contrast to many other communities around the country. During their first year they only expected a few hundred runners, but 800 registered. In 2018? Over 3,000 people participated in the Fun Run, 5k, and 10k.

“A Thanksgiving event is so much fun because it’s a great way to celebrate our local community,” says Alison McDowell, CBA Director, “The funding we receive from the 30A 10K supports our education programs, inspiring the next generation to be water stewards.”

“We are thrilled to have had another successful year by selling out all three races this past Thanksgiving Day and are delighted and proud to be able to donate to support local needs in our community!” says Karen Meadows, one of the event organizers.

The 30a 10k is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to serve the community by producing a world-class 10k and related events that raise money to benefit local charities, while promoting health and fitness. 2018 race results are available here.

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is a non-profit organization striving to enhance swimmable, fishable waterways through monitoring, education, restoration, and research. For over 20 years, CBA has promoted water stewardship within the Choctawhatchee watershed, growing the network of supporters who join in CBA’s mission to provide a future for these precious, natural resources.

For more information, please contact CBA’s Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Erika Zambello, at zambelle@nwfsc.edu.

The Back Porch Restaurant in Destin Donates Oysters to Spat On Education Program

In November, the Back Porch in Destin donated 30 oysters to be used in both high school  and home school classrooms as part of CBA’s Spat On! education program. With these oysters, students will directly examine oyster anatomy, learning more about how oysters fit into both the environment and the food chain.

Spat On! encompasses field experiences and in-class assignments. To introduce the students to oyster restoration, students help construct an oyster reef by bagging recycled oyster shell and placing the material. They monitor growing oysters using various aquaculture techniques, including GoPro Cameras and iPad minis, to analyze spat attachment and water regulation. Towards the end of the year, students move their matured oysters from the cultivation areas to a reef during a Move Your Mollusk event.

“Oysters are a keystone species in the Choctawhatchee Bay,” Amanda Briant, Education Coordinator for CBA, explains, “We believe that allowing students to actually hold and study these amazing critters will increase their appreciation this unique bivalve.”

Thank you Back Porch!

 

 

Over 120 Volunteers Compete to Finish 1400 Linear Feet of Reef Breakwater in Eglin Competition

The Eglin Natural Resources Branch, known as Jackson Guard, won CBA’s first ever reef building competition at Eglin AFB’s Post’l Point by building 175 linear feet of reef in four hours. The reef breakwater stretches 1,400 linear feet in all, made of over 140 tons of limestone rock pieces. Jackson Guard wins the grand prize: a brewery tour at Grayton Beer Company.

In all, six teams from across Eglin and Hurlburt competed to see who could build the fastest reef sections, including staff from Corvias, the Rapid Engineer Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, the Hurlburt Honor Guard, Jackson Guard, the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight, 73rd Special Operations Squadron, the 11th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron, and the 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Corvias donated the most volunteer hours to build 18 reef sections (450 linear feet), in addition to an $8,000 grant to fund the reef project as part of their Giving Back program.

“Our Giving Back projects are part of who we are and what we do here at Corvias,” explains Katie Fuentes, Construction Service Administrator at Corvias, “This year’s partnership with CBA was a great experience allowing our whole team to participate for a memorable team building project. We’re thankful to have organizations in Northwest Florida like CBA who are dedicated to the health of our waterways.”

In addition to the grand prize, individual volunteers won: a growler from Niceville’s 3rd Planet Brewery, a bottle of rosé from 30A Coastal Dunes Wines, a bottle of chardonnay from 30A Coastal Dunes Wines, a gift certificate to Pizza by the Sea, and two CBA prize packs.

“Reef breakwaters and living shorelines protect cultural and natural resources on Eglin Air Force Base,” explains Alison McDowell, Director of the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, “In addition to reducing erosion, the breakwaters provide habitat for fish, oysters, and other native species.”

“We could not have finished this project in two months without the help from Eglin’s Outdoor Recreation’s staff at the Post’l Point Marina,” Rachel Gwin, CBA Restoration Coordinator adds, “They offered the use of their boat and an ATV so we could move the limestone material from the staging area to the reef itself. Huge thank you to them!” She continues: “It was a monumental task to move that much material by hand to finish the reefs in two short months, but the volunteers were amazing to work with and made this project one of my favorites to complete.”

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is a non-profit organization striving to enhance swimmable, fishable waterways through monitoring, education, restoration, and research. For over 20 years, CBA has promoted water stewardship within the Choctawhatchee watershed, growing the network of supporters who join in CBA’s mission to provide a future for these precious, natural resources.

For more information, please contact CBA’s Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Erika Zambello, at zambelle@nwfsc.edu.

Thank You Niceville Walmart!

The Niceville Walmart has granted CBA $1000 to further our mission to improve swimmable, fishable waterways in our community.  Without local stakeholders, individuals, and businesses, we would not be able to reach over 2,500 students each month, build living shorelines across the bay, monitor over 130 water quality sites, and so much more.

By receiving this grant, we are part of a long history of Walmart’s commitment to giving back to the communities where they operate.  In fact, Mrs. Helen Walton used to say “It’s not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived.”

Thank you Niceville Walmart!

 

Okaloosa Gas Grants CBA $3000 for the Lewis School’s Grasses in Classes Program

Okaloosa Gas has granted CBA $3000 to support the Lewis School’s Grasses in Classes curriculum during the 2018-2019 school year.

Grasses in Classes raises awareness and individual knowledge of local ecosystems through first-hand field experiences and in-class instruction.  With funding through Okaloosa Gas, Grasses in Classes students will tend salt marsh nurseries throughout the school year and receive monthly education on local estuarine topics that meet Florida’s state science standards from CBA staff and AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards. Periodically, the schoolchildren at the Lewis School will split the grasses to increase the nursery stock. The program instills a love of local habitat and restores shoreline.

Okaloosa Gas believes the vitality of their business depends on the health and well-being of the communities where they live and work. Each year they fund a variety of nonprofit organizations and collaborate with their employees to provide additional volunteer support.

“Okaloosa Gas recognizes the importance of restoring our local waterways and keeping our environment clean for future generations,” says Eddie Springle, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Service, “A key part of this is to educate today’s youth on ways to protect and maintain the ecosystem.”

He continues, “We are pleased to sponsor the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s Grasses in Classes program at Lewis School. This hands-on, environmental education program gives students a role in the restoration efforts in Choctawhatchee Bay throughout the school year and teaches how their work helps the local habitat and assists shoreline restoration.”

“Historically it’s been more difficult for smaller schools like Lewis to receive funding for unique curricula like Grasses in Classes,” explains Alison McDowell, Director of CBA. “With this generous sponsorship from Okaloosa Gas we will be able to bring fifth graders to the Choctawhatchee Bay shoreline for a real restoration project.”

AmeriCorps Northwest Florida Environmental Stewards Awarded Best Florida Program

The Northwest Florida Environmental Stewards have been selected and awarded best program of the year out of 38 Florida AmeriCorps teams. This is the second time the program has been recognized.

A program under the Northwest Florida State College Foundation, the AmeriCorps team works with the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance to build living shorelines and educate students in elementary, middle, and high school, as well as participate in restoration work for local Florida State Parks. Since 2014, AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards have built or restored over 100 acres of coastal habitat.

In addition to their restoration and education goals, AmeriCorps inspires volunteers from around Okaloosa and Walton Counties, as well as alternative spring breakers, to make a difference. In 2017-2018 alone, they worked with over 550 volunteers who served 1420 hours on reef building, coastal clean-ups, and outreach events.

“This is such an honor to be awarded Program of the Year out of 38 Florida programs,” says Laurie Von Kaenel, Director of the AmeriCorps team, “I am so proud of the 2017/18 AmeriCorps members for their hard work and dedication to making a positive impact in our communities.” She continues, “Great appreciation and thanks to Volunteer Florida,  NWFSC, CBA and Okaloosa and Walton County school districts and Florida State Parks at Grayton for your support and dedication to making the NWF Environmental Stewards program stellar, I appreciate all of you!”

The AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards are funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and overseen by Volunteer Florida, the lead agency for volunteerism and national service in Florida. Volunteer Florida’s mission is to strengthen Florida’s communities through national service, fostering volunteerism and leveraging resources which is supported by the Florida Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. Though most AmeriCorps programs across the United States have one central focus, this chapter is unique because each year members strive to both educate young students about their local ecosystems as well as improve that habitat through living shorelines and invasive species removal.

For more information, contact AmeriCorps Northwest Florida Environmental Stewards Director Laurie Von Kaenel at vonkaenl@nwfsc.edu.

CBA and Eglin AFB Complete 750 ft Reef Breakwater in Alaqua Bayou

Only July 26th, 2018, CBA staff and AmeriCorps Northwest Florida Environmental Stewards completed a 750 linear foot reef within Eglin AFB’s Alaqua Bayou. Reef breakwaters reduce shoreline erosion, provide habitat for wildlife, and create critical structure for native oysters. The reef is one of three major living shoreline initiatives built on Eglin in 2017 and 2018.

CBA built the reef structures using limestone pieces and recycled oyster shell. The reefs reduce the wave energy hitting the shore, protecting the coastline. Once the reefs are complete, CBA will continue to monitor the sites and plant smooth cordgrass to hold the accumulating sediment in place and create a living shoreline. Living shorelines are natural alternatives to coastline hardening techniques, including rip rap and seawalls. CBA builds living shorelines across the Choctawhatchee Bay, including within public parks and homeowner sites.

“The site was tricky,” Rachel Gwin, CBA Restoration Coordinator, explained, “Because we had to move the materials by boat.” Com-munity volunteers made up a critical part of the team, especially Trey Nick of Nick’s Seafood Restaurant and Jimmy Garibaldi of Garibaldi Inshore Fishing, who donated both their boats and their time to move the limestone rock. The Northwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission acted as important program sponsors

Cox Communications Gives $3000 Grant to Grasses in Classes

Cox Communications has granted CBA $3000 to fund an elementary school Grasses in Classes curriculum through the 2018-2019 school year.

Grasses in Classes raises awareness and individual knowledge of local ecosystems through hands-on restoration projects and in-class instruction.  With funding through Cox, Grasses in Classes students will tend salt marsh nurseries throughout the school year, and receive monthly education on local estuarine topics that meet Florida’s state science standards from CBA staff and AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards. Periodically, the schoolchildren will split the grasses to increase the nursery stock. The program instills a love of local habitat and restores shoreline.

CBA is a recipient of the Cox Communications local giving award. The company highlights individuals and organizations that are helping the community; in particular, this $3000 gift funds an initiative that encourages environmental sustainability and conservation.

“Support from our business partners, like Cox Communications, is an essential part of achieving CBA’s mission and goals,” explains Alison McDowell, CBA Director, “With Cox’s help, we will be able to bring our Grasses in Classes curriculum to an Okaloosa County elementary school and inspire the next generation of water quality stewards.”

Three New Monofilament Recycling Bins Installed

by Micaiala Hamner


The Choctawatchee Basin Alliance has joined forces with a local artist and an outdoor advocate to remove harmful plastic fishing line, also known as monofilament, along our coast.

CBA worked with local artist Joan Vienot and Walton Outdoor publisher Lori Ceier to decorate three new PVC pipe receptacles in Thomas Pilcher and Cessna Parks, complete with drawings of a wildlife. The bins are equipped with an opening for monofilament disposal, which is eventually collected by CBA staff and volunteers for recycling.

Vienot and Ceier reminisce about the outflow of debris that riddles beaches, shorelines, and some of the most prominent fishing areas. Not only do the plastic strands entangle marine mammals and aquatic species, but they also are harmful to humans.

Fishing line recycler installed at Thomas Pilcher Park.

“My favorite part was the design, I think we both enjoyed that. The birds we choose are native to the area. There are a cormorant, Great Blue Heron, and Osprey,” explains Ceier.

The monofilament recycling program has grown since its founding during CBA’S Earth Day celebration in 2014. The program strives to reduce the amount of the flexible plastic – mainly used for fishing – and commonly found near the shoreline. Angling line poses a threat to humans, birds, and land mammals, resulting in entanglement that can inevitably lead to death. Unfortunately, fishing line is created from slow degrading plastic that takes over 600 years to break down.

“The decorated recycling bins are an attractive solution to throwing away fishing line,” says Alison McDowell, CBA Director, “They beautify the fishing piers and allow easy recycling of monofilament.”

May Field Trips

education, nature, choctawhatchee basin alliance

CBA organized and facilitated 20 field trips for 18 elementary schools in Okaloosa and Walton Counties to bring 3rd and 5th graders to the shores of the Choctawhatchee Bay. A culmination of the year-long Grasses in Classes curriculum, the students planted smooth cordgrass they have raised since October of 2017 to create brand new living shorelines that both reduce erosion and create important wildlife habitat.

Grasses in Classes students tend salt marsh nurseries throughout the school year, and receive monthly education on local estuarine topics that meet Florida’s state science standards from CBA staff and AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards. Periodically, the schoolchildren split the grasses to increase the nursery stock. The program instills a love of local habitat, restores shoreline, and inspires the next generation of watershed stewards.

This year, CBA also partnered with Eglin Air Force Base and Jackson Guard to bring three groups of students to White Point on the Eglin Reservation for the first time. Students planted grasses and learned more about the native species that call Eglin home.

“The students never forget their field trips,” says Brittany Tate, Education Coordinator for CBA, “They now know what it feels like to improve the local waterways with their own two hands.”

Funding for Grasses in Classes comes from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program as well as the Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. Local businesses and community groups can sponsor Grasses in Classes programs for the 2018-2019 academic year for $3,000 per school.