Local CBA Hero Reaches National Level

In 2016, Jennifer McPeak partnered with CBA to construct a living shoreline along her property. She was so excited about the process and results that she has become an enthusiastic spokesperson for this green infrastructure technique. After seeing Jennifer eloquently speak about her living shoreline in a PBS video report, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) reached out to Jennifer to collaborate on a project focusing on private property owners who had implemented living shorelines. Jennifer gladly agreed to talk to them, and not long after NWF invited Jennifer to Washington D.C. to meet with them and speak to representatives from different congressional offices about her firsthand experience with living shorelines. McPeak said, “After engaging the CBA to install oyster reef breakwaters and a living shoreline on our property and seeing how effective they are, I became an enthusiastic evangelist for them.  Not only do they stop – and in some cases, reverse – erosion, but they provide habitat for a fascinating number of native animal species.  So when the National Wildlife Federation reached out and invited me to speak with congressional representatives about the value of living shorelines, I could not have been more thrilled and excited to do so.  It was wonderful to see how receptive they were to the idea of using natural infrastructure solutions to address property safety, climate change concerns, and wildlife habitat needs.  I hope to see more private homeowners and public project managers choose living shorelines over traditional seawalls in the near future.”

While on the short visit, Jennifer met with aides from three different senators’ offices and discussed the proven benefits of living shorelines, and also addressed some of the frustrating obstacles to getting a permit to build one on your property. Jennifer reports that many of the aides were familiar with living shorelines, but were amazed by the fact that saltmarsh grasses were so efficient at filtering out excess nutrients from the water. Also, all were surprised to hear about some of the permitting obstacles and the fact that it is so much easier to get a permit for a seawall than it is to get one for a living shoreline. NWF staff also interviewed Jennifer and featured her in the article debuting their publication on the status of living shorelines along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. You can view the NWF article here, and the Softening Our Shores publication here.

We are so thankful for our waterway heroes that strive to preserve and improve our watershed! Jennifer has gone above and beyond in her support of living shorelines and CBA, guest speaking on a Climate Central article, PBS video, and now with NWF on these publications. We are also thankful that living shoreline projects are becoming more recognized and celebrated, and hope that permitting these projects will continue to become more streamlined in the future.

By Rachel Gwin

Grasses in Classes: 2018-2019 Year Recap

May was Grasses in Classes field trip month for the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance! Nearly every day, CBA staff and AmeriCorps team members met 3rd and 5th graders across the Choctawhatchee Bay to plant smooth cordgrass and participate in fun, educational nature games.

CBA’s Grasses in Classes is a hands-on, environmental education program that gives students a direct role in the restoration of Choctawhatchee Bay. In partnership with AmeriCorps and with partial funding from the USFWS Coastal Program and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, CBA provides teachers in Okaloosa and Walton Counties the equipment and materials required to grow shoreline grasses at their school.  At the end of the school year, Grasses in Classes culminates with students planting their shoreline grasses at one of our salt marsh restoration sites along Choctawhatchee Bay as part of our living shoreline initiative. The program instills a love of local habitat, restores shoreline, and inspires the next generation of watershed stewards.

A living shoreline site at Ross Marler Park on Okaloosa Island.

This year, nearly 2,000 students from 117 classes planted 655 bags of grasses at Lincoln Park, Florida Park, Cessna Landing, White Point, and more. In addition to planting, the “exploration station” remained a highlight with each group, as students could wade into the shallows of the bay to net native fish, crabs, and shrimp.

Are you interested in sponsoring a class for the 2019-2020 academic year? Click here and select “Adopt a School,” or email us at cba@nwfsc.edu for more information.