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
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.
“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.”
The air reverberated with clinking noises and the whoosh of oyster shells sliding off giant piles into waiting buckets. Volunteers, Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) staff and their AmeriCorps team gathered the shells in mesh bags, slowly building another mound of new reef material. As they worked, a truck pulled in with even more shells, collected from nearby restaurants as part of CBA’s shell recycling program. It was reef building time.
Every year, our local United Way organizes Days of Caring to give back to organizations in our community. This year, CBA and the NWF AmeriCorps team came together to remove vegetation and weeds from Harvest House property.
Harvest House – a nonprofit based in Destin – provides food, clothing, and shelter to those who are less fortunate and at a point of need in their life. In 2016, they assisted over 5,000 people.
For the United Day of Caring event, Harvest House needed help clearing a retention basin on their property. Over the course of four hours, the team successfully cleared over a dozen bags of vegetation (see before and after photos below).
The goals of the Day of Caring events are five-fold:
– Days of Caring demonstrate that volunteer efforts are vital to the well-being of the community.
– Days of Caring provide volunteers with a firsthand look at services provided by local organizations that make an impact on people’s lives.
– Days of Caring showcase our communities’ volunteer efforts and promotes the spirit of caring throughout the year.
– Days of Caring provides many local organizations with much-needed volunteer assistance.
– Days of Caring is a great team building exercise for your family, service organization or employees.
CBA and the AmeriCorps team definitely found meaning in the experience.
The sun rose over Western Lake on Saturday morning, beginning a beautiful day for a paddleboard/run race at Grayton Beach State Park. Over the course of the day, participants from around the area would race in three categories, seeking victory in the competitive division, the recreational course, or the relay.
As the charity beneficiary of the event, CBA staff and volunteers were on-hand to hand out water, work the registration table, point the racers the correct direction, and more.
“At CBA we’re so lucky to have such dedicated staff and volunteers,” Erika Zambello, Communications Coordinator, says, “They did a great job for us today!”
By choosing Western Lake and the coastal dune ecosystem of Grayton Beach State Park, race organizers showcased the unique environment of the Florida Panhandle, and participants and volunteers enjoyed watching Great Blue Herons, Brown Pelicans, and more fly across the sky throughout the day.
At 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 16th, volunteers hit the beach at both Norriego Point and Eagle Creek armed with gloves and trash bags: it was International Coastal Cleanup time!
Every year, volunteers around the world gather on their local beaches and marshes to remove marine debris and other trash. According to the Ocean Conservancy, plastic pollution “has been found in 62% of all sea birds and in 100% of sea turtle species.” Since the International Coastal Cleanup began, “nearly 12 million people and counting have been part of the world’s biggest volunteer effort to protect the ocean.”
“The International Coastal Clean Up raises critical awareness of the impact of pollution in our oceans,” Alison McDowell, Director of the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, explains, “the program is now over 30 years old, and together the participants have removed over 18 million pounds of trash from our shorelines. Here at CBA we work to protect our waterways, and we love sharing our work creating swimmable, fishable waters with the community through this event.”
Over the course of two hours on the warm morning, volunteers scoured the sand and water for trash they could throw away, ending the event with an impressive amount of marine debris that can now be properly disposed of and recycled. Volunteers are true coastal stewards, and we thank them for their efforts!