Planting with Save the Bay

I didn't grow up calling myself an environmentalist.  That's a word you learn later in life.  When I was a kid it just seemed like the right thing to do, to care about living things and nature because without them we don't have a healthy place to live, no food, and no outdoor spaces to enjoy.

When it comes to photography, I had been thinking of expanding into environmental work.  I wanted to feel like I was doing more than creating photos, but helping to capture something to illustrate the importance of environmental work.  So much good is done through so many programs, and they often go unnoticed. 

So I found the time this spring to make a call to Save the Bay.  Anyone who lives on Narragansett Bay has probably heard of this phenomenal organization.  It was founded back in 1970 to clean up and preserve Narragansett Bay and its watershed.  It's incredible successes continue today as Save the Bay's work spans across multiple areas of environmental stewardship including pollution, marsh restoration, educational outreach, marine species monitoring, climate change, coastal development, and legislation.  They often receive calls from other organizations about their methodology so their success can be replicated in other coastal regions.

This day in particular was sunny and 70, a perfect day in late May.  I met a small group of volunteers for a marsh restoration project near Third Beach in Newport.  This area had been covered in new material (that's environmental talk for dirt) for planting, and with the help of a few volunteers plus groups of kids from the local schools, they were hoping to plant 20,000 new grasses by the end of the week!  These little plants started as seeds collected locally and shipped to a nursery in New Jersey where they were germinated and nursed to a healthy size before being shipped back to Rhode Island.  Areas where the new sandy soil had been dumped were strategically targeted for planting.  If the soil was 6 inches or shallower, they would wait and see if any original vegetation would break through the new soil.  But anything deeper than 6 inches needed a little more help, and that's where the new seedlings were being planted.

The whole area was once a landfill but now the landscape had been reshaped and bulldozed and the marsh needed some help coming back to life.  A healthy marsh would provide a number of functions for the local environment, including a habitat for a specific species of sparrow that lives in the tall marsh grasses Save the Bay was hoping to restore.

I could only stay for a few hours but even in that short amount of time I just wanted to get my hands dirty, play my part, and help bring this area back to the healthy habitat it once used to be.  The people doing all this hard work often going unnoticed or unappreciated.  They deserve more than dirt under their nails and sunburns on their necks.  I encourage everyone to take the time to volunteer at Save the Bay.  Pick a program that speaks to you.  Bring a group from your work.  It's the least we can do to help keep our Bay beautiful!

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