Balancing the Port and the environment are two components of a world class estuary – and on October 12, 2012 an alliance of partners with the support of elected officials conveyed this important initiative to hundreds of area school students at the 10th annual Estuary Day celebration.
Held near the Elizabeth River at the Peterstown Community Center in Elizabeth, New Jersey, students arrived by the bus load in what turned out to be a very successful interactive experience.
Orchestrated by Future City Inc., and sponsored by the Elizabeth River/Arthur Kill Watershed Association, the event’s success is attributed to a concerted effort and steadfast partnership with strong local support. The program demonstrated the importance of education and community participation in preserving the environment.
Partnering organizations included the Elizabeth River/Arthur Kill Watershed Association, City of Elizabeth mayor’s office, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Harbor Estuary Program, New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Green Infrastructure and support from the offices of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-13).
In a setting which was not a typical classroom, participating agencies staffed table displays and served as instructors, discussing with students their respective organization’s mission as it relates to the port, harbor, estuary and about environmental stewardship.
Commitment to selfless-service is one of the Army’s core values, and volunteers from the Army Corps’ New York District exemplified this value by sharing their expertise with students and affording them an opportunity to better comprehend the history of the estuary and its environmental state.
Using a variety of visual aids, William Slezak, Chief of the Army Corps’ New York Harbor Programs along with Lisa Baron, marine biologist lectured at the Corps’ education workshops about the New York and New Jersey harbor estuary and the significance of balancing the Port and the environment, ecosystem restoration and activities associated with restoration projects and studies.
Melissa Alvarez, Lisa Baron, Chonteau Johnson, Amanda Switzer and Thomas Wyche staffed the live marine animal interactive exhibit as Stephen Knowles interacted with students nearby at his model of an estuary exhibit.
“The Army Corps and its partners have many roles, and focus on improving the New York and New Jersey Harbor Estuary. This is another great opportunity to learn about the Estuary,” said Slezak at the opening ceremony. “It is our hope that each and every one of you can leave from today’s workshops with a little bit more knowledge about the estuary and ways we can affect changes in our watershed.”
“Estuaries are national treasures -- vital ecological and community resources whose health affects our health and the vibrancy of our communities and economy,” said Baron who has been a participant for the past five years. "Estuary Day 2012 was another fabulous event that exemplified strong partnership with a common goal to inform our future leaders about the importance of sustaining and improving the health of the estuary.”
It was especially rewarding for the Corps and another opportunity to provide pupils with information about the Corps and its many environmental initiatives in the region. By sharing their knowledge, volunteers imparted how important the estuary is to the region and the nation and students were able to take with them their newfound knowledge to share with their friends and families on what they experienced and learned at Estuary Day.