I rushed in the door of my apartment just now to make coffee…. and to write about my day. I just got home from planting spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs in Rulers Bar Island in Jamaica Bay with the American Littoral Society and Ecowatchers. I had signed up for this event last weekend but the weather was rough and the event had been canceled. I was really looking forward to getting out to the marsh this morning.
Thankfully, the A train service has been fully restored to the Far Rockaways and my commute was easy. After I got there I found out my commute would have been easier on the bus. Eh, at least I got there. I got off at the Broad Channel stop and luckily I found a fellow volunteer and a few nice residents to help navigate us to the meeting point. Along the way we noticed the remnants of the damage that Hurricane Sandy had in that community. Even now I can’t believe it’s been 7 months since the hurricane devastated the coast. It was still a sharp pull on the heart to see broken porches and boarded up windows. I didn’t see a coffee shop on the way though.
Shortly after we met with the group and signed in we took a small boat over to Rulers Bar Island where the planting had already been started at an earlier time.
First, you are probably wondering who the American Littoral Society is. On their website it states, “The American Littoral Society promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protects the coast from harm, and empowers others to do the same.” So, they do good.
First, the plants that were grown from seeds harvested last year from that very same island location needed to be transported by boat to the small island. Once on the island volunteers such as myself pulled out the spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs out of the plastic containers. Then the plugs are planted into deep holes that are evenly spaced out on the ground. The time we had before high tide seemed short but I feel like we got a lot of work done today. According to what I remember hearing this island had little sand and a full growth of spartina plants before the hurricane swept through last year. They have 6,850 plugs spartina plugs to plant this season. So, as you see, there is still a lot of work to be done.
The restoration of the marsh is ongoing and volunteers from many groups including NYC Audubon, NYC Sierra Club, NYCDEC, FDNY Explorers, NYC Green Team, Linnaean Society of NY, and South Shore Audubon are working non stop each day planting spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs.
Once I started working, some of the volunteers started talking and sharing their stories of how they were affected by Hurricane Sandy and how they have survived the process of rebuilding homes and their lives. I don’t live in the Rockaways or on the coast but this area has become a big part of my life for kayaking, beach cleaning, hiking, and enjoying the beach. I can’t even begin to imagine what some of these people have gone through in the months following the hurricane. BUT, I see the part that holds them strong because even though some residents are still rebuilding their homes and replacing all their belongings they are on the beach here today; bare feet squished in the wet sand and big smiles on their faces while planting little spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs in the sand one hole at a time hoping to restore the ecology of the bay and bring the birds back to nest and finish restoring the place they will always call HOME.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming involved with the American Littoral Society go to http://www.littoralsociety.org/. They have a ton of information on their website about their programs, events, and how to become a member or volunteer.
The weather was perfect summer day, 80 degrees with a slight breeze. It was a perfect day to go to the beach. It was the perfect day to be a volunteer.
I left the event feeling a bit overwhelmed though. I met so many amazing people with heartwarming stories of their hurricane survival; talked to members of the ecowatchers and American Littoral Society that taught me a lot about the ecology of the bay and dedicate their time to important issues to save this coastal region. I barely had time to talk to everyone and I nobody brought coffee. BUT, I hope to have the opportunity to volunteer in this area and see everyone again soon! why? because it makes me HAPPY! :)
I received a very nice THANK YOU email from the American Littoral Society for volunteering with them on June 1. They had 250 volunteers go to the Ruler’s Bar segment of the Marsh Restoration Initiative to help restore the ecosystem by planting spartina alterniflora bulbs in the four weekends available. A total of 22,000 spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs were planted!