Engaging Communities

Citizens who appreciate and enjoy the Sound are more likely to be engaged stewards in protecting its natural resources. Opportunities abound to swim, boat, fish, go birding, hike, or simply enjoy the view. Getting out and about is made easier by the organizations, businesses, and government agencies that help make those connections possible.

Students gain experience conducting marine research at Project Oceanology’s overnight camps in Groton, CT. Photo courtesy of Project Oceanology.

Since 2005, millions of people have been engaged and have been educated with a Long Island Sound activity thanks to projects funded by the Long Island Sound Futures Fund. Below are project descriptions from grant recipients that provides examples of the variety of citizen outreach that has been conducted. Open the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Grant Profile link to find out more information for each project, including final reports if the project has been completed.

Rain Gardens and Rain Barrels for Eastern Connecticut (2017)

Grantee: Eastern Connecticut Conservation District

The Eastern Connecticut Conservation District installed 45 rain gardens covering 8,862 square feet and distributed 132 rain barrels. The project prevents up to 33,144 gallons of stormwater a year from flowing into Long Island Sound.

The ECCD projected addressed stormwater pollution into the Thames River and Long Island Sound.   Green Infrastructure such as rain gardens and rain barrels help reduce stormwater pollution. The project: 1) Developed a network of 150 Boy Scouts of America (BSA) troop leaders, troops and scouts to help install rain gardens and rain barrels, including two projects led by Eagle Scouts 2) Delivered 13 workshops about local and residential sources of stormwater pollution into waterways, and on-site tools to harvest rainwater and treat polluted stormwater; 3) Provided rain garden plans and rain barrels/instructions to workshop participants;  4) Obtained rain barrels and conversion kits from Coca-Cola and the River Network’s National Rain Barrel Program; 5) Provided technical help and labor to design and install rain gardens.  Project partners included the BSA-Mohegan Council and the Nipmuck Council, and the University of Connecticut. The project developed a new network of community stewards of Long Island Sound water quality. In total, 714 volunteers participated, including girl scouts, boy scouts, civic organizations, US Coast Guard Officer candidates, neighborhood associations, schools, church groups, and garden clubs. See NFWF Grant Profile

Connections to Long Island Sound (2017)

Grantee: Sea Research Foundation (Mystic Aquarium)

Photo courtesy of Mystic Aquarium

The Connections to Long Island Sound project created hands-on, multisensory, multimedia experiences and school programming that highlights Long Island Sound and its watershed, while also illustrating environmental issues that face Long Island Sound and how these systems are changing over time. By building upon the connections and increased knowledge that the diverse Aquarium audiences developed through interaction with this dynamic exhibit they were provided with opportunities to become directly involved in stewardship activities that benefited Long Island Sound ecosystems.  At the completion of the project, over 1 million Aquarium visitors interacted with the Discover Long Island Sound installations, 404 students from under-resourced communities participated in 40 Long Island Sound-based programs, 20,000 community members were educated during five community outreach and stewardship events. In addition, 255 volunteers provided 764 hours of support through participation in classroom programming, community outreach, and stewardship events, and at the Discover Long Island Sound exhibit.

Project WASTE Waterway and Street Trash Elimination (2017)

Grantee: Bronx River Alliance

Sorting trash from the Bronx River at a collection boom.

Bronx River Alliance will address floatable trash, one of the three major water quality impairments to the Bronx River, through hands-on data collection and assessment, source detection, and student-driven community outreach and education along the Bronx River, a major subwatershed of Long Island Sound, in the Bronx and up-stream in Westchester.  The project will: 1) Remove 2,000 lbs. of floatable trash from the Bronx river at two collection booms and two accumulation hotspots in upstream, midstream, and downstream locations to tally the toxicity, material, brands, and provenance of trapped trash; 2) Involve 105 citizen scientists (students and adults) with BRxA to remove trash; 3) Conduct assessments at hot-spots of river-based trash accumulation in tandem with project partners including the New York Botanical Garden, New York City Parks, and Rocking the Boat; 4) Analyze and synthesize the assessment data to educate the public and local officials through in-person meetings, one public education workshop, using five social media tools (websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, e-newsletter) about sources and forms of trash reaching 7,035 people; and 4) Engage five youth leaders in development and delivery of outreach projects aimed at local businesses to reduce the amount of litter.  The project will improve water quality by reducing the volume of plastic and other trash entering the Bronx River and ultimately Long Island Sound. NFWF Grant Profile

Audubon WildLife Guards – A Coastal Stewardship and Youth Conservation Training Program (2016)

Grantee: National Audubon Society, Audubon Connecticut

WildLife Guards at Pleasure Beach. Photo by Scott Kruitbosch.

National Audubon Society (Audubon Connecticut) employed 10 students to encourage beachgoers to share 54 acres of beach, dune, and shoreline habitat with beach-nesting coastal waterbirds; and provide coastal stewardship training to 25 municipal employees to add to student stewardship efforts at Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  The project engaged students and municipal employees to learn ways to reduce disturbance to coastal nesting areas birds such as Least and Common Tern, American Oystercatcher, and Piping Plover; and conducted outreach to thousands of people through face-to-face conversations, a website, social media, and articles. Audubon Connecticut addressed the need to manage beach and dune habitat for coastal birds while increasing appreciation and understanding of the value of natural resources by the public in a populated area of Long Island Sound. Project partners: Audubon Connecticut, City of Bridgeport, and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. NFWF Grant Profile

Creating a Network of Schoolyard Habitats to Engage Students in Conservation of Long Island Sound (2015)

Grantee: National Audubon Society, Audubon Connecticut

Students taking a tour of a schoolyard habitat.

Connecticut Audubon supported 10 enrolled Schoolyard Habitat schools and expanded the program to three elementary schools and in the broader community of New Haven and Stamford, CT. Many barriers exist for Connecticut residents to directly connect with Long Island Sound along urban waterfronts; and students in urban communities often have limited opportunities to engage in outdoor, hands-on experiential learning in their curriculum, or to steward natural resources in their communities. Major project activities to address these challenges included: 1) Restoration projects removed 3.74 acres of invasive plants, restored 4.68 acres of habitat, and planted 2,162 native plants. Of the 4.68 acres restored, 0.44 acres were from new habitat created at the 3 new schools during this grant period. The acreage restored through invasive species removal exceeded the proposed goal of restoring 1.48 acres. 2) Teacher workshops were held to train teachers in the Audubon Schoolyard Habitat Curriculum Guide and to increase teacher confidence in teaching outdoors. In
total, 75 teachers received professional development through training to use their habitats as outdoor classrooms. 3) 1,094 volunteers from schools and the community participated in restoration projects. The number of volunteers exceeded the proposed goal of 680. 4) 2,000 students were engaged in outdoor learning through Schoolyard Habitat programming. Project partners: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Common Ground High School, and Yale Peabody Museum. NFWF Grant Profile

Organizing Long Island Sound Beach Cleanups (2015)

Grantee: American Littoral Society

The haul from an Oyster Bay cleanup. Photo courtesy of the American Littoral Society.

American Littoral Society organized the 2015 International Beach Cleanup at sites affecting the Long Island Sound along 80 miles of shoreline in Queens, Suffolk, Nassau and Bronx Counties, New York. Combined sewer overflows, trash from stormwater and littering are significant sources of debris found on the beaches in the Long Island Sound watershed and are detriments to people (broken glass, jagged metal), to wildlife (entanglement, ingestion), and to natural resources (habitat destruction, unsightly landscape). Organized beach cleanups address the issues of floatable debris and non-point pollution prevention. In total, 1,929 volunteers collected 65,000 pounds of trash along 59 miles of Long Island Sound shoreline in 2015. NFWF Grant Profile

Outer Island Marine Environmental Education/Research Center (2009)

Grantee: Friends of Outer Island, Thimble Islands

Building a new education center. Photo courtesy of Friends of Outer Island.

The Friends of Outer Island build a revitalized eco-friendly educational center on Outer Island including a marine lab, learning stations, and a classroom pavilion to provide hands-on learning and research opportunities about Long Island Sound. Outer Island, an offshore unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, is a unique location for educating the public about Long Island Sound. The island, which was donated to the US Fish and Wildlife Service with the mission of research and education, lacks the infrastructure for a sustained educational program. The project created the center by refurbishing a neglected summer cottage into a hands-on marine lab and an open classroom pavilion. The lab, the classroom, and the learning stations enables visitors to measure water quality and observe marine species with a goal of increasing environmental awareness through hands-on activities. NFWF Grant Profile

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