Galveston Bay Foundation enlists public's help to protect bay
Courtney Smith has always loved the way the Galveston Bay Foundation gets the public involved in its efforts.
"It usually comes at the end of a project when we plant marsh grass," said Smith, the nonprofit organization's vice president of operations.
"Something as simple as that can really open people's eyes and drive home how important Galveston Bay is."
That opportunity occurs each spring and summer during the foundation's Marsh Mania events, when volunteers plant marsh grass at newly restored wetland areas.
"Some of the sites are fairly accessible," Smith said. "You can visit and tell your children, 'I actually planted that.'"
The next plantings will occur on Saturday.
The Galveston Bay Foundation is all about preserving, protecting and enhancing the resources of Galveston Bay and its tributaries, president Bob Stokes said.
In addition to supporting the Marsh Mania events, volunteers this year are encouraged to help with the foundation's oyster reef restoration efforts in the San Leon and Kemah areas.
Work takes place at the foundation's offices and at the restoration sites. For information, email Tiffany Anders, conservation technician, at email@example.com.
The foundation also is inviting the public to several other events in 2011.
The Redfish Raft Up will take place Sept. 4 during Labor Day weekend.
The event features a concert by singer-songwriter Kelly McGuire on the deck of Star Fleet Yachts' Star Gazer.
During past events, about 150 private boats gathered around the Star Gazer near Redfish Island for the music. Guests also can buy tickets to listen from the Star Gazer.
Foundation representatives welcome listeners to the concert and make a brief educational presentation.
"Ultimately, it's a nice fun day on the water," Stokes said.
The Guardian of the Bay Award Luncheon, taking place Sept. 28, honors leaders who've shown commitment to improving Galveston Bay.
This year's honorees are Shell Oil for the Industry Award (Shell Oil is the sponsor of the Bike Around the Bay); Ann Hamilton for the Community Award; and Houston Mayor Annise Parker, for the Government Award.
Frank Billingsley, chief meteorologist for KPRC-TV Channel 2, will be the master of ceremonies.
The luncheon will take place at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, at Hotel ZaZa, 5701 Main St. in Houston. Ticket prices start at $250.
A relatively new foundation event is Bike Around the Bay, a two-day, 150-mile bicycle ride around Galveston Bay.
The route starts in Anahuac and moves through spots in Galveston, San Leon and Kemah before finishing in Baytown.
The first ride saw 480 participants, and last year's event drew 850. Stokes expects more than 1,000 cyclists during this year's ride, which takes place Oct. 8-9.
For the first time, riders will be required to raise at least $100 in donations.
"It's both an outreach event and a fundraising event for us," Stokes said. "We take people on a route that really shows them the beauty of Galveston Bay."
Stokes said the Galveston Bay Foundation strives to accomplish its goals through four primary avenues: advocacy, conservation, education and research.
The foundation is intent on maintaining the bay's mix of fresh and salt water.
"That mix makes it a very biologically efficient place," Stokes said. "One of our long-term concerns is losing that fresh water."
Several million more people will be moving into the Houston-Galveston area and the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the next 20 to 30 years, he said. That growing population will place increasing demands on the region's fresh water supplies.
The foundation wants stronger state laws in place to ensure adequate fresh water continues to flow into the bay, protecting wildlife and the overall health of the bay.
The organization also works to restore wetlands lost to subsidence. It estimates that the bay has lost 35,000 acres of wetlands to subsidence — sinking ground - resulting from pumping ground water.
Now that the region has moved away from using ground water, the foundation is building back the elevation of the land and restoring marshes. The group also has been restoring oyster reefs damaged by Hurricane Ike.
In addition to planting marsh grass, the foundation is restoring lost sea grass, which grows beneath the water and is important to marine life.
The foundation also owns and maintains 3,000 acres for conservation purposes.
Getting the word out
Galveston Bay Foundation's education efforts target children and adults.
Its Get Hip to Habitat program, for instance, allows middle school students to harvest marsh grass from a nursery in Baytown and cultivate and care for the grass at their schools.
Participating students monitor the salt content and pH levels of the grass' water. At the end of the school year, students plant the grass at marsh restoration sites around the bay.
One of the foundation's adult education efforts, Pump Don't Dump, targets the thousands of boaters who discharge sewage into the water.
Stokes said most people think their actions won't be a large problem, but the accumulative effect raises the bacteria levels in the water and harms fish.
"We also do a lot of monitoring of restored wetlands to make sure they're successful."
Local Advertising by PaperG