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Spring has sprung, and with it has come volunteer opportunities! - April 3, 2016

As we embrace spring and emerge from burrowing in our homes or returning from warmer climates, we start to think of ways to enjoy the improved weather and emerging foliage.

One way to welcome spring is by volunteering outdoors. This will not only benefit the local environment, but also improve the wellbeing of the participant. Working for something you care about enables you to feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose. This can boost self-confidence and give you a stronger sense of identity. Volunteering also has a direct physical benefit; the Corporation for National and Community Service found people who allocate a significant amount of time to volunteering are more likely to have positive health outcomes, such as decreased depression, increased productivity, and a longer lifespan.

Not only is volunteering great for mental and physical health, it allows us to stay connected. It is a way to meet new people, make contacts and strengthen existing relationships. Working on a project with others, you may discover similar interests and values. It also helps individuals develop social and interpersonal skills that are instrumental in relationship building and networking. 

At the Maryland Coastal Bays Program we are well aware that we could not pursue our mission without the incredible work of our devoted volunteers. We depend on volunteers to help us restore local habitat, collect water quality samples, assist with events like our Osprey Sprint Triathlon, clean up trash from marshes and beaches, monitor wildlife populations and much more. All of these actions are essential in maintaining our Coastal Bays and keeping our watershed as clean and healthy as possible.

Come join us for two events on April 9th. We will be planting trees in Berlin and cleaning up trash in Ocean City for Earth Day. Both events aid our mission to improve the health of the Coastal Bays in different ways.

In honor of not just Earth Day, but also Arbor Day, we will be hosting a community volunteer day to plant trees and trail blaze on the beautiful Ilia Fehrer Nature Preserve property. The event is through Maryland Coastal Bays Program’s Ten Days of the Bays initiative, where we hold community volunteer days every second Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. March through December. This month’s planting is made possible through the generosity of Worcester County, the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Chesapeake Bay Trust, and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. The former loblolly pine monoculture is in Berlin, MD and this year we will be planting 8 acres of the harvested area. To participate in the event you must RSVP by contacting Amanda at amandap@mdcoastalbays.org or 410-213-2297 ext. 103 for details about the location and event.

Arbor Day is about more than just a day to go out and plant trees. It is a day to appreciate all the wonderful benefits and services trees provide not only to us, but to other animals and plants as well. The net cooling effect from just one young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-sized air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. This is one of many benefits trees provide, along with oxygen production, carbon dioxide absorption, soil retention, water quality improvement, economic value, and habitat protection for wildlife. We welcome you to come out and celebrate trees and the environmental benefits they provide!

Our other event is the 7th annual Earth Day Clean Up on April 9th, starting at 10:00 a.m. in Ocean City. T-shirts are available for volunteers while supplies last. This event is hosted in partnership with the Town of Ocean City, Ocean City Surf Club, Sunset Marina, Lucky Surf Shop, and Ocean City Chapter Surfrider Foundation. Pre-register with Sandi at sandis@mdcoastalbays.org or register the day of the event at City Hall on 3rd Street.

After participating in a trash cleanup you will find that you will continue to pick up trash in your daily life and even a small piece of trash removed could save a bird, sea turtle, or whale from harm. There are currently vast quantities of trash in our oceans and it is much easier and less costly to remove debris from beaches and land than it is to remove from the ocean. All waterways which transport trash ultimately lead to the ocean. Once there, just because we cannot see the trash does not mean it is not there and adversely affecting us. Plastics in particular are a problem because they do not biodegrade - they break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics and remain in that condition for 1,000 years. These microplastics are very difficult to remove from the environment. The sheer number and amount of debris is alarming. There are about 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean and about 8 million metric tons of plastic debris entering the ocean each year. These can damage fragile ecosystems such as coral colonies or float on the surface and be mistaken for food by animals such as birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals.

We often forget that by contributing to our community, we can contribute to ourselves as well. So, if you are considering volunteering as a way of embracing spring and improving your life and the environment, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program would welcome your assistance on April 9th or at another volunteer event!

 

 Rice is the Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and Grosse is the former Volunteer Maryland Coordinator.

 



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