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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Richmond Hill, Bryan County, Georgia, USA

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Richmond Hill, Bryan County, Georgia, USA
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Registered: October 2007
City/Town/Province: Richmond HIll
Posts: 1
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Preserving the Ogeechee River of Bryan County, Georgia

My Name is Alex. I am a senior at Richmond Hill High School. I live on the banks of the Ogeechee River, in Bryan County, Georgia. This blackwater river flows through rural farmlands, cypress forests, and small towns before it reaches the coastal marshes of my town, Richmond Hill. Its watershed drains over 3.5 million acres in southeast Georgia. It’s home to a wide variety of fascinating creatures. Alligators, river otter, dolphin, manatee, shrimp, blue crabs and even the endangered short –nose sturgeon swim its waters. Bald eagles, vultures, red-tail hawks, chimney swifts, ospreys, and bats grace the sky above it. Blue herons, snowy egrets, raccoons, and fiddlers crabs roam its banks.
Not only is this river an important natural resource; it is also an important historical site. The Ogeechee has witnessed many eras of history. Guale Indians made their homes along this river over 800 years ago: shards of their pottery often wash ashore. Georgia’s first capital, Cape Hardwick was chosen for its deepwater location on the river near Ossabaw Sound. Battles from both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War have been fought on its waters. The tidal waters of the Ogeechee flushed and irrigated the rice and indigo fields of the Plantations nestled along it banks before the South seceded from the Union.
The Ogeechee River has held me in awe for all these reasons. Yet, my family and I would watch trash and debris drift back and forth on the changing tides. People used the river for their recreation and food supply; they were continuously taking from the river but not giving anything back. I decided I should do something to help protect and preserve the Ogeechee River.
Four years ago, I began the annual cleanup of the Ogeechee by participating in the Rivers Alive Annual Volunteer Waterway Cleanup event which is held across the state of Georgia in October. This statewide event targets all of Georgia’s waterways - streams, rivers, lakes, beaches, and wetlands. Each summer I register my river watch group, the Ogeechee Citizens’ Brigade, for this fall event. My cleanup date and site information is then posted by Rivers Alive so other interested volunteers can attend. Rivers Alive supplies me with promotional materials, educational posters, and other items to help me organize my cleanup. I also receive T-shirts, bookmarks, and sometimes patches for my volunteers.
An important part of every cleanup is the International Coastal Cleanup Data Card supplied by the Ocean Conservancy. As we pick up trash and debris, we tally the items under different categories: trash from shoreline and recreational activities, debris from recreational / commercial fishing or boating activities, smoking related trash, items that were dumped, or medical / personal hygiene debris. The International Cleanup Program then complies all the data on the amount and types of trash found in US waterways and reports this information to Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency.
My cleanup crew this year consisted of my family, a few neighbors, and my dog. (She looked great in the T-shirt.) We removed trash from the riverbank that stretches along my neighborhood and the condominium development next door. It is always a messy event : we have to slug through gooey, thick mud that sucks the shoes off your feet; reach through sharp marsh grass that pokes you all over; swat biting marsh bugs, (they may be called “no-see-ums” down here in the South, but you sure “do feel um” when they bite); and race the changing tide. In October, low tide does not last very long nor does it expose much “beach,” so we have to time the cleanup just right and work quickly. This year it rained on us too.
We picked up about 10 garbage bags full of trash weighing in at about 185 pounds. The majority of the debris was from shoreline and recreational activities: beverages cans and bottles, eating utensils, food wrappers, and lots of styrofoam pieces from food containers. We also removed building materials, a tire, and an old knee board.
I am pleased to say that each year there seems to be less trash to remove. Neighbors are being more careful about items being blown off their docks into the river. The first year I had my cleanup, we had TONS of trash that had just accumulated over the years. I think the most interesting thing I have removed from the river so far is a Betty Boop toilet seat and lid.
The Rivers Alive program here in Georgia, makes it easy for anyone interested in preserving our many waterways to become an involved “Apprentice Ecologist.” I highly recommend the program to school groups and clubs, Boy and Girl Scout Troops, or church youth groups who want have a positive impact on their environment. Other states probably have similar programs available through their Departments of Natural Resources.
I feel privileged for having spent my childhood years along the banks of the Ogeechee River. It has given me many happy memories and many beautiful images to carry with me all my life. I am proud to serve as its defender. I am proud to do my small part in working towards its preservation so that others might enjoy it too.
Date: December 20, 2007 Views: 14102 File size: 33.9kb, 426.3kb : 1125 x 1500
Hours Volunteered: 20
Volunteers: 5
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 15 to 57
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 1
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 83.9
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