Alliance for a Living Ocean (ALO) a non-profit, grass-roots environmental association was created in 1987 in an effort to stop beach dumping and pollution. Since that time, ALO has worked tirelessly to protect the ocean, the bay and the rest of our coastal environment!
ALO consists of Chris Huch and his team of volunteers, including Amy Williams and countless goodhearted people who just want to help and they have been battling the cleanup and the preservation of the Jersey Shore since the storm.
“Since the storm, we have been focusing on cleanup of Hurricane Sandy related debris and litter,” Chris said.
Chris said that ALO has focused on a lot of different areas; including beaches, the bay beaches, school yards and neighborhoods, all in an effort to clean up after the hurricane. “We have had to revisit a lot of places due to new storms throughout the year, so it has been an ongoing process,” Chris said.
With each storm, Chris said, there is more debris that rolls out of the waves and onto the beaches. This debris is also coming from construction sights, as fresh storms force rubble out into the water.
It is not only the big debris that is washing up on land that ALO is worried about becoming an issue; it is also the smaller pieces that cannot be picked up by radar that may become a problem. Paint cans are a prime example, so Chris and Amy stressed that ALO is aware of these dangers and are doing everything in their power to catch every threat to the environment.
To stay ahead of this problem, ALO organizes cleanup crews every-other weekend, which anyone can be a part of. The official schedules are posted every month for beach cleanup and are only tentative to weather conditions.
The next ALO Environmental Clean Up Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 20th that will involve kayaks, canoes and divers helping to rid the water of debris. The following Clean Up Day is scheduled for April 27th and this effort will focus on removing litter from the land. ALO is looking forward to a church group of over 400 people attending this event!
Alliance for a Living Ocean has also been working closely with the township to help restock the dune grass along the shore.
“So much of our natural vegetation was lost in Hurricane Sandy and so now at this point, we are relying on the stock of dune grass that was supposed to come in the fall,” Chris said, hoping that the Townships will be able to order multiple shipments of dune grass in order to keep up with the demand, “So, unlike the cleanup scheduling where we can kind of look into the future and see what days’ work, with dune grass, we have to rely on the availability of dune grass; where dune grass will be available and how much dune grass is available.”
Due to these uncertainties, Alliance for a Living Ocean usually is unable to confirm a dune grass planting day any earlier than the beginning of the week which the planting is going to take place.
Despite the shortage in dune grass, there is not a shortage of support and ALO is looking forward to many days of dune grass planting. “It comes in these little shoots which are really easy to deal with, really easy to plant and really, quite fun!” Chris said.
“The purpose is to make the dune this living, breathing wall so that it is not only able to get hit with waves and absorb a little bit of that wave, but it also allows a little bit of sand to be let go in order to slow down the erosion process, “Chris said.
A natural dune system is only strong because of the vegetation that is in it. Due to an intricate natural root structure, the sand on a dune is locked in place and by adding other vegetation such as shrubs and small trees, which is also the intention of ALO’s planting, it only strengthens that system.
“One of the larger species that are found natively is the bayberries. They have been found on the island and they are found down some of the streets that faired really well after the storm,” Amy said of the normally 3 to 4 foot shrub. These and a few other plants are what ALO will be looking at in order to help rebuild the dunes and combat the shortage of dunes.
So, when helping with dune grass, you are not just planting pretty green grass, you are planting, as Chris said, “A garden of defense!”
“The biggest thing that people can do to help increase their safety for the summer is to help now. If you have the capability to come down and help now, the better off the beaches and swimming conditions will be in the summer,” Chris said of willing volunteers.
Chris also advised to simply pay attention, use a little more caution than you normally would and to work together to, “catch something hazardous before it becomes hazardous.”
As some general knowledge, for every year, Amy said, “No one should be walking on the dunes, pay attention and adhere to the laws that are out there and pay attention to the lifeguards. Do not go out of their flags because lifeguards are going to be very vigilant in making sure that the areas between the flags are safe to swim.”
Of all the volunteers, Amy said, “The public has been amazing since the storm. They have come out from all over the country! We have had people from Ohio, upstate New York and Pennsylvania; we have students here on Spring Break right now, giving up their time to come out here and help us. They just appreciate, I think, what they have and the storm has really brought that to their attention.”
Essentially, Chris said that ultimately, “Everything is connected to everything else and so it is important that we really look at the big picture!”
Join the My LBI Life Crew and all the great volunteers at the next Environmental Clean Up Day, and help restore our environment!
For environmental questions, safety concerns, more information on the upcoming Environmental Clean Up Day, other ALO events, or volunteer opportunities, feel free to visit the Alliance of a Living Ocean website or call (609) 494-7800.