What is your favorite cove, beach, or river in Westerly? You might be asked that question from a member of Save the Bay during a “person on the street” video shoot this year. Celebrating their 50th year anniversary in 2020, Save the Bay has been a success story protecting Narragansett Bay since the 1970s.
The roots of Save the Bay started as a seedling when a small group formed called Save Our Community with the goal to defeat the location of an oil refinery in Tiverton, RI. The small and fiercely passionate group grew from just seven members to 7,000 over the years and eventually as much as 20,000 members strong as they collected signatures of all those dedicated to protecting the Bay.
That community strength and advocacy is still a vital component of Save the Bay 50 years later and the nonprofit remains a member-supported organization that is committed to protecting and improving Narragansett Bay and all the waters that flow into it so that it remains swimmable, fishable and healthy for generations to enjoy.
To launch the start of their 18th month anniversary celebration they hosted an Earth Day Birthday Party on April 27, where over 700 people gathered on East Beach in Charlestown to help with a beach cleanup and celebrated afterward with family activities, music, marine life exhibits, crafts, and an art contest to design the new summer camp t-shirts.
“The cleanup of the Bay is a national success story,” says Cindy Sabato, Director of Communications, for Save the Bay. “The work isn’t done as threats have changed with technology and times and we want to make sure the work the community had done can’t be rolled back, from where we are today.”
Presently, the major sources of pollution to Narraganset Bay and other rivers are wastewater treatment plants, cesspools, and septic systems, and stormwater runoff, all of which discharge high levels of nitrogen, bacteria, and phosphorus and everyday products such as pharmaceuticals, metals, chemicals, and petroleum products.
The organization combines their skills and talents of advocacy working with government agencies and through legislation as well with science that analyzes wetland and watershed protection, conservation, and environmental threats. “We really rely on a robust network of partners, it’s a partner based collaboration approach,” says Cindy.
The future success of the group depends on getting youth involved to learn and care about clean water and the natural environment in their community. Known as Bay Stewards, each year over 15,000 students from local schools ranging in age from kindergarten to college ages come together to engage in hands-on marine science and environmental education programs.
Aligned with state and national science standards, the programs bring the classroom outside to provide live action learning in nature and interaction through Save the Bay exploration centers, summer bay camps, and winter seal and lighthouse tours.
Save the Bay has a Westerly presence in their downtown South Coast Center, established in 2007, where families and visitors explore diverse habitats, marine life in the touch tanks, crafts, a watershed map, and activities that engage and educate all about the waters and marine life in the Westerly community. Admission is free to the South Coast Center and donations are always appreciated and support the work of the South County conservation and Save the Bay efforts to protect waters and habitat.
Check out the website for the South Coast Center Save the Bay Westerly location for environmental updates, programs, and 50th anniversary celebration events!