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OFG Launching in New England, Rooting in Mid-Atlantic & Southeast

December 02 2013 | Ocean Friendly Gardens,
by Paul Herzog

Seeds are getting planted and sprouts growing for Surfrider chapter Ocean Friendly Gardens programs in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Great Lakes areas. During an OFG talks at the East Coast Chapters Regional Conferences (ECC), chapters shared how they are implementing OFG, within the framework of education, hands-on training and policy work. John Coyne, Surfrider-Atlanta OFG Chair (at right), explained that the settlement of a lawsuit brought against the City of Atlanta by the USEPA forced the City to commit to speeding up water quality improvement efforts. This created funded opportunities for the Chapter to organize around.

John listed several organizations and businesses with that the Chapter is targeting. For instance, they have identified:

  • Chattahoochee RiverKeeper - which is a part of the national WaterKeeper Alliance, and there may be a Keeper in your area.
  • A watershed alliance.
  • City of Atlanta's Department of Watershed Management - a "Residential Green Practices" guide.
  • A local, "green" landscape architect.

Atlanta Chapter Chair Clay Davidson said the Chapter hopes to see OFG principles applied to a City river-side park. Clay applied OFG principles to his home retrofit! OFG activists from Jersey Shore, South Jersey and Ocean City, MD chapters were present, too.

A second ECC OFG session went outside to apply what was learned and conduct a site evaluation of the Virginia Beach, VA hotel hosting the Conference. Simple solutions could be made: the downspouts coming off the buildings (at right) could be cut and routed into landscaped basins. Cuts could be made in the parking lot's grassy areas and runoff could directed into them (at left).

At the end of the ECC, those from the Virginia Beach area that were interested in OFG met with Surfrider OFG staff to discuss forming an OFG committee. Surfrider-Virginia Beach activist (and Chapter Secretary) Shannon Davis invited existing activists as well as Bruce from healthy food restaurant called Fruitive, and Lin Old, Culinary Instructor at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach. They used Surfrider's Strategic Planning Chart (see ChapterNet) to guide their planning.

While activists from Wisconsin and Rhode Island participated in the OFG sessions, bad weather prevented several chapters from New England from attending. So on a return trip to the East Coast, I was welcomed by the Maine and Connecticut Chapters to present. Maine's Executive Committee (at right) has recently gone through almost a complete re-building, and they all get along like new friends. At the "meet-and-eat," four activists volunteered to join an OFG committee, lead by their Chair, Jeff Davis.

I joined Jeff on a walk-about the City of Portland, ME, venturing downs a several hundred years-old street made of permeable pavers (earth gaps left between the pavers, at left). This may be one of the oldest examples of OFG!

The Connecticut Chapter Chair, Ines Walther, organized my speaking at a library the following night to those into OFG. (The library provided a projector and screen, helped set it up, and directed people to the room - and two staff new about Surfrider and wanted to get involved!) One activist is already well-involved with a watershed alliance and the lay of the political landscape, while Ines is an engineer and familiar with OFG principles. They seem well on their way to bringing to getting Surfrider engaged in existing efforts - and knowing where to find authentic pizza (at right)!

Rhode Island is envisioning launching OFG early next year. OFG resources such as slideshows and handouts are available on ChapterNet in the "Resources" section, then click on "Ocean Friendly Gardens." Also check www.oceanfriendlygardens.org.

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