Guest Blog: Saving the Environment, One Local Pond at a Time

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Guest Blog By: Linda Grand

Linda Grand is an incoming senior at the University of Delaware majoring in Environmental and Resource Economics.  She is vice president of Students For the Environment on campus and is participating in undergraduate research at UD.  On 20-something Environmentalist, Linda writes about her experience educating folks on the water quality of her favorite pond growing up.

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People ask me all the time how I became the environmentalist that I am today. I would never know how to answer this question and would just ramble on about liking the outdoors and nature. However, now that some aspects of environmental activism have been closer to home, I have come up with a better response to this question.

I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey in a town called Hillsborough with a pond across from my house. Not only did I learn to ride my bike along the path that circumscribes this pond, I’ve walked around that pond more times than I can count, and in the winter, I would ice skate on it and sled around it. Therefore, this pond is very dear to me, and I think growing up next to it was what started to get me entranced with nature and protecting the environment.

A couple of months ago my neighbor, Katherine, reached out to me asking if I would be interested in helping her with a new project aiming to save the pond. She called the project “The Neighbors and Stakeholders Initiative.” The project has two key focuses: to create a broader close-knit neighborhood and to educate people about the stormwater pollution that is causing algal blooms to develop in our pond.

When rainwater goes on impervious surfaces such as driveways, streets, paths, and sidewalks, instead of seeping into the ground it is referred to as stormwater. Stormwater pollution occurs when that rainwater becomes polluted with litter and excess sediment that runs off of impervious surfaces. Polluted stormwater was running, untreated, into storm drains that lead straight into our local waterways, like the pond near my house!

The pond is currently suffering from algae blooms.  Excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus from lawn fertilizers and pesticides) flowing into the pond create algal blooms that deplete the dissolved oxygen on which the ecosystem depends.  The excess nutrients can be traced back to neighboring housing developments and Canada geese that feed on the mowed lawn areas that surround the pond.  The algal blooms are not only detrimental to fish and aquatic wildlife, but they tend to be smelly and are not aesthetically pleasing.

As soon as Katherine proposed the Neighbors and Stakeholders Initiative, I jumped on board. We worked together with a local non-profit organization called BoroGreen to plan a Family Fun Day to make the Neighbors and Stakeholders Initiative a reality. The goal of the Family Fun Day around the pond was to create an atmosphere where one could meet new people and learn about how they can take simple steps to help protect the pond. After months of planning this event, it was a huge success with over 30 people from all sides of the pond in attendance.

Activities during the day included: face painting, a gift giving game, hula hooping, music and more. One event that was a huge hit was learning how to make a window farm to plant herbs out of some tubing and used plastic water bottles. Then, while enjoying a potluck full of delicious food, we casually talked to people about the state of the pond and what they could do to protect this cherished public good.

People left the event with biodegradeable soap samples and fliers about how they can help the pond. Topics discussed included: rain barrels, lawn care tips, and how to prevent stormwater pollution. Rain barrels catch rainfall on rooftops, thus reducing runoff in heavily developed areas.  Water collected in the rain barrel can be used to water plants and lawn. In addition, we asked our neighbors to lower their lawn fertilizers use.  We advocated for them to do a soil test on their own lawn to help find out the appropriate amount of fertilizer to apply to their lawn.

Overall, the Family Fun day was a huge success. It was grassroot organizing to the core. I am excited to be working on the Neighbors and Stakeholders Initiative, and I am hopeful for it to expand and grow in years to come.

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