The Great Bay Clean Up: Mapping & Cleaning Up Debris

Volunteers pose in front of 367.5 lbs. of debris they collected!

Volunteers pose in front of 367.5 lbs. of debris they collected!

It began with a conversation as part of the Social Indicators Project with a local sportsman and Greenland resident. He and his fellow duck hunters in the Great Bay Gunners were constantly picking up trash, debris and garbage as they walked along the shorelines of Great Bay and Little Bay. They also were seeing BIG things like piles of tires, decrepit docks, half sunken boats. They were challenged by the lack of access to the shoreline to get this debris and asked PREP if we could help.

We knew we couldn’t do this alone so we approached The Stewardship Network New England for help since they have an awesomely active volunteer network. But first we needed to: a) figure out how much trash there really was; and b) map where it was located so we could better deploy volunteers to pick it up. That’s when the fantastic tech skills of Shane Bradt with UNH Cooperative Extension came in. Shane researched and decided on an app called Track Kit that uses a smartphone’s internal GPS and makes trails and points of note.

One volunteers data trail with garbage points marked in blue

In April we hosted 18 small boat enthusiast volunteers for a training on how to map Great Bay debris. Shane walked them through how to use the app (including mapping the parking lot of the Stratham Town Hall!), how to send us the data, we talked boater safety, general safety and then each volunteer signed up to survey a stretch of Great Bay’s shoreline.

Volunteers learning to use the Track Kit app

The assigned shoreline for each volunteer

Throughout late April and May the volunteers took to their kayaks, canoes and hiking boots with their smartphone in hand to survey their assigned shoreline.

A volunteer surveys the shoreline from his canoeSadly, they found a lot…

Now, it was time to ACT! Once we received everyone’s data we put together a master map and got to work planning the first of what will have to be many clean up events. We decided to host a clean up in three sites to start – Adam’s Point, Durham; Great Bay Wildlife Refuge in Newington; and Wagon Hill Farm, Durham. These sites were the easiest to gain access to for volunteers and didn’t involve any private landowner approval, which around Great Bay is a reality. We thought we’d start with the “low hanging fruit” and then build upon that.

So on the first day of summer, June 21st (and it sure felt like it) we gathered 42 excited volunteers together at Adam’s Point in Durham for their briefing and deployment…

The awesome volunteers at The Gundalow Company also wanted to lend a hand so they sailed up from Portsmouth and docked at Adam’s Point to join the crew!

Armed with trash bags, gloves and an awesome spirit the volunteers were able to collectively collect 367.5 pounds of trash from the three different sites.

We know from our data that this only a very small portion of the total debris that lies along the shorelines of our Great Bay. PREP together with the Stewardship Network and The Gundalow Company are making a year-long commitment to continue to collect all the mapped data we possibly can. We truly thank all the awesome volunteers that gave of their time, muscle and sweat to help us clean up in this first event and we encourage more folks to join us in our commitment!  If you have a small boat and/or are interested in helping to clean up some of the mapped trash PLEASE, PLEASE email Abby at PREP. We can give you the exact info and location. Many hands make lighter work!

Also, save the date for another big volunteer clean up event September 24th as part of National Estuaries Week and as always, keep connected to The Stewardship Network’s calendar and this newsletter for more opportunities to help us keep our bay clean!

Abby, Rachel & Jill from PREP – what a team!

PREP is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, a joint program between local, state and federal agencies established under the Clean Water Act with the goal of protecting and enhancing nationally significant estuarine resources. PREP is supported in part by an EPA matching grant and is housed within the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire.