Clean Marinas Program Heightens Awareness of Eco-Friendly Practices
By Kaitlin Bradley
Outreach and Engagement Communications Student Intern
Pollution and unsustainable use of our natural resources seem to be ever present realities in not only our environment, but also in our daily lives. Educational programs that provide the information and utilities to encourage eco-friendly practices are one of the necessary steps to bringing awareness to not only the academic world, but also the public. The Ohio Clean Marinas Program, a partnership between Ohio State (through Ohio Sea Grant), the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, has been working for years to do just that.
Founded in 2004, the partnership has spent the last decade working to spread this program across the Lake Erie watershed through educational Clean Marinas workshops. In 2015, they were able to offer three of these workshops, which included training on nonpoint source pollution management, to 31 individuals, organizations, and marinas. Another aspect of this program is its provision of 23 site reviews in an average year to evaluate the current status of marinas. These evaluations are measured in terms of implementation of best management practices to lessen the marinas' impact on Lake Erie.
Sarah Orlando, the Ohio Clean Marinas program manager and Ohio Sea Grant extension educator, has been able to watch the program flourish in her short time with the program as a partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Watercraft to expand the program statewide has enabled dozens of marina owners and users to look further into the topic.
"Our best outcome is a Certified Clean Marina. The program itself has been around since 2004, and there are currently 48 certified Clean Marinas in Ohio. Those 48 have gone above and beyond to take voluntary steps to improve air and water quality. That is our success, the number who have gone through the process and stayed in the program; we've had a number who have been certified for 10 years," Orlando said.
The numbers show how much interest has been drummed up since the program started just over 10 years ago. However, the biggest result of the program may be what the coordinators themselves have learned about the public's level of knowledge and desire.
"I came to learn that the majority of people want to actively participate and take a role in protecting resources, whether we're talking about air or water quality or habitat. It's simply about putting the pieces together to help them understand what they can do. Once they've been walked through the process, they're involved and it's easier for them to continue implementing these best practices. What's surprising is how far along people were in doing the right thing; they just needed the last bit of guidance," Orlando shared.
Orlando learned from talking to people about the program and its sub-projects that if everyone did their part it would make a larger impact. By instilling a culture of sustainability and providing education on best boater practices, she and her team have managed to involve more than 2,000 boaters in the Ohio Clean Boater Program. These boaters help to share the message of environmental stewardship with the rest of the population across Ohio.
Chris Winslow, the interim director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program and Stone Lab, also gave insight on the impact that taking care of Ohio's natural resources has not only on in-state development, but also the overall revenue from tourism.
"For us Lake Erie provides about $12.9 billion in tourism revenue annually and the Clean Marinas Program is one of many programs we can implement to make sure people's experiences are enjoyable. The entire state's (tourism revenue) is $40 billion, to give some perspective," Winslow said.
Winslow also credits Orlando's implementation of the program to its success. Many individuals who are involved with marina ownership and natural resource preservation took notice of the Lake Erie initiative, so much so that the program began to spread to a statewide program.
"For the program, it is just a piece of the puzzle. In that same vein, Sarah also works with the Clean Boater Program, for environmental awareness; the Shrink Wrap Recycling Program, to recycle plastic used to cover boats in the winter; and the Monofilament Recycling Program, for recycling used fishing line. Honestly, Sea Grant and Stone Lab work hard to sustain a resource that's important to the state and the country," Winslow said.