Springing Forward

By Daniel Hayden

The first signs of Spring have started to show themselves here in DC. Robins and finches have returned to the feeders, the temperatures are starting to climb, albeit slowly, and organizations across the country are gearing up for the 2021 field season to complete restoration, research, and lead volunteer events.

As much excitement as these rituals bring me, I’m quickly reminded every time I open my email, turn on the radio, or watch tv that we are still facing a public health crisis. Yes, the end is near, but Covid-19 is still throwing a wrench in the gears of “regular life.”

Unlike this time last year, though, we’ve got a good handle on how to safely and smartly proceed with outdoor activities. Just this week, as part of our Caring for our Coasts Grant, awardees gathered to share best practices for hosting community events. Some top ideas include:

  • Stagger check in times for volunteers to avoid bottle necks
  • Require volunteers to only work with a “trusted partner” that they feel comfortable working alongside and be clear about expectations
  • Provide facemasks, hand sanitizer and handwashing stations for volunteers and staff
  • Enforce social distancing by mapping out specific work areas for volunteers
  • Wash any equipment before storing it

It’s equally as important that we continue to stay steadfast in defending our friends, family, and coworkers from the virus and its potential impacts to our community.

Like many of you, we are eager to get back to gathering in the field, joining each other at conferences, and sharing thoughts, insight, and laughter in-person. However, please also regularly check the CDC Website for the latest guidance, and when in doubt, safety first.

Visitations to many of our favorite estuaries, beaches, and preserves saw huge spikes this past year, with many first-time visitors. Bird watching, paddling, and fishing are great ways to enjoy family and friends while also maintaining safe social distance.

How will we keep people engaged when they go back to 9-5 jobs and our outdoor “safe” spaces must compete with the hustle and bustle of pre-Covid-19 schedules? Have we done enough to share our passion with our friends and neighbors?  Have we included people who might be hesitant to visit an estuary?

Many of our local businesses will continue to face financial hardship even after quarantine restrictions are lifted. These are the same businesses who donate auction items to your banquet, equipment and time for restoration projects, and promote the work of so many conservation groups. How can we as a community continue to support them? These establishments are just as much a part of our healthy coastal communities as the estuaries themselves.

In closing, I have a challenge for you today: grab takeout from your favorite independently owned restaurant or coffee shop, and take a friend for a shore-walk, hike, or invite them to a volunteer event at your favorite estuary. Bonus points if it’s their first time!

See you soon,

Daniel Hayden
President & CEO
Restore America’s Estuaries