From bays to board room, CIB volunteers get stuff done

By Laura Walter

Staff Reporter

 

Delaware volunteers are using their backs, brains and businesses to help serve the local ecosystem, and on Dec. 13, the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) celebrated the partnerships that help protect and restore the inland bays watershed over a long period of time.

Five individuals and businesses were named Friends of the Bays for 2019:

• Volunteer Awards:  Jerry Daugherty and Bill Hitz;

• Partner Award: Scott Andres, Delaware Geological Survey, former chair of the CIB Scientific & Technical Advisory Committee (STAC);

• Business Award: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (a joint award for Chesapeake & Maine restaurant and Mark Carter of Beer & Benevolence).

“It upholds the values of collaboration and selflessness and dedication that make our work to protect the bays possible,” said Chris Bason, CIB executive director. “We wouldn’t have come as far as we have with protecting the water, the wildlife and the way of life we enjoy because of these waterbodies, if not for the folks who demonstrate these values.”

Scott Andres carries a long history of CIB service. He has served on Board of Directors and helped develop the original 1995 Comprehensive Conservation & Management Plan (CCMP), which outlines the CIB’s goals and activities.

“Scott is a leader in the study of coastal groundwater, and his work has greatly advanced our understanding of groundwater dynamics and Delaware’s natural resources,” said Marianne Walch, CIB science and restoration coordinator. “He probably has as much understanding and knowledge about the inland bays as anyone in the state,” as well as an ability to “speak clearly and without bias about the scientific data that supports or does not support management decisions and policy.”

“Dogfish has been a friend to the Center in a number of ways,” including their contribution of Mark Carter and the Dogfish Beer & Benevolence program. “He’s a very busy guy, but he’s also very good natured and he’s always willing to help,” said CIB fundraiser Anna Short.

Carter helped with organizing the Inaugural Race to the Bays in Dewey Beach and Dogfish sponsorship of the CIB oyster gardening program.

When local restaurants started saving old shellfish shells for the CIB’s “Don’t Chuck Your Shucks” program, Chesapeake & Maine jumped on board. In one year, they collected 633 bushels, with about 20 tons of shell.

“Many, many 5-gallon buckets of smelly oyster shells” would have otherwise been thrown in the dumpster and landfill, said restaurant manager Renah Scudlark. “It just made sense. … There’s no waste.”

The CIB collected shells each week and dumped them into mounds near Bethany Beach. Over the year, the shells are cleaned naturally out in the elements: rain-soaked and sun-bleached. The piles are occasionally turned by tractors or bulldozers. Then volunteers (including C&M staff) help to bag thousands of shells for the main event: building small inland bays oyster reefs.

“The shells that they’ve been collecting have gone directly back into the bays already,” said Victoria Spice, CIB science and restoration project manager.

To build the test reef sites, CIB volunteers and staff spent several days trudging out into the sometimes-jellyfish infested waters, dumping bag after bag of oyster shells onto the seabed.

“Jerry [Daugherty] literally bled for the Center this year,” said program manager Bob Collins. Daugherty admitted to needing stiches in his arm after he used a brand-new knife on oyster bags that did not warrant such a sharp blade. But he said he still loves the work.

“It’s total enjoyment. It gives me something to look forward to. It gets me out of the house!” Daugherty said. Some weather conditions are more pleasant than others, but he said he loves working with the other volunteers, whether in the water, carrying mulch or other chores.

Volunteers  come to one or all of the Wednesday-morning workdays at James Farm Ecological Preserve.

“It’s a privilege,” Daugherty said. “It’s very enjoyable, and just makes you feel a little bit better about yourself.”

Bill Hitz has a science background in agriculture, so he’s helped to evaluate engineering candidates for CIB projects.

“But I also find I have a lot of fun doing the horseshoe counts,” Hitz said. “I enjoy the work. I enjoy the people I work with.”

He also highly recommended retirees get involved in a volunteer project, meet new comrades and find new purpose. (“This one is rewarding, and the people are appreciative,” he said.)

 “You don’t have to be out there getting dirty. They’ve got enough programs. I think there’s something here for everyone, really,” Daugherty said. “Tomorrow we’re going to be putting up an osprey nest.”

All honorees received Dogfish Head beer and a metal horseshoe-crab bottle-opener.

Potential volunteers and collaborators are always welcome to learn about the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays by calling (302) 226-8105 or online at www.inlandbays.org.