For the first time in the organization’s 30-year history, the Coalition held its Annual Meeting in Acushnet. The meeting location, The Sawmill – where the Coalition restored habitats along the Acushnet River and created public trails, overlooks, and a canoe launch – has become a cherished local park where more than 500 people visit each week to walk, fish, and paddle.
“When people love a place, when it becomes part of who they are and what they value, they fight to protect it,” said Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “That is the long-term goal of the Coalition’s work at The Sawmill and at dozens of similar places. Binding people with their local environment is the only way we will achieve Bay protection over multiple generations.”
The Sawmill model – identifying the most important places around the Bay, restoring broken habitats, and opening them to the community – is a hallmark of the Coalition’s approach to saving Buzzards Bay, and is happening in several other places around the region. In Wareham, the Coalition has protected and is currently restoring Wickets Island in Onset Bay and Horseshoe Mill on the Weweantic River. Both of these places will become public destinations for walking, fishing, paddling, and more – just like The Sawmill. And in the Mattapoisett River Reserve, which has expanded to more than 500 acres of forests, ponds, streams, and wetlands that protect a critical source of clean drinking water, local residents can now explore more than six miles of linked trails.
But the meeting’s biggest celebration was the presentation of the Buzzards Bay Guardian Awards, the Coalition’s highest honor. Not only have Buzzards Bay Guardians demonstrated outstanding service in the cleanup, restoration, or protection of the Bay, but they are unsung heroes who deserve public recognition for what they have achieved and inspiring others to make a difference.
This year, the Coalition presented three Guardian awards to Paul Elias of Naushon, Jack Reynolds of Westport, and Greg Bibler of Newburyport.
- Paul Elias: A former member of the Coalition’s board of directors, Elias took the lead to research and implement new solar power grids for the islands of Naushon and Cuttyhunk. Formerly powered by polluting diesel generators, the homes and businesses on these two islands now run on independent, renewable solar power micro grids. Elias also worked with fellow island residents to reduce overall energy use, cutting power demand by 40% on Naushon and 15% on Cuttyhunk.
- Jack Reynolds: Reynolds has spent his life as a commercial fisherman out of Westport Point, and since 1983, he has served as president and driving force of the Westport Fishermen’s Association. During his tenure, the Coalition has teamed up with WFA on a number of advocacy issues to reduce pollution and protect clean water in the Westport Rivers. Most recently, Reynolds’ leadership led to the first study of rapid salt marsh loss on Buzzards Bay, which will expand later this summer to more locations around the Bay.
- Greg Bibler: The former chair of the environmental practice of prestigious Boston law firm Goodwin Procter, Bibler has provided pro-bono legal strategy and representation on a host of Coalition advocacy issues, beginning in 2011 to help expedite the release of Massachusetts Estuaries Project reports that form the foundation of Bay cleanup plans called TMDLs. Bibler has also represented the Coalition in its appeal of Falmouth’s wastewater treatment plant permit in 2015 and in a recent case involving a Mattapoisett homeowner who converted nearly a half-acre of sensitive wetlands on Eel Pond to lawn.