Students help restore critical Alabama coastline – Yellowhammer News
The restoration and preservation of Lightning Point, one of Alabama’s most iconic and important coastal habitats, is receiving a big boost through the efforts of some high school students and volunteers in the area.
About two dozen students from Alma Bryant High School in Bayou La Batre recently joined volunteers from The Nature Conservancy in Alabama (TNCA) and Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) to replant native marsh grasses at Lightning Point. . The work was funded in part through a Students to Stewards Fellowship from the Alabama Power Foundation.
âI am so relieved and excited to finally be here,â said Pamela Baker, principal teacher in the Coastal Environmental Science program at Alma Bryant High School. âWe were supposed to come out last April to replant, but COVID has arrived. We are just delighted to be here.
The project began in 2019 when Baker contacted DISL’s Tina Miller-Way looking for hands-on learning opportunities for her students. Miller-Way connected Baker with Mary Kate Brown of TNCA, who was leading an effort to restore and preserve the southern tip of Bayou La Batre Lighting Point, which was struggling to recover from long-term erosion caused by years of hurricanes. Lightning Point is the hub of Alabama’s fishing and seafood processing industry.
âWe have an active education program and we are always looking for opportunities to introduce students to the environment and to see and do for themselves,â Miller-Way said. âWorking with TNCA we learned about this project and of course the school we turned to is Alma Bryant because it’s in their backyard. They have every interest in coming forward. “
Before the restoration began, Alma Bryant students traveled to Lightning Point and collected seeds and cuttings from the native marsh grasses growing at the site, including black needlerush juncus and spartina smooth cordgrass. They then grew more swamp grasses in the school’s 14,000 square foot greenhouse.
âIt’s very exciting,â said Kevin Simmons, a grade 12 student at Alma Bryant High School. âI really like the development. I like the way he grew up. I love the way our community has come together to be able to build this. I know hurricanes of the past have torn this place apart. I’m just glad we were able to come here and rebuild it.
While the students cultivated the plants in the school greenhouse, TNCA and its partners took care of restoring Lightning Point. From November 2019 to summer 2020, crews installed two jetties at the mouth of the channel and 1.5 miles of overlapping segmented breakwaters along both sides of the shipping channel, creating nearly 40 acres of coastal wetlands. The work was completed just as the unusually active hurricane season of 2020 began, where four storms hit the region in four months: Tropical Storm Cristobal, Hurricane Marco, Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Zeta. . Brown said everything held up well.
âHe did everything he was supposed to do,â Brown said. âWe were really worried about what we were going to see next, but the coating was protecting the site. Our engineers at Moffatt & Nichol took these considerations into account on extreme wave events and that’s why the breakwaters did the job of stopping wave erosion. We were very lucky.
On April 28, the students returned to Lightning Point to plant the swamp grasses they had grown in the school greenhouse, in addition to the 90,000 native grasses and shrubs that TNCA and its contractors had already planted since July. .
âIt’s really exciting,â said Jayda Gregson, a sophomore student at Alma Bryant High School. âI’ve never done anything like this before growing a beach, basically. This is something new to me and I am very happy to experience it.
Miller-Way said she was delighted to see the students involved.
âIt’s hands-on and doing, rather than talking and seeing pictures of, and we don’t have enough opportunities to go out, especially over the past year or so,â Miller-Way said. “This is our mission: to bring children in the field to see, do and learn in an experiential way, and what could be better than having them work here by putting plants in the ground.”
Baker said she appreciated everyone’s help in involving the students.
âThank you to Alabama Power and everyone who came together to make this possible,â Baker said. âMany of our students have never even taken to the water even though they live in this community. They can’t afford to take a field trip or do so much, so we really appreciate the support from Alabama Power to make that happen.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)