In early May under clear skies and warm temperatures, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers participated in Environmental Day, an annual event for students held in Elizabeth, New Jersey as part of Arbor Day and Earth Month.
Conducted near the Blue Way walking trail along the shore of the Arthur Kill Channel, the day-long outdoor event was co-hosted by Future City Inc. and the City of Elizabeth with the support of Senator Robert Menendez, Congressman Albio Sires and the Elizabeth River/Arthur Kill Watershed Association.
The program consisted of a series of education through various display booths staffed by volunteers from the Army Corps, partner agencies and environmental organizations.
About 275 local students from area schools participated in a diverse experience and learned about ecosystem restoration, harbor enhancements, debris removal, condition of the estuary and protecting the environment.
The Army Corps’ booth was populated with visual display boards and literature that showcased regional initiatives, improvements to the environment, port mission, roles in the Harbor and the beneficial use of dredged material.
Ms. Lisa Baron, a project manager with the Army Corps’s New York District Civil Works Branch explained various ongoing efforts throughout the region including a nearby ongoing shipping lane deepening project in the Arthur Kill Channel.
Baron answered questions and elaborated about her duties and responsibilities as a project manager and as a marine biologist.
Locally, through the Corps’ ecosystem restoration, such as wetlands rebuilding projects and watershed studies, the Army Corps is committed to improving the overall health of the Harbor with a goal of creating a world class estuary.
Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage along with city council members addressed a large assembly of students, instructors and residents at the welcoming ceremony including remarks made by Mr. Joseph Seebode, the Army Corp' New York Deputy District Engineer who also represented all agency partners.
Seebode spoke about being good stewards of the environment and the importance of science, technology and engineering.
“As the nation’s environmental engineers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works in close collaboration and partnership with others to bring about improvements to our economy, public safety and environment,” said Seebode as he pointed to the nearby Arthur Kill Channel, a waterway which flows between Elizabeth New Jersey and the borough of Staten Island, New York City. "The Corps is a leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and the Corps recognizes how Environmental Day serves and increases interest and excitement in STEM-related careers."
Students waved at an Army Corps debris collection vessel as it traveled in the background along the Arthur Kill Channel.
“It’s very exciting to have so many students come out and join the day's activities," remarked one of the school instructors. "It's a great example of emphasizing science, technology, engineering and mathematics and serving as mentors," she added.
“Environmental educational workshops like Environmental Day and Estuary Day are tangible manifestations of a year round commitment to environmental education and stewardship within our watershed school consortia,” said Michelle Doran McBean of Future City Inc.