I’m going to resist the strong urge to list all the things we did at the Sassafras River Association in 2015, because I’ve written about them throughout the year, and I don’t want to simply repeat myself at year’s end. Instead, I hope you will bear with me as I focus my mind and this column on the why of what we do.
Some of us remember growing up around the river, or splashing around on hot summer days during vacations that were always too short. Those of us who didn’t grow up or vacation here have simply fallen in love with the Sassafras, and just want to help in her restoration.
Twelve years ago, SRA began when a small group of individuals banded together and decided to do something about the annual algae blooms. It seemed to them that the blooms must be an indication that something was wrong with the river, and they were certainly right. Too much sediment clouded the water, and too many nutrients produced the overabundance of algae.
Some of our founders could remember the clear, clean, river of their childhood, with a deep channel that could accommodate large boats of trade. Now the water was cloudy, most of the underwater vegetation had vanished, and there were no more opportunities to wade through the grass scooping up soft crabs and doublers with a long handled net. And so they founded the Sassafras River Association.
Thankfully, our membership has grown since then. In the past twelve years, our founders and those of us who followed have been working steadily to bring a healthier condition to the waters, streams, and shorelines of the Sassafras.
But why do we care so much about restoring and protecting this river? I think the simple answer is that this small, wounded river cannot do it alone. If the causes of the degradation were to go away, the river would, over time, cleanse and restore itself to the time of the Tochwoghs. Nature has its own way of doing that.
But we all know that is not going to happen, and since we are the primary problem with our septic systems, lawns and gardens, farms, residential areas, waste water treatment systems, and other negative impacts to the fragile ecosystem that is our watershed, we all must become involved in the restoration of the Sassafras. Our members and volunteers understand that, and thankfully help us do our work.
We may not be able to restore the Sassafras to the best condition it ever was, but those of us who work for the benefit of the river understand what Teddy Roosevelt meant when he said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” I hope you will do what you can as we continue to do the same.
We at SRA believe that for many generations to come, not only our children and their children, but also the scores of fragile critters who live in and around the water, will benefit from our efforts to restore this beautiful river.
And that sincere belief is the why of all that we do at the Sassafras River Association. To our members, please accept my heartfelt gratitude for all the things you do to help us. If you are not already a member, I hope you will consider joining us in our efforts.
Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2016.
I’ll see you on the river,
Capt. Emmett Duke
Sassafras RIVERKEEPER ™