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Citizens help to protect local outdoor spaces
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Throughout 2020, COVID-19 has changed the way citizens interact with the world around them.
Those who recently began spending more time outdoors may find themselves inspired to help protect, maintain and maybe even monitor outdoor scenic and recreational areas.
The Pearl Riverkeeper group, a local, nonprofit organization in the Jackson area dedicated to improving the Pearl River watershed through restoration, advocacy and education, is an example of citizens partnering to take action and have measurable impact on the environment.
Pearl Riverkeeper is partnering with faculty at Mississippi State University and the Alabama Water Watch Program to develop and launch the Mississippi Water Stewards program. This pilot citizen monitoring group will train citizens to monitor local water bodies and collect data to provide communities with information about the health of local waterways. The data can also serve as an early indicator of water quality issues that may necessitate more testing.
The benefits of spending time in nature are supported by research, published in the British “Journal of Health Psychology,” which noted activities that improve the emotional well-being of citizens during COVID-19 in Ireland. The research highlighted the positive benefits of time spent outdoors, going for a walk, exercising, gardening and other activities. Increases in certain outdoor activities, along with the well-documented health benefits of spending time in nature, highlight how important access to and protection of nature and urban green spaces are to all citizens.
One of Pearl Riverkeeper’s most visible events is an annual watershed cleanup event that promotes protecting the environment and keeps waterways safe and clean for recreation. On Sept. 19 and 26, Riverkeepers will host their annual Pearl River Clean Sweep event. The volunteer cleanup event will take place in 15 counties, two parishes, two states and span over 490 miles of beautiful river.
This event is free and open to all ages. To ensure safety, volunteers will be practicing social distancing and wearing masks when appropriate. To register, go to http://pearlriverkeeper.com and click, “Pearl River Keeper Clean Sweep 2020.”
Certain members of the Pearl RiverKeeper group have also been trained to monitor water quality in areas of the watershed. Director Abby Braman said volunteers are citizen scientists who collect valuable data to provide early detection of water quality problems and ensure that the Pearl River is a clean, safe recreation destination for this generation and the next.
Clean-up events and monitoring are great ways to get outdoors, support your own health and get involved in the protection of the local outdoor spaces and water bodies. Clean and safe local environments, and especially water resources, are fundamental to public health and community sustainability. Involvement can create new hobbies, while leaving a legacy for future generations.
For more information about water conservation, contact Beth Baker with the Research and Education to Advance Conservation and Habitat (REACH) program at MSU at 662-325-7491 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the Pearl Riverkeepers and the Clean Sweep event, please contact Abby Braman at email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.