Gulf Guardian Award Winners 2006
Youth/Education Category - 1st Place
Mississippi suffered massive damage from Hurricane Katrina with 90% of the structures within a half-mile of the coastline damaged or destroyed. While land debris removal activities have neared completion, removal of debris from wetlands had barely begun and many bayous remained clogged with treated lumber, toxic chemicals and plastics. Realizing the environmental damage resulting from long-term residency of toxic debris in fragile ecosystems, project “Clearing the Way” was organized. A coalition of youth volunteers from all over the US, “Clearing the Way” began a program to move debris from marshes with work done by hand to minimize further damage to critical wetlands. Thirty-Eight Youth groups representing over 1,000 volunteers from all over the US contributed 28,328 man-hours to this effort. The volunteers formed “human chains” to pick up the material and pass it from the marshland to the shore. Restoring blighted areas and seeing natural renewal of wetlands provides comfort and hope to many residents that these ecosystems will recover and continue to be productive.