Editor’s Note: Plastic has no place in coastal waters. Constantly on the lookout for newsworthy events and organizations engaged in waterways cleanup activities, I discovered Keep Aransas County Beautiful (KABC) and was very impressed with their mission. KABC was recently honored as Affiliate of the Month by Keep Texas Beautiful for the wonderful work they are doing in so many areas, post-Hurricane Harvey.
We at Keep Aransas County Beautiful are humbled and honored to be chosen Affiliate of the Month for May 2019. We know there are many great groups in Texas that have been around a long time that are certainly also very deserving.
As many may or may not know, Aransas County is now known as ground zero for Hurricane Harvey. When a community finds itself needing to evacuate because it’s about to get hit, one certainly expects to come home and see power lines down and homes and businesses destroyed. But, to see all the trees and plants stripped of all their leaves, hummingbirds desperately looking for nectar, metal debris piled up in the bays and wetlands, our coastal birds missing for days, was a whole other shock in itself. The entire county was left feeling emotionally numb for weeks. For local residents, it took months before we could even think outside of our own lives as we juggled home insurance, contractors, some looking for work, and others for places to live. Many were displaced and even now, 500 students have not returned to our school district.
Last April, after waiting for the government for seven months to clean up the mountains of hurricane trash, local skimmer boat captain Tommy Moore took matters into his own hands. With one Facebook post, he invited everyone to come out to Little Bay that weekend to pick up metal debris, a recliner, cassette tapes, portacans, power poles and more. The turnout was fantastic. Everyone was excited and felt empowered. A strong dose of "We’re taking control now!” and “Take that Harvey!" was what we all needed.
We've found that with destruction comes lots of silver linings and new beginnings. For our county, there is renewed openness in looking for meaningful partnerships to get the job done. Aransas County is still in need of "feel good” stories that our citizens can hear, see, and be a part of, to inspire us to keep up the long work of recovery.
As KACB started navigating our way post-Harvey, we found that in order to be impactful and get Aransas County back to where it needed to be, we would have to work to build trust with local and state governing authorities with good planning and follow through. We needed to take the time to gain advice from industry experts and, most importantly, develop meaningful partnerships with local conservation agencies such as Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (MANERR) and Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP), our Mid-Coast Texas Master Naturalists, Texas Game Wardens, Wings Rescue Center and more. We learned to not be afraid to ask for help because many area companies wanted to be a part of the narrative of impactful recovery and were unsure how to get involved. Our local lumber company, Builders First Source, has been super busy since the storm – they jumped at the chance to donate all the lumber and materials that CBBEP needed to rebuild 50 blue heron rookery nesting platforms lost in the storm as we partnered with CBBEP to restore Aransas bays. Dawson Recycling came onboard to help remove and recycle debris from Cove Harbor rather than allow it to go to landfill. Local airboat fishing guides partnered with TPWD game wardens to pull the debris from the same area and the restaurant that overlooks the wetlands fed everyone lunch.
KACB's 2018 by the numbers
- 18 tons of debris removed from waterways
- 8 tons of debris removed from roadways
- 5 tons of metal recycled from Cove Harbor instead of being sent to landfill
- 2,502 man-hours by volunteers
- KTB values KACB's manhour services at $61,774.38 to the county
2019 Moving Forward in Recovery
We've now moved from strictly cleanup to fun re-greening and beautification projects. KACB restored the area’s damaged entrance monuments, installing native plantings that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. And, we are on the lookout for unique ideas. For example, at our local post office, we are teaming up with local Master Gardeners and 4-H to install an all-native discovery garden teaching the benefits of native plantings and also installing a cigarette butt disposal container to educate on the harmful impact of throwing away cigarettes improperly.
Greening and Beatification
With the help from our 2019 Governor’s Community Achievement Grant with KTB and TxDOT, we are eager to restore our roadways and install litter prevention signage. This summer we are ramping up efforts to getting our famous Big Blue Crab landmark rebuilt. We'll always do two cleanups each fall and spring – one on land with KTB and one in our coastal waterways with Texas Adopt a Beach Program.
We've initiated a Summer Youth Program allowing students who participate in conservation activities to qualify for a pizza party to celebrate. We will continue to work with the National Park Service in not only educating about debris impact on our federally protected sea turtles and coastal birds, and also getting involved in their rescue. We intend to try and keep up these meaningful partnerships, getting advice as we move forward in planning. We want to make this a win for each other but even more a win for our beloved waters, birds, lands, and the like.
Again, on behalf of Keep Aransas County Beautiful and all of Aransas County, we wish to thank Keep Texas Beautiful for this honor. We hope we continue to do you proud.Lastly, we are now forming Eco-Tourism opportunities! We'd like to invite you to come to Aransas County for a fun weekend that includes a KACB project on a Saturday morning! If you are interested, please email us or like us on Facebook [email protected]. To make a donation to our efforts or the historic Blue Crab statue so long a part of Rockport’s landscape, please visit www.kacbtx.org