Getting People On the Bandwagon

Getting People On the Bandwagon

Joe Eaton

Oct Cover - Thumbnail

Download: Estuary News, October 2013 PDF

From the outset, few functions have been as important for the San Francisco Estuary Partnership as public education. Its outreach function laid the groundwork for the CCMP, with what would now be called focus groups—targeted workshops for businesses, environmentalists, and other stakeholders. Since then, the Partnership has hosted biennial and annual science conferences with an Estuary focus, published an award-winning magazine, and spearheaded campaigns to reduce pollution by recreational boaters, fight aquatic invasions, and keep urban watersheds clean.

Photo: Jacob Katz

“The State of the Estuary Conference is one of our great legacies,” says former project director Marcia Brockbank. She and consultant Joan Patton organized the first, held at the Berkeley Marriott in 1991, which featured speakers on all the CCMP program areas and a dinner cruise. “We knew lots of people involved with restoring and protecting the Estuary. We tried to focus on the science — who was doing what, what the outcome was — and translate it into something understandable to the public. There were 200 people at that first conference, then 400, then many more,” she recalls.

The event kept outgrowing its venues. Conferences were hosted by the Presidio, the Palace of Fine Arts, the California Academy of Sciences, finally settling in at the Oakland Marriott. The Partnership later was contracted by the state to manage what began as the Bay-Delta Science Conference, in annual alternation with the State of the Estuary Conference. “The conference is something no one else does,” says Barbara Salzman of Marin Audubon. “It brings a lot of people together and conveys up-to-date information to the broad public: agencies, scientists, citizens.”

Estuary News was another early initiative in public engagement. “We had an in-house newsletter and wanted to make it something bigger,” says Brockbank. There was also a lecture series, co-sponsored with Save the Bay and the Sierra Club; workshops geared to specific community groups; a school program, funded by compensation for the 1988 Shell oil spill. Working with the Lindsay Museum, Patton launched the Paint the Drain campaign, in which scout troops and other volunteers stenciled “No Dumping! Drains to Bay” on city stormdrains. Local governments later made that part of their public works agenda. The Brake Pad Partnership was another success.

Two major programs involved targeted outreach. The Boater Education Project teamed with the California Department of Boating and Waterways to reduce pollution from small recreational craft. Partnership staffers gave talks to boaters, networked with marina operators, and developed leaflets and fact sheets. The program eventually expanded to Southern California. The Ballast Water Project, aimed at operators of commercial vessels, produced brochures posters warning of the risks of dumping untreated ballast water containing invasive aquatic organisms into the Bay. An updated “Threats to the West” brochure has been distributed throughout 19 western states.

Many other CCMP partners carried out their own successful public education campaigns: the Bay fish consumption warnings championed by Save the Bay and state health agencies; the coverage of ongoing water supply issues by the Water Education Foundation; the opportunities for hands-on restoration provided by STRAW, many friends-of-creeks groups and Save the Bay; the multi-partner effort to produce the movie “Saving the Bay” directed by Ron Blautman, among others. These days the region has one of the most informed and motivated publics of any estuary on any coast. No one stumbles over how to pronounce “estuary” in this neck of the woods anymore.

Projects Implementing Public Involvement & Education Goals 1993-2013: 107