Mark A. Schexnayder, Morgan, Johnny W. | 4/19/2005 10:29:04 PM
Putting litterbags on boats to stop pollution is one of the best ideas to come along in years, according to officials with the LSU AgCenter, who say such measures also give every boater a chance to pitch in to help clean up our waters.
Louisiana has an abundance of water bodies, but LSU AgCenter fisheries agent Mark Schexnayder says the idea of providing Louisiana boaters with litterbags actually came to him while he was on vacation in Arkansas a few years ago.
"We were overnight camping, and when we rented canoes, we were given these reusable litterbags to bring back any recyclables and any trash that we would generate during the trip," Schexnayder explains.
Schexnayder said he had never seen anything like it in Louisiana, but he thought it would be a neat idea. The litterbag idea got stuffed away in his offices as he moved around for the next few years and had little time to start any new projects.
But he never completely forgot about bringing such bags to Louisiana to help clean up our lakes and streams. Then, when Brad LaBorde, an LSU AgCenter and LSU Sea Grant intern from the University of New Orleans, came to work with Schexnayder, he saw the opportunity to pursue the project.
"After Brad came on board, I asked him if he would be interested in taking on this project – and he agreed," Schexnayder explained about the recent developments.
Now, as the result of a little work, the litterbags are being made available through a variety of sources and at a variety of locations.
Schexnayder and LaBorde began the work by checking to see who might be interested in a program like this in the state.
"We knew that Wildlife and Fisheries had a program that dealt with clean marinas. We also went to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, and they put up some funds. So the project took off pretty fast," Schexnayder said, adding, "Others involved in the litterbag program include the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program and the USDA CSREES Southern Regional Water Quality Program."
Of course, starting such a project wasn’t without obstacles, Schexnayder says, explaining one of those was figuring out where to get the right bags.
"We weren’t sure where we could get the right size bags until I talked to one of our LSU AgCenter specialists, who was doing onion research, about where he got onion sacks," Schexnayder explained. "Almost instantly, we had 5,000 bags, so then the question was how to get the word out quickly."
The pair decided to locate all the canoe vendors, canoe rental operations and boat rental locations in the state – as well as to make contact with other agencies, such as the Atchafalaya Basin Foundation.
After sending sample bags, information and requests to consider participating in the program to facilities across the state, half of those already have agreed to participate in the program. More of the bags were sent out before Memorial Day to those vendors who agreed to participate to make sure that they were available at the beginning of the summer season.
Schexnayder and his colleagues also asked the participants if they would work with him on a follow-up survey, so he could judge the effectiveness of the bags.
Now that the bags are out in locations across the state, the LSU AgCenter agent said the survey will be sent this fall to see how well the program is working.
"We want to know if the bags are used, but we also want to know if they were too big, too small or if they want more description on it – those types of things," Schexnayder said.
Schexnayder said that the whole purpose of this campaign is to make sure the state’s rivers and streams are kept clean, so people who use them can actually see their beauty.