Our chapter had another successful year! Volunteers worked very hard throughout 2019, engaging businesses and residents in ways to protect our ocean and community. Did you know our Ocean City chapter has been in existence for 20 years? With 2019 behind us, we look forward to a busy and productive 2020. Here are some highlights of the past year.

The Surfrider Foundation’s focus for 2019 was: stop offshore drilling, defend water laws and funding, reduce plastic pollution, and promote coastal resilience. Our local focus again for 2019, as well as the prior year, has been aligned with Surfrider’s Rise Above Plastics campaign. We continued with our successful Strawless Summer campaign created in 2018, and encouraged businesses, as well as restaurants to take further steps to reduce single-use plastics. If you haven’t signed the pledge, here it is: https://form.jotform.com/80544479384164.

Burley Cafe in Berlin participated as one of the area’s Strawless Summer restaurants, only providing straws upon request.

We joined Ocean City’s Green Team as the catalyst for its source reduction campaign – Protect Our Sand and Sea.

One of Surfrider’s successful programs is the Ocean Friendly Restaurant program. We have 2 in town, Mother’s Cantina and Pickles Pub, and one at BWI, Acqua Restaurant at Hilton Baltimore. These restaurants go above and beyond in their practices to protect the ocean. Visit this site for info about the program, and how to sign up.

Mother’s Cantina was in the spotlight earlier this year in this Surfrider blog post. We’re pleased the restaurant received national recognition.

OC’s first ocean friendly restaurant, Mother’s Cantina owner, Ryan James

Ocean friendly restaurant Pickles Pub was featured in a Dispatch article as well.

Throughout the year, we hold monthly chapter meetings. All volunteers and those interested in volunteering are encouraged to join us. We discuss our campaigns, events – all pertaining to ways to protect the coast. Food is usually involved as well! We welcome everyone to attend a meeting.

December chapter meeting at Mother’s Cantina.

Our chapter conducts cleanups all year long! Sometimes we hold them ourselves with chapter volunteers; at times we join other groups or conduct one for special events, such as Earth Day – there’s strength in numbers! Just like our chapter meetings and other events, we announce them on our Facebook page as well as send out notice through our Mailchimp emails. We analyze the trash collected and submit the information to Surfrider. In 2019 we held 12 cleanups, collecting 367 pounds of trash off the beach in OC! Click here to learn about our cleanups and what Surfrider has gleaned from data collection.

We are a proud sponsor of local Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) contests held throughout the summer and fall. It’s fun to watch the surfers compete and engage participants in good environmental practices. We recycle, encourage participants to clean up the beach, and provide water to contestants who bring reusable water bottles.

Another campaign that all chapters work on is the fight against seismic testing and offshore drilling. Our local governments support the opposition to seismic testing and offshore drilling, as do most coastal communities and governments. Offshore drilling is a threat to our oceans and its inhabitants. If offshore drilling occurs off our coast it could lead to disaster-affecting the environment, tourism and recreation. Seismic testing, as well as offshore drilling, are devastating to marine life. The House passed Resolution 1941, the Coastal and Marine Economies Act, blocking offshore drilling along US shores, taking development of all of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts off the table. We wait for the Senate.

Here are a few highlights of our year!

We started off the year with a trip to Annapolis in order to support the Styrofoam ban bill – which passed! Maryland was the first state to ban foam food containers by passing HB109! Our chapter provided written testimony, wrote an action alert to be signed, and our volunteers attended the Environmental Legislative Summit in Annapolis in support of the bill. Ryan James, owner of Mother’s Cantina, one of our OFR restaurants, also attended to support the bill.

Vice Chair, Malcolm Taylor, provides testimony in support of the Maryland-wide styrofoam ban, which goes into effect this coming year.

Coastal Recreation Hill Day was the beginning of March, where volunteers from our chapter joined other volunteers from 27 Surfrider chapters to meet with federal officials, where they discussed initiatives to protect our ocean, waves and beaches. Participants visited 125 Senate and House offices and expressed our opposition to offshore drilling as well as advocate for funding clean water programs and reducing plastic pollution. We’re heading there again next month for 2020 Hill Day! One of our student clubs plans on sending student representatives as well.

OC chapter volunteers Malcolm, Cindy, and Liz, along with D.C. Surfrider volunteers, and Surfrider employee Matt Gove attend Coastal Recreation Hill Day in D.C.

We held a movie night at Burley Cafe in March. We showed Sonic Sea, a movie about how sound affects marine animals and the harm that occurs. There were refreshments and it was lots of fun for attendees.

Movie night at Burley Cafe in Berlin, showing documentary Sonic Sea.

We manned a table during the Hotel Motel Restaurant Association Expo in March. We spoke to attendees about our ocean friendly restaurant program, reducing plastics by going strawless (and more), and offshore drilling.

Chapter secretary, Marina Feeser, tabling at the OC Hotel Motel Restaurant Association expo, talking to restaurant owners and staff about ways to reduce their plastic use.

In May, we held two events on the same day! Early in the morning we cleaned up, replanted and rededicated our Ocean Friendly Garden at Northside Park. We installed a sign rededicating the garden to our past Chair Craig Sibal, who passed away last year. The garden was his favorite project. We used native and pollinator-friendly plants to add beauty and help the environment. We also held Surfrider’s annual Hands Across the Sand event later that day, hosting along with the Delaware Surfrider chapter. Hands Across the Sand is a symbolic event where participants join hands at the ocean’s edge in solidarity to protest offshore drilling and seismic testing. We have to defend our coast, and keeping it clean and healthy is a priority. An enormous crowd attended, with several speakers, including officials from Delaware and Maryland. Our Pocomoke Middle Surfrider Student Club made some creative signs for attendees to hold.

We’re not all work and no play! We held an Ocean-Friendly Happy Hour in June at Pickles Pub, one of our OFR restaurants. It was a great time to meet some volunteers who support us, and have fun. Pickles Pub had just recently renewed its Ocean Friendly registration so we celebrated that as well!

Surfrider isn’t just for adults! We have students involved who are members of Surfrider Student Clubs – both at Stephen Decatur High School and Pocomoke Middle School. Under the guidance of their advisors students plan and implement ways to help the environment in their school and community. They participate in cleanups and projects throughout the year.

We’re also lucky to have the support of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, especially OCBP Crew #4. They are involved in cleanups, and represented us during the Beach Patrol Crew Competition in July.

OCBP Crew #4, repping Surfrider Foundation during their crew comps in July.

We drew attention to the problem of single-use plastic during Plastic-Free July, focusing on ways to reduce plastic in our lives. We encouraged restaurants and individuals to refuse single-use plastic and we shared ways to reduce plastic ending up as litter. Surfrider also released its United States and Oceans of America Summer 2019 video.

We were honored to receive an award for our Strawless Summer program during Surfrider’s National Summit in Irvine, California in August. Two members of our executive committee attended the summit.

We had a table and met folks at the annual Float for the Coast event led by Assateague Coastal Trust in August. This is a kayaking event to promote clean water, clean air, and healthy communities.

This fall, we created an action alert for Worcester Couny residents to sign to convince Worcester County Commissioners to pass a balloon release ban. The town of Ocean City already has a law on the books banning them. We know well over 100 residents have signed it and commissioners have received their requests for a ban. Besides residents of Worcester County, The Coastal Association of Realtors strongly supported our action alert with a letter of their own to commissioners. Our alert is still active and we’re hoping the county will step up to the plate, passing a ban in the near future. Wicomico County, as well as Queen Anne’s County have passed a ban on balloon releases. There is also a bill sponsored by Sen. Clarence Lam in the Maryland Senate similar to Queen Anne’s, so progress is being made on the state level. We submitted a letter to a local paper explaining the dangers of balloons, and encouraging people to sign the alert. Please sign if you haven’t already!

We participated in the second Bay Day in Ocean Pines, hosted by Coastal Bays. We enjoy this event because so many attendees are interested in environmental programs and we’re happy to engage with them. Lots of kids visited our table to join in our art project made out of recycled bottle caps!

We were honored to receive a Gold Star Award in September from Maryland Coastal Bays for our Strawless Summer program.

Volunteer Coordinator, Leah Fuller accepting the MCBP Gold Star Award for our chapter’s Strawless Summer program.

In November our volunteers spoke to the Democratic Women’s Club of Worcester County about our work and campaigns, and our local efforts. We also discussed ways for members to help care for our beautiful coastal area. We hope to see some new volunteers from the club!

Throughout the year, we’re extremely grateful to supporters and volunteers who contribute their time to come to our events, meetings and cleanups. Some individuals and businesses support us by donating proceeds from event they hold or by monetary donations. We couldn’t continue without that support. Our local chapter consists of all volunteers, including the executive committee who organizes and manages our activities. It’s a tremendous amount of work which we do because we love our community and want to protect it. Thank you to everyone who has believed in our chapter’s work and programs! Here’s to a successful 2020!

Thank you and happy new year from the Surfrider OC Exec Committee members – Leah, Marina, Jane, Malcolm, and Cindy