By Doreen Leggett
Logan Jones, 7 years old, and his brother Caleb, 5, were having the time of their lives raking up clams in a big sand box.
“I guess we’ll have to get a family shellfish permit,” their grandmother laughed as her grandsons kept Dennis Morris, from the Brewster Natural Resources and Shellfish Department, busy re-burying shells.
The Joneses were not the only ones looking for a family permit to dig shellfish. Eloise Brenner, 8, also visiting Drummer Boy Park the second weekend of July, was interested too.
The Brenner family comes from Connecticut for a week every summer and make it a point to come to Brewster Conservation Day because Eloise’s older sister Isabel, 13, is a big fan.
“I just like everyone here,” she said, as well as the premise: “making the world a better place for everyone.”
There were close to 50 groups at the event on a sunny Saturday, all talking about their mission and how it dovetails into protecting natural resources.
“We attended for the first time last year and were able to reach a lot of people about our campaign to protect ocean herring – and their river herring cousins – from industrial scale fishing off our coast,” said Amanda Cousart, policy analyst for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “When you meet with members of the public who share a lot of the same values, you discover new paths for collaboration. You reach a lot of people — young, old, residents, non-residents — with your message. As a fisheries organization, much of what we do espouses conservation principals, but many people don’t realize that.”
The Brewster Conservation Trust, which organized the day in partnership with the town and Brewster’s Historical Society, worked with the Fishermen’s Alliance on its herring effort.
Hal Minis, president of the trust, said the first conservation day eight years ago included a number of trail walks. But organizers noticed that attendees most appreciated educational booths that fill the park. Now the crowd numbers close to 1,000.
“We never envisioned it would be this big,” he said with a grin.
Many activities are geared to children and there is always an important message with the fun.
Ryan Burch, Brewster’s assistant natural resource officer and another founder of the free event, can attest to how messages resonate. His daughter, 6, will exclaim “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” thanks to a lively puppet show AmeriCorps puts on.
“Children are future conservationists,” agreed Minis.
They are current conservationists as well; Sadie Merchant and Leah Brown, with other fifth graders from Brewster’s Eddy Elementary School, were teaching attendees about the Cape’s soul source aquifer and water cycle.
Myriad children were walking around with “I got flushed” stickers from the Brewster Pond Coalition. Hannah, 10, and Gabby Litz, 7, were among those given cards representing everything from bacteria to grease to nitrogen, then sent through a winding blue cloth tube broken up by two enormous cardboard boxes. After dropping off most of the cards in the boxes, meant to represent a septic system, the pair was left with just nitrogen, because septic systems do not remove that pollutant which impacts our estuaries.
The two are granddaughters of Annette Graczewski, chair of the Brewster Board of Health, so know a bit about water quality. But many don’t.
Take the metal water bottles given away by the town’s water department, said Minis. Brewster’s public water has won top honors in the state two of the last five years.
“There is no need to buy bottled water when you can have Brewster water,” he said.
Jennifer Crowley, Isabel’s mother, said there is a lot they didn’t realize. After decorating shells, they learned about how shellfish and some finfish are raised on Cape (Devin, 11, was interested in the mid-Cape’s trout hatchery).
This year there was a new exhibit, “All about Oysters,” that featured talks and demonstrations that took people on an aquacultural journey from seed to table. Attendees heard from Rick Sawyer of A.R.C. Hatchery and Abigail Archer, from the Barnstable Cooperative Extension. Even better, they got to eat Brewster oysters.
“Oysters are important historically and they are getting more attention for a number of reasons now,” said Minis, “including the quality of the commercial product produced here.”
Grant Tyler, an intern with the Fishermen’s Alliance, knows about high quality fin and shellfish and the importance of supporting commercial fishermen in the Cape’s blue economy.
“There is a disconnect between people and their food, compared to even 50 years ago,” he said. “Making people aware there are local fishermen bringing in local fish is important, it puts a face on people bringing fish to the table.”
And it may inspire future commercial fishermen, he added.