Nature lovers gather at the Rain Barrel Workshop

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SAVE, SAVE: Graceann Taylor, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Save Barnegat Bay, explains the hows and whys of rain barrels. More than 50 participants showed up. (Photos by Ryan Morrill)

Save Barnegat Bay held its largest rain barrel workshop on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend in Stafford Township, with over 50 attendees signing up to make and take home their own rain barrels at from 55 gallon drums to help the environment and improve gardens.

Rain barrels have long tubes connected to gutters to collect rainwater from roofs, which helps the environment by mitigating flooding and keeping runoff out of water systems. They also provide residents with a constant supply of fresh, soft water, free of chlorine, lime and calcium, which can be used to water gardens and indoor plants and wash windows and cars. A standard rain barrel has a screened top to prevent insects from breeding, along with vinyl hose, PVC fittings, and other parts that can be found at any hardware store.

Lisa and Jeff Lopez, who hosted a date night event, were eager to set up their rain barrel in their flower, vegetable and herb gardens. Some participants said they already compost waste in their backyards as another way to preserve their environment.

Among the attendees was township administrator Matt von der Hayden, who heads the water and sewer department. Von der Hayden said he was delighted to see the turnout for the rain barrel workshop after working with Save Barnegat Bay as well as other entities.

“Part of the workshop is providing education about stormwater, and the rain barrel project itself is something individually done to help tie the education together,” he said.

The city has also partnered with the Jacques Cousteau Estuarine National Research Reserve and Rutgers University Marine Research Station to draft a watershed management plan. This ongoing work was discussed at the workshop to help educate the public about the Southern Watershed Management Plan.

“Save Barnegat Bay’s goal is to reach out to all 37 towns in the watershed to work with them to improve their stormwater,” according to Graceanne Taylor, the organization’s education and outreach coordinator.

Taylor clarified that Save Barnegat Bay’s goal is not to step in and change what cities are doing, but to support and improve the work they are already doing, whether that be finding solutions to problems or by networking with other professionals throughout the state. These workshops and other events are resources for residents to see how they can help protect the environment, as well as opportunities for the organization to build relationships with neighboring towns. She attributed Stafford’s strong turnout to environmental awareness at the municipal level.

Local marinas donated the barrels; Rutgers and JCNERR paid for material supplies; SBB, public works staff and volunteers contributed to the event. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection helped with the funding, as well as drilling holes in the barrels.

—Evelyn Morrill

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