Fenwick Island Environmental Committee has high hopes for the greening of town

The Fenwick Island Environmental Committee recently got itself organized — complete with proposed goals and objectives and a mission statement, but they got their start years ago according to Buzz Henifin, co-chairman of the group.

“Town council always had one member as an ‘environmental’ person,” explained Henifin.

Henifin said that Martha Keller, former councilwoman, started a lot of the discussion and ideas for things that are now coming to fruition. For example, the “tree triage” that was celebrated this weekend with special speaker Dorothy Abbott of the Extension for Renewable Resources at the University of Delaware Extension Service has been something that has been talked about since 2006.

Henifin said that, in the beginning of formalizing the committee, Mayor Audrey Serio stressed that she wanted people who were not on council to be chairs, so he was selected to co-chair the group with part-time resident John Fenton.

The mission of the committee is to “provide environmental leadership and action in the community in order to promote, protect, and improve the ecological integrity of the Fenwick Island community and the Little Assawoman Bay Watershed Area.” Their main goals and objectives include education; leadership by example (as can be seen with town hall projects), the preservation, protection and restoration of the bays and canals, dunes, beach and ocean, improvement of building codes to include green-living designs, and reduction of visual clutter, noise, light and other pollutants.

Some of the interesting and exciting things they have planned for the immediate future will start with the area around town hall.

In addition to getting educational materials out to residents and homeowners, and encouraging attendance at environmental workshops and activities, they plan to lead by example. They are going to install a rain barrel and a rain garden at town hall, and have been instrumental putting forth the idea of curbside recycling to homeowners.

“We didn’t start it, but we’ve put forth the effort to get it started. We thought if we are going to be leaders it should start with town hall,” said Henfin.

Their goal with the recycling is to get 50 percent of homeowners signed up, with a long-term goal of 100 percent participation. They will be having a speaker from the Delaware Solid Waste Authority at next month’s committee meeting to answer any questions about the new single-stream curbside recycling program. They also want to get a water filtration system in town hall to eliminate the need for bottled water — and all of the plastic bottles that go with it.

Committee members are very involved with the Center for Inland Bays, and many residents are part of the Oyster Program, in which, they participate in oyster farming to restore to the bays and canals the natural wetland filtration system that oysters provide.

For Henifin, whose background is oceanography, the whole premise of cleaning up the watershed comes from his 30 years in the U.S. Navy.

“I’d like to repay Uncle Sam for the career and life that he gave me by working with the water. It all fits together,” he explained.

Ever involved with environmental issues, Henifin also noted that the Center for Inland Bays’ 4th annual Native Plant Sale will be held Saturday, May 3, at James Farm, and that the annual beach clean-up will be May 17 on Dagsboro Street in Fenwick Island.

Vicki Carmean, councilwoman and member of the committee, has always quietly been involved with the environment. She said you can’t live in Fenwick Island and not be aware of your surroundings.

“You really can’t avoid the word ‘green’ and what it means anymore,” she said. “There’s so much we can do.” She also mentioned that the oyster-farming project is close to her heart, as her granddaughter started farming a rack of oysters for a community service.

“There so much that we can do and share with residents. And it starts with education. It’s a lot of fun. And there’s lots to do!” said Carmean.

The committee meets the second Wednesday of every month at 2 p.m. and the meeting is open to the public. With the summer months coming up, they look forward to sharing their message with even more people in the hopes of reducing the town’s environmental footprint.