RED BANK – Before their high school graduation later this month, a pair of Fair Haven teens hope to leave a lasting mark on the river they grew up on.
As Rumson-Fair Haven Regional juniors last year, Tyler Lubin and Noah Tucker took it upon themselves to tackle the evolving issue of pollution in the Navesink River, stemming from the growing amounts of fecal matter finding its way into the water.
“We paired up together and said this was terrible,” Lubin said of the river’s situation. “Summers are spent here out on this river.”
Between the two young men, the “Save the Navesink River” plan was hatched, aimed at gathering funding for tube-shaped booms that would surround storm drains in towns along the river. The barriers, essentially a filter sock, would help filter runoff from roadways and households before reaching its final destination in the Navesink. (See story: High School Students Work To Clean Up Navesink Bacteria.)
“We both like to go fishing, I have a boat and we go out all the time on the river,” Tucker said. “So it was relevant to us.”
Since opening a GoFundMe page in late April 2016, the duo has raised nearly $7,100 in their personal efforts to make the Navesink River a cleaner and healthier place.
Despite being on a solid pace and meeting with local elected officials in the Two River area, the boys made a hard decision to pull back on their initial plan.
“It was a high maintenance project, something that our initial funds would definitely get in the streets, but it would be a lot of upkeep,” Lubin said. “I don’t think it was something the towns were looking to do.”
It was a bump in the road to their ultimate goal, but Tucker and Lubin looked around the marine conservation landscape along the Jersey Shore and found a project they could sign on with – Operation Oyster, led by the American Littoral Society.
Oysters are known to filter and clean about 50 gallons of water a day, and if brought back to the Navesink River, could drastically change the rivers’ health.
“When they heard about the water quality issues in the rivers, they didn’t just sit back,” American Littoral Society executive director Tim Dillingham said about Lubin and Tucker. “They took it on themselves to go out and find a way to help solve that problem.”
Dillingham said, like all good scientists, their first attempt didn’t quite work out, but they kept at it and stayed focused on the same goal.
The boys donated that nearly $7,100 to the American Littoral Society and changed their mission to focus on finding oyster larvae that they believe is still in the Navesink River. The end game of this research would be restoring oyster reefs in the river.
On June 2, Operation Oyster was announced from the docks of the fittingly named Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank. Standing beside lifelong marine conservationists on the docks, Lubin and Tucker then joined the staff on boats to hang the first round of oyster shell bags from nearly 50 private docks along the Navesink.
Dillingham said Lubin and Tucker are just the right people the Navesink River needs to eventually return to a healthy state – just the way the two always knew it.
“If we give people the opportunity to voice their concerns about the places they live and the environments fundamental to the places they live,” Dillingham said, “they’ll do the right thing.”
This article was first published in the June 8-June 15, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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