Promoting Community Leadership in Baltimore to Prevent Urban Debris
Community volunteers clean up a local shoreline. (Photo Credit: National Aquarium)
Community volunteers clean up a local shoreline. (Photo Credit: National Aquarium)

The National Aquarium and the NOAA Marine Debris Program teamed up to clean up debris in Masonville Cove near Baltimore, Maryland, and to create a network of neighborhood leaders to initiate and lead marine debris prevention efforts in their communities.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Project Dates: August 2015 - July 2017

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, the National Aquarium led community cleanup days around Masonville Cove and conducted leadership and communications trainings for Baltimore residents.

What is the project and why is it important?
Through this project, the National Aquarium aimed to achieve lasting behavioral change in Masonville Cove community members by instilling debris prevention as a visible community norm and empowering community members to lead this effort. The project focused on litter and marine debris prevention in and around Masonville Cove, an impoverished, highly urbanized restoration site located on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River in Baltimore, Maryland, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. Trash and debris are a huge problem in this area, affecting not only water quality but also quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods. This area of the Patapsco River is one of only three rivers in the country for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires a total maximum daily load for debris and trash under the Clean Water Act.

The National Aquarium worked with local communities to learn about resident behaviors, identify barriers to behavioral change, and develop messaging techniques to prevent litter and marine debris. The Aquarium then held workshops and communication training sessions with approximately 50 volunteers from the community. These sessions went over techniques and strategies for spreading marine debris prevention methods throughout volunteers’ networks.

As an additional component of the project’s community outreach, at least eight marine debris cleanups focused on both marine debris in Masonville Cove and litter in the surrounding neighborhoods were run. These cleanups served as an opportunity for community outreach and education with approximately 400 community volunteers expected to participate over the course of the project.