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Kayak Conservation Promotes Clean Water in NYC

Photo Credit: HarborLAB on the waterfront

The Open Space Institute protects land for clean water, climate protection, places to play, and healthy communities. Among our hallmarks in achieving these goals is forging strong partnerships and fostering grassroots organizations. Since 1974, OSI’s Citizen Action program has been sponsoring environmentally-focused community organizations, helping them grow and succeed.

Based in Long Island City, one of OSI’s current Citizen Action groups is HarborLAB—a group with an emphasis on “learning adventure boating.” The group promotes environmental stewardship by providing free, water-based programming for children, underprivileged youth, and underrepresented community members.

HarborLAB’s main offering is canoeing and kayaking excursions that provide participants with a first-hand experience on the water. While exploring New York City’s waterways, HarborLAB’s programs teach groups about ecosystems, water sources, and how to conduct water testing and collect scientific data that can be shared on the web with other participants.

Middle-schoolers take part in HarborLAB’s annual Winter Solstice Seed Gathering. The group focused their efforts on goldenrod and pitch pine near the East River waterfront.
Middle-schoolers take part in HarborLAB’s annual Winter Solstice Seed Gathering. The group focused their efforts on goldenrod and pitch pine near the East River waterfront.

With an emphasis on environmental science, the program documents the state of New York City’s watershed and underscores to participants how different waterways fit into the larger Hudson estuary ecosystem.

While learning about the ecosystems in the Hudson River, participants have fun and engage with their environment in a meaningful way.

“HarborLAB is promoting environmental conservation on a local level in a way that complements the work OSI does to protect land for clean water,” said Jessica Watson, the director of OSI’s Citizen Action Program. “Known for their partnerships with other organizations, HarborLab coordinates events that tie water conservation to other activities that have to do with recreation, culture, or wellness.”

An OSI Citizen Action group since 2016, HarborLAB is helping young people make the connection between protecting our waterways for clean water and having places to play, explore, and enjoy.

“Working with OSI was exactly what HarborLAB volunteers needed to further advance our organizational goals. OSI helps us devote donated time to our mission instead of being consumed with the daily tasks of nonprofit management,” said Erik Baard, HarborLAB's Executive Director and Founder.

HarborLAB is one of the many groups which OSI mentors. Groups that are accepted into its Citizen Action program work to protect the environment in a way that dovetails with OSI’s mission. Participants range from community gardens and local land trusts, to environmental educators and promoters of nature-based arts and activities.

Since the program’s beginning, OSI has mentored, trained and launched nearly 150 environmental grassroots start-ups in New York City and beyond. With support and guidance many of the groups flourish and many have gone on to become independent non-profits.

Learn more about OSI’s Citizen Action Program and other supported groups, including HarborLAB, click here.

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