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Marsh for progress: Surfside organizes wetland cleanup

One of the expected improvements of the hydrological restoration project at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is to return the natural flow of water across the site’s estuarine wetlands.

Posted on January 16, 2023

Get down and dirty this weekend, to help save the wetlands.

Conservation organizations along with the City of Surfside Beach have organized a cleanup day in the wetlands off of Crab Street amid rising concerns about the impact trash and other marine debris is having on birds’ health and habitats.

“The wetland area is pretty well-known amongst birders, which is how we came to know about it, because it’s a really populated habitat,” Gulf Coast Bird Observatory Education and Outreach Manager Celeste Silling said. “There are birds there all year round — so many different species, so many different birds — and unfortunately it’s also full of trash, specifically fishing line and fishing gear because it is a popular fishing area.”

The presence of many species of birds is an important element of Surfside pride, having been designated a Texas Bird City, which means they met the various requirements of conservation and education. Because of this, Bird City Surfside and the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory took great interest in helping to preserve a spot where many birds gather.

“We are seeing a decrease in habitats in our area. A lot of it being utilized for human development, so the wetlands that are remaining are really important just because there are fewer of them left,” Silling said. “But that spot in particular, for whatever reason, seems to be a magnet for the birds. We are seeing way more birds than I’ve seen in other wetlands in the area.”

Other partners in the cleanup are SPLASh Texas, the Cradle of Texas Conservancy and Bird City Surfside.

“This is a great collaboration of like-minded folks that want to get things done and just put things into action,” Bird City Chairwoman Sandy Shanks said.

The cleanup will take up most of Saturday morning as the volunteers work in the water and on land to clear out the wetlands. Anyone willing to help out can sign up at or; registration is not required, but it is encouraged.

“It starts at 9 and goes ’til 12, but we won’t kick you out if you want to stay a little longer. We’ll try to get it done mostly in the morning before it gets too hot out,” Silling said. “It‘s one of our biggest cleanups to date, and we are excited that everybody is so supportive and on board with it.”

The unique piece to this cleanup is the many ways people can help out. Volunteers have the option of cleaning up on dry land, wading into the waters or even kayaking the wetlands.

“For people who want to go out to the water, I think it’ll be really fun to go out on the kayaks. GCBO is bringing a few kayaks and we’ve also encouraged people to bring their own kayaks if they have them,” Silling said. “Then we will be bringing some waders. We are also encouraging people to bring their own waders just so they can fit in them better and also muck boots. It’ll depend on how high the tide is going to be if we can kayak and if we can do waders.”

Although the main goal for Saturday is to clean up, the organizations also see it as a chance for people to learn about the impacts of trash and how they can help in the long run. The organizations will be placing signage and fishing line disposal containers to address that part of the problem.

“We hope to get the people out there that crab and fish to realize that it is harmful to the birds,” Shanks said. “And by us being out there picking up things, hopefully folks will see what we are doing and want to help.”

The cleanup will start at the intersection of Crab Street and Canal Drive. For information, visit or



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