Since its start in 1970, Save The Bay has enlisted thousands of Rhode Islanders in, and made great strides toward, the protection and preservation of Narragansett Bay.
The group has educated children and adults through a range of programming, engaged in advocacy and conservation efforts, supported several successful bond referenda and even launched three educational vessels. All the while, it has seen the condition of the Ocean State’s largest and most treasured natural resource improve, although much work remains.
David and Bridget Kubis Prescott have a unique perspective on, and play a pivotal role in, Save The Bay’s efforts. David serves as the organization’s South County coastkeeper, while Bridget is its director of education. The two were drawn together through their work and remain dedicated to the bay, all while raising a young family at their home in Charlestown.
How did the two of you meet?
Bridget: We first met at Save The Bay in 2000. I was doing an internship for the organization during graduate school, and Dave was an education specialist in Save The Bay’s education department.
How does Southern Rhode Island compare to the many places you’ve lived and traveled to?
Bridget: Rhode Island is this beautiful little corner of the world that has the perfect combination of the natural beauty of the bay, ocean, forests and quaint local communities along with all the perks of being close to two major cities. The bay is very accessible to everyone, locals and visitors alike, and a great way to enjoy all that this state has to offer. It is part of who we are as Rhode Islanders and what defines us.
What does it mean to be the coastkeeper — or, Save The Bay’s “The Watchdog of the South Coast?”
David: As Save The Bay’s “eyes and ears” along the South Coast, I provide a visible on-the-water and in-the-community presence and work directly to protect, restore and promote stewardship of Little Narragansett Bay and the south coast of Rhode Island. I actively investigate and respond to pollution incidents, advocate for public access to the shore, and work on coastal adaptation and restoration projects along the south coast. Every day for me is truly different.
How does the South County Coastkeeper program support your work?
David: The program is affiliated with the Waterkeeper Alliance, which now has more than 300 programs worldwide. At Save The Bay, I am joined by the Narragansett Baykeeper and the Narragansett Bay Riverkeeper. We are all part of a network of specialists with a passion for defending the environment and a devotion to working with local communities.
What are Save The Bay’s most significant areas of focus in South County?
David: My primary focus in South County is on the health of our local waters. This summer marks our 10th year of bimonthly water quality testing on Little Narragansett Bay and in the Pawcatuck River estuary. Using this data, I help to mobilize community and bi-state action on stormwater and wastewater pollution. Being out in the field and on the water is the best way to identify and understand changes to our natural environment and convey these challenges and opportunities to communities.
In addition, climate change impacts along our coast continue to challenge our natural and built environments. Save The Bay is a proponent of looking at new strategies when dealing with climate change impacts within our local communities and making smart decisions about how we should manage growth along the coast.
What are Save The Bay’s educational objectives?
Bridget: The goal of our education program is to get students outside their classrooms to experience the beauty of Narragansett Bay so they can be good stewards of the bay in the future. Our approach to education is hands-on and inquiry-based, and we sneak in some fun along the way, too! We work very closely with teachers to ensure our programming is an extension of their classroom learning goals so they can feel confident in the experiences their students will have with Save The Bay.
What are the greatest challenges facing Narragansett Bay?
Bridget: Complacency. A lot of people assume that the bay is saved because we aren’t experiencing the dirty water visuals of prior decades, like raw, untreated sewage and polluted, toxic runoff. However, our local beaches and shellfish beds continue to experience closures after it rains and our salt marshes, which are nurseries to all critters that eventually make their way out into the bay and ocean, are drowning due to higher sea levels.
David: Climate change impacts, such as sea level rise, more intense storms and warming waters, are going to have a dramatic impact on the future of our state and threaten our natural resources, access to the shoreline and our built environment, such as homes, businesses, roads and other infrastructure. Save The Bay continues to advocate for a long-term strategy to manage development and protection along the coast.
What is the best way for Rhode Islanders to contribute to Save The Bay’s mission?
David: Get involved. We have a lot of fun and unique opportunities to volunteer, including beach cleanups, planting salt marsh grass, helping at our annual Bay Swim and being a docent at our Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport or at our South Coast Center in Westerly. Becoming a member is the best way to help us achieve our mission. We offer our members some really great perks for discounts on our public education programs including seal tours, lighthouse tours, camps and entrance to our Exploration Center and Aquarium. We see our members as the true heroes of the bay and the backbone of everything we do as an organization.
How do you spend your down time?
Bridget: We have two children, so they keep us pretty busy. That being said, we love the outdoors. Whether exploring our local beaches or heading up north to the mountains, we try to spend as much of our free time outside as possible!