Chelsea Yates is just 11 years old, but she does not need a grown-up to tell her tossing trash into public storm drains is a bad idea with harmful consequences for the surrounding environment.
In fact, she was the one who took the initiative and went to the adults with her desire to spread the word in Brunswick. As a result Chelsea spends several evenings each week of her summer vacation posting notices on roadside storm drains in the city. She is not only spreading the word about protecting the environment, Chelsea is actually saving the city a few dollars by volunteering to post these mandatory public service notices.
In the process, Chelsea hopes to earn her Girls Scout Bronze Award for this community service.
“People need to know not to put trash in them because it will go into our waterways,” said the rising sixth-grader at Glynn Middle School. “And like, from there, it can go into the ocean where it would hurt sea creatures. That’s why I decided to do this project, let’s put it that way.”
And it was her decision. Chelsea was putting her convictions into action Thursday evening in the 2200 block of Peachtree Street in Brunswick. She held the city’s clean stormwater awareness medallion in one hand and a caulk gun loaded with a tube of strong adhesive clutched in the other. The medallion is roughly the size of a mayonnaise jar lid. It offers a simple admonition for those who might thoughtlessly toss trash through the opening of a roadside storm drain: “No Dumping. Drains to River.”
“This helps us have clean water,” explained Chelsea, a member of Girl Scout Troop 30105. “And it is good for all the sea creatures around here. When it gets in the ocean, fish and turtles might think the bits of plastic and stuff are food.”
Mom Nancy Yates drives Chelsea on her present volunteer work and has supported the youngster since she first got involved in scouting back in kindergarten. But she had no influence on Chelsea’s choice for a Bronze Award project. Chelsea is placing medallions in the Magnolia Park and Belle Point neighborhoods, about 60 in all.
“I was surprised that she wanted to do something like this, but that’s Chelsea,” the proud mom said. “She has always been the kind of girl to take on leadership.”
Chelsea got the idea about promoting clean storm drains last year at Sterling Elementary. It came to her from a school project she completed on plastic shopping bags’ effects on the environment. After letting mom in on her plans, the two turned to Lea King-Badyna, Executive Director of Keep Golden Isles Beautiful.
“She actually had the idea of working with storm drains,” King-Badyna said.
Keep Golden Isles Beautiful is happy to match environmentally-minded scouts, boys and girls, with advancement projects that promote a cleaner community. She put Chelsea in touch with the city of Brunswick.
“It’s a wonderful project and a great community service,” said King-Badyna. “We are extremely grateful to her for choosing the project because it’s a wonderful public education effort.”
And it is something a city employee would be doing if Chelsea did not step up and volunteer to do her part, said Rick Charnock, Brunswick’s Assistant Public Works Director. To have a stormwater permit with the state, cities over 10,000 residents are required to post the notices, he said.
“She’s really saving us some labor, where we can direct our employees to do other things,” Charnock said. “And it is an important message.”
Keep Golden Isles Beautiful has many other such environmentally-friendly projects for youngsters seeking public service, King-Badyna said. Call 912-279-1490 for more information.