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Summer 2018





The mission of Galveston Bay Foundation is to preserve and enhance Galveston Bay as a healthy and productive place for generations to come.


President / Ext. 211 Courtney Smith Vice President of Operations / Ext. 214 Shannon Batte Oyster Shell Recycling Assistant Casey Blair Database and Administrative Coordinator / Ext. 201 Bob Bright Director of Finance / Ext. 202 Haille Leija Habitat Restoration Manager / Ext. 203 Anna Deichmann Land Stewardship Coordinator / Ext. 224 Emily Demmeck Bike Around the Bay Coordinator / Ext. 222 Claire Everett Communications & Marketing Manager / Ext. 208 Emily Ford Volunteer Programs Coordinator / Ext. 207 Brandy Gates Events Manager / Ext. 221 Genevieve Genest Donor Relations Manager / Ext. 204 Charmaine Glaze Staff Accountant / Ext. 205 Sarah Gossett Water Quality Manager / Ext. 217 Kaitlin Grable Water Programs Outreach Coordinator / Ext. 220 Megan Imme Education Coordinator / Ext. 212 Scott Jones Director of Advocacy / Ext. 209 Lindsey Nolan Water Quality Programs Coordinator / Ext. 215 Michael Niebuhr Habitat Restoration Coordinator / Ext. 225 Paula Paciorek Water Resources Manager / Ext. 218 Matt Singer Director of Land Conservation / Ext. 206 Philip Smith Director of Conservation / Ext. 210

FROM OUR PRESIDENT: Galveston Bay’s reach and influence flow far beyond the four counties it physically touches on the upper Texas coast. In fact, our Bay connects half the population of Texas through its watershed. At Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF), we work hard to ensure that people establish a relationship with their Bay—whether Bob Stokes, Galveston Bay it’s in knee-deep water planting Foundation President marsh grass at Marsh Mania or learning about native species at Bay Day Festival— there are many ways to connect with the Bay. Our work to preserve and protect Galveston Bay relies upon strengthening our individual connections with Galveston Bay. In this issue, you’ll read some fun stories about people who have truly strengthened those connections. The stories highlight a high school couple who participated in our very first Marsh Mania in 1999, and still participate in Marsh Mania 20 years later as husband and wife. You will also read about how GBF helped establish the Coastal Program of Texas Conservation Corps. The program provides the opportunity for people like Christian Mena, who grew up in Houston but never spent much time on the Bay, to explore the area as he prepares for a career in conservation. And you’ll read about two middle-school students who created a lemonade stand to give back to the Bay. All of the people in this issue are connected to the Bay and to each other. And so are you. We care about your connection with the Bay, and we hope that we can play a role in fostering it so future generations can enjoy a healthy and productive Bay brimming with vitality and connected to the community in every possible way. Thank you for being a part of Galveston Bay, and thank you for being a part of Galveston Bay Foundation’s story.

T’Noya Thompson Report Card Coordinator / Ext. 223 Lee Anne Wilde Living Shorelines Program Manager Cindy Wilems Director of Education/ Ext. 219

Bob Stokes President, Galveston Bay Foundation



THEY FOUND LOVE IN A MARSHY PLACE Highlights of long-time volunteers at GBF’s 20th annual community-based restoration event

Crystal and Brendon at Marsh Mania in 2018.

Crystal and Brendon at Marsh Bash in 1999.

Crystal Patrick and Brendon Singh Crystal Patrick and Brendon Singh are married high school sweethearts who started dating when they were in 9th grade. One defining memory they shared together in high school? Getting muddy in 1999 at the first-ever GBF marsh grass planting event. Back then, it was called Marsh Bash.

“It’s always been an awesome experience and it’s always been something different,” she said. “Whether the ground is peanut butter and you lose your shoes multiple times, or when it’s an easy cakewalk.”

Brendon proclaims Crystal as the environmentalist of the family: she encourages “I used to skip class and go them to reduce their to her homeroom, and her environmental impact homeroom teacher dragged whether it’s through buying us along to volunteer,” said an electric car or installing Brendon. solar panels on their home. Crystal’s encouragement They were juniors in high helps Brendon wake up early school at the time and they for Marsh Mania because he never stopped coming knows the end result will be back. As GBF celebrated the rewarding. event’s 20th year, the couple were side by side planting “I still hate waking up early, marsh grass for their 20th but I love coming out here year as well. and doing this and having fun and meeting so many Crystal is now a 7th grade new people and seeing the science teacher and she difference from when the loves bringing her students marsh is not here to when it along for the experience. is,” he said.

He pointed to the newlyplanted grass and said that while it looked spotty now, it would be amazing soon and watching the area go from “nothing to a thriving, thriving environment filled with life, birds, fish, and crabs when the grass fills in” was what it is all about. The couple teamed up with people they’d just met that day and continued planting until every last stem of grass was in the ground. “It’s a very rewarding experience,” agreed Crystal. “I keep coming back because I enjoy doing this and you can actually see the good results.” This year, 200 volunteers planted marsh grass on nearly one acre at sites in Galveston, Anahuac and Texas City – for a total of 210 acres planted since that first Marsh Mania Crystal and Brendon attended in 1999. Continued next page




Karina at Marsh Mania in Spring 2018.

Karina and Francisco’s wedding day in 2014 at a Marsh Mania site in Seabrook.

Karina Rocha Karina can be found working hard planting marsh grass at every Marsh Mania event while surrounded by several family members. She’s been volunteering at Marsh Mania since 2002 when she was just 12 years old. Karina’s mom used to bring her to Marsh Mania, and Karina, now a mother of a three-year-old and an almost one-yearold, hopes to be able to bring her kids when they are old enough to continue the tradition. “I’ve always cared about the environment, I always wanted to do something for the environment, and this is my thing for now,” said Karina, who works at Texas Commission for Environmental Quality. Marsh Mania has been such a special part of her life that she wanted it to be a part of her wedding day. Her husband Francisco wanted to share something

that she cared about and learn from it as the grass grew and they grew together. They got married in Seabrook a year after she helped restore the site at a Marsh Mania planting. “I like going back to the sites and seeing where the marsh has grown in,” said Karina. “The Seabrook site where I had my wedding is looking great.” One of the best parts about Marsh Mania for Karina is experiencing the Bay while making new friends. The family is quick to “adopt” new members at Marsh Mania and guide them in plantings. “Marsh Mania is a way to really get a hands-on experience with the Bay, get a chance to learn about marshes and why they’re an important part of the ecosystem, have fun, meet new people and become friends because we’re all working hard together,” Karina said.



Cleaning up is important because it helps the environment! Animals could mistake the trash for food.

– Connor McCraken, Cub Scout Pack 958

This event is important to remind people that mother nature needs care and also to clean up all the bayous and everything to make the environment a better place.

– Lisa McGonigle, Alvin, TX

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a throwaway society. Things were made out of metal, we had brown bags you got your groceries in that you reused...plastic is a huge problem and it’s important [people see] we need to get away from being a throw-away society.

– Martha Kaminsky, San Leon, TX All the guys had a great time and we picked up a ton of trash. It’s important to clean up trash to help the environment so birds and other animals don’t ingest it and get sick, and help keep our waterways and areas clean for everyone to enjoy.

– Nik Risoldi, Boy Scout Troop 957 You made a huge difference at Trash Bash this year! Over 600 volunteers at GBF’s Armand Bayou site helped remove thousands of pounds of trash and recyclables from around our waterways. Thank you so much for helping our Bay and community!




GIRLS START CLUB AND LEMONADE STAND TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THEIR PLANET Their first initiative was to make a lemonade stand and give the proceeds to a group with a mission of protecting the environment – and they chose GBF! The girls sold brownies and lemonade and made sure to pass out flyers they made about protecting sea turtles to their customers as well. They said people weren’t really in it for the brownies; rather their customers donated to the cause. “Any little bit can make a difference,” said Tea. “We need to preserve the natural resources and the beauty of the Earth because if we don’t, we won’t be able to enjoy them in the future.”

Sara (left) and Tea (right) at their lemonade stand for GBF.

Tea Scarcelli and Sara Lomeli are 6th graders at Hamilton Middle School in Cypress.

The girls ended up raising $60 for GBF and made the trip from Cypress to drop off their contribution in person. They plan to keep the EEPA going and are currently planning future initiatives to make a difference for their planet.

Together, they make up the EEPA. That’s short for the Earth Environmental Protection Association, explained Tea. She was inspired after learning about pollution and other issues that the environment faces and made a new year’s resolution this past January to create a group to help the environment. “It sounded like a really good idea for a good cause,” said Sara, who joins Tea after school to plan environmental efforts. “It might seem like helping the environment doesn’t matter now, but this will make a difference for our future.”

Tea (left) and Sara (right) dropping off the check from their lemonade stand at the GBF offices.


Christian Mena, Texas Conservation Corps Coastal Program Member

Members of the Texas Conservation Corps at Marsh Mania in Spring 2018.

A HIGHLIGHT ON GBF’S PARTNERSHIP WITH TEXAS CONSERVATION CORPS “If it hadn’t been for Galveston Bay Foundation, the Coastal Program wouldn’t exist,” said Sarah Campbell, Conservation Corps Coastal Programs Coordinator. The Coastal Program is part of the Texas Conservation Corps (TXCC), and a brainchild of GBF President Bob Stokes. In 2015, Bob reached out to propose that GBF partner with the American Youth Works program called Texas Conservation Corps. Funded by Accenture’s Skills to Succeed program, with additional funding provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the TXCC Coastal Program empowers young people ages 18 - 28 to learn about and participate in coastal restoration in the HoustonGalveston area. The Coastal Program took off in 2016. Collaborative projects with GBF included trail maintenance, invasive species treatment, tree planting and more.

This year, Coastal Program projects included a week of maintenance in March at the GBF Sweetwater Preserve in Galveston. In May, along with GBF staff and volunteers, the TXCC crew got their hands dirty at Marsh Mania.

Highlights of Conservation Corps work completed with GBF in 2017.

Christian Mena, a graduate from University of Houston’s biology program, was among those helping with the Marsh Mania planting. He chose to join the Conservation Corps to give back to his community and get more hands-on learning in the Gulf Coast. “I’m more familiar with stingrays now, “ Christian joked, explaining his “close encounters” while planting grass in the Bay. “Today’s been a great day. Anyone who would like to help with conservation, joining TXCC is a great opportunity to do so.”

Sarah added that the program is “so important because the relationship our [TXCC] members are creating with places around here is something I think they’re going to take with them the rest of their lives.” Long term benefits to participants and Bay habitats: a great way to support the GBF mission to preserve and enhance Galveston Bay for generations to come. More about conservation on the next page





GBF is an accredited land trust and protects natural areas by acquiring real estate and partnering with landowners to establish conservation easements on private lands. GBF has a responsibility to steward its protected properties. Through the staff’s land stewardship, volunteer workdays and partnerships, GBF is able to successfully manage its land. The focus of GBF’s habitat management efforts on our properties is to improve habitat for wildlife and fisheries,” said Matt Singer, GBF Director of Land Conservation. “Partnerships are a key component for the success of our program.”

We’re “shellebrating” 800 tons of oyster shells recycled since GBF’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program began in 2011. Want to join in on the “shellebration”? Enjoy some fresh oysters at one of our partner restaurants: • Tommy’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar • Topwater Grill • Tookies Seafood • Aquarium Restaurant - Kemah TX • Crazy Alan’s Swamp Shack • BLVD Seafood • Capt. Benny’s Learn more at!



Catherine Bradley, Venture Scout, at GBF’s Sweetwater Preserve in Galveston.

TAKE A BREAK IN THE SHADE AT SWEETWATER PRESERVE When Catherine Bradley, a Venture Scout from League City, volunteered to help build an oyster reef at the GBF Sweetwater Preserve in Galveston, she quickly learned why the GBF staff always transported pop-up tents to the restoration sites: to create shade for the workers doing the hard work of reef building. Catherine’s solution? To create a permanent shade structure for volunteers and staff as part of her Summit Awards Project. “Having a permanent shade shelter would provide even more cover on the blistering days and a very pleasant place for the I would do volunteers,” she said.

“I was thrilled to construct the shade shelter because GBF does incredible work, and I wanted to support all of their efforts,” Catherine said. “They thrive off support from volunteers and Scouts like me. I put the hours and hours of hard work into the project because I would do anything for an organization that benefits the environment in such a positive way.” To complete TPG’s design, Catherine pulled together 40 volunteers who worked over two days to build the shade structure. Materials and supplies were provided in part by TPG partners, McCoy’s Building Supply, and Lowe’s Home Improvement, along with sweet snacks provided by Shipley Do-nuts.

anything for an organization that benefits the environment in such a positive way.

Additionally, Catherine’s crew completed Awarded through Venture Scouts, building the 100 feet of oyster reef. Their a co-ed branch of Boy Scouts efforts returned a total of 13 tons of GBFof America, Summit Awards are recycled oyster shells back to the Bay. given to scouts whose projects Positive impacts of oyster reefs include - Catherine Bradley, Venture Scout make a special and significant improving water quality; stabilizing shorelines; impact. Catherine’s dream is to be the first recipient and providing shelter, feeding and spawning areas for of her Boy Scout Council to receive the award. oysters and other Bay organisms. Her project included building both the permanent shade structure and 100 feet of oyster reef at GBF’s “It meant a lot to me that people would work with Sweetwater Preserve. 13 tons of oyster shell and mix four tons of concrete to support me in pursuit of my dream to become our “I was also very passionate about adding to the Boy Scout Council’s first Summit Award recipient,” oyster reef after learning about its positive impacts,” Catherine said. Catherine said. So, next time you are out volunteering at GBF’s The shade structure project proved challenging. Sweetwater Preserve and need some respite from Catherine was surprised that building something the Gulf Coast sunshine, take advantage of the shade seemingly simple turned out to be very complex to provided by Catherine, her crew and the donors who plan and execute. made it possible. That’s when the experts stepped in. The architecture firm TPG Partners worked pro bono with Catherine to design the shade structure and figure out the best materials to use.

If you are interested in learning more about GBF’s work with Scouts or would like to pursue a project, please contact Michael Niebuhr at or 281-332-3381 ext. 225.



SMASHING TRAPS, SAVING CRABS Each year during a 10-day closure of the crabbing season, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hosts the annual Abandoned Crab Trap Removal event all along the Texas Coast to rid Texas waters of abandoned crab traps. Abandoned traps are a significant source of mortality for many Bay creatures. This year, at GBF’s removal sites in Anahuac and Bolivar, volunteers removed 215 abandoned crab traps. “It’s really fun to actually get out and use my hands and my observation skills and see a real impact being made on the environment around me,” said Ashley Brazell, a volunteer at the Bolivar site. Ashley made the trip from Dallas with a group of volunteers from Dallas Zoo because she felt it was a unique and important activity for her to experience. Ben Jones, Dean of Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Academy, brought the group to volunteer. “Active conservation is so important where we get out and help restore habitat in any way we can in a hands-on direct way, and today has been perfect for that,” he said. “It’s going to take all of us to make a better world for animals in ways big and small, and we’re proud of this and glad we got to be a part of it.” Learn more about volunteering with GBF at A volunteer smashes an abandoned crab trap at GBF’s 2018 Abandoned Crab Trap Removal site in Bolivar.




Thank you to GBF’s site sponsors, City of Chambers County, Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, Houston Zoo, SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Stingaree Restaurant, Texas Game Wardens, TPWD, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

TRASH BASH: Thank you to GBF’s Armand Bayou site sponsors, City of Pasadena and SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund


NRG Energy, City of Kemah, ExxonMobil, Gulf Coast Authority, Gulf Coast Water Authority, Houston Pilots, John P. McGovern Foundation, Kemah Boardwalk, Odfjell, Port Houston, Targa Resources, W.R. Grace Foundation


Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, CenterPoint Energy, apachEco, ExxonMobil, John P. McGovern Foundation, Gulf Coast Limestone, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NRCS, Odfjell, Port Houston, Reliant: An NRG Company, Shell, CCA Texas, Chambers County, Texas General Land Office, Texas Parks and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Scenic Galveston, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All marsh vegetation planted during Marsh Mania is donated by NRG Energy.




WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Former students from GBF’s Get Hip to Habitat program talk about how the program led them to pursue environmental work. The Get Hip to Habitat program combines environmental education and habitat restoration into a year-long project.

Amy Hallaron (left, in blue in 2013 during a Get Hip to Habitat field day, and right, in summer 2017 during her internship with the Houston Zoo).

What was your experience with Get Hip to Habitat like? It’s a messy, stinky project, but it’s a lot of fun! The first phase was going out to the site and getting the plants to bring back to our school. We went in the ponds and got muddy and gross and had a good time doing it. The people who worked there told us about the grasses and why what we were doing was so important. We brought the plants back to the school to raise them. I remember collecting data as they grew, so I got to learn about the different instruments and how they were important in monitoring the plants’ health. Later in the year, we went to replant them in the Bay, and that was a lot of fun as well. I love being in the water, and we got to see up close how our project was helping! Did going outside so often during the year improve your attitude about the class or school in general? Absolutely! It was so hands-on which is how I learn best! I loved having a class where I wasn’t just sitting around copying notes from a PowerPoint slide. Did the project change your thoughts on Galveston Bay or the environment? Yes, it made me more aware of the issues, and this was my first experience with environmental and conservation work. Did the project influence your choice in a future career? I didn’t realize it until the next year or so, but yes! I just finished a conservation internship with the Houston Zoo where we worked with GBF, and I remembered everything I learned from it previously. Is there anything else you’d like to add? This was a great program, and I loved being able to get involved at an early age!


Austin Perez (left in 2012 during a Get Hip to Habitat field day, and right, in 2017 majoring in marine biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston).

What was your experience with Get Hip to Habitat like? Got dirty for a good cause. Had a blast and learned a lot about the ecosystem of the Bay. Did going outside so often during the year improve your attitude about the class or school in general? I would take any chance I could get to leave school, so anything outdoors was great to me. Did the project change your mind/attitude about Galveston Bay or the environment? Yes, I became much more interested in rehabilitation and pollution cleanup in the Bay because of how important it is. Did the project influence your choice in a future career? Yes, it motivated me to pursue my degree in marine biology and work towards helping the Bay in any way I can. Do you think doing the project left you with any long-lasting effects or behaviors? I volunteer more now than I ever have in my life because I know a small amount of time I give towards a cause can make a huge impact. Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’m forever grateful for having this opportunity.




CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE: BETSY REDFIELD AND GENE GANSKY HERON SOCIETY DONOR PROFILE Working a full-time job and new to conservation grant writing, Betsy headed to the first meeting she was invited to. There was lots of talk about what sounded like a promising grant application, and when she asked when it was due, she got an answer she wasn’t prepared to hear – the next day.

Heron Society members Betsy Redfield and Gene Gansky.

Betsy Redfield doesn’t back down from a challenge. A licensed captain, one of few women to become an interstate commerce practitioner, and president of the Women’s Traffic Association, she took on a new challenge in 2006: to preserve a little island just outside her Bay Harbor residence. The island was eroding away and provided habitat to birds and wildlife. Betsy decided she wouldn’t rest until there was a solution to save that little island (estimated to be an eighth of an acre). “The boat channel into the marina had been not well done as far as dredging… and I was hunting for people who could help us if we dredged it, but our problem was where would we put the material if we did?” Betsy said. “We would have to buy somebody’s land and then get a permit to put it on it; we would have to haul it somewhere, we didn’t know where.” Betsy was president of the Bay Harbor Improvement Association (BHIA) at the time, and its board fully-supported what would become the Island Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project. After learning about beneficial use restoration from a Texas Parks and Wildlife presentation, Betsy and the BHIA team proceeded with the idea that if they could get a grant to pay for dredge materials and labor, they could save the island.

“I asked if I could have a pencil,” she said. “And I went and sat and wrote the application by hand in his [the administrator’s] office. We got the grant, and it was for $25,000, which wasn’t a whole lot, but that was the start.” The BHIA team did everything they could to ensure the project would come to fruition. Their fundraising efforts ranged from hosting parties to initiating an annual fishing tournament. The project concept was what led them to GBF for information and assistance. GBF supported the project through more grant proposals and funding, project management advice, and later by holding several Marsh Mania community-based marsh restoration events on the island. It’s a memory that Bay Harbor residents look back on fondly. Betsy recalled cooking an entire roasting oven worth of deer chili and not a drop being left after the hungry planting volunteers came through.

Galveston Bay Foundation is pleased to recognize donors as Heron Society members when they make cumulative, annual gifts and commitments of $1,000 or more.



Bay Harbor island thriving with birds and habitat in 2014. Bay Harbor installed a bulletin board at the marina recognizing all the supporting organizations, businesses and past presidents from 2006 to 2011. Betsy says the project could not be completed without their time, effort, support, guidance and financial assistance and sincerely thanks them.

“Marsh Mania was always a big highlight,” said Betsy. “The activity of these people who had never been out there, but they’re doing it! These kids are in the water and they’re planting grass and they’re having a ball.” Now, Betsy and her partner Gene can enjoy the reward of their hard work every time they watch the sun set over their restored wildlife habitat. “Yesterday evening, the birds, you couldn’t see through them when they lifted up, there were so many and they make that big circle and then sit down,” said Gene. “No vacancy on the island – it was incredible.” The project was completed in 2010, and the couple has remained involved with GBF. They are proud Tricolored Heron members ($10,000 - $24,999) of the Heron Society, GBF’s annual giving society. The Heron Society recognizes donors for their outstanding leadership and actions to protect the Bay and its watershed for future generations. Betsy praised the development of the Heron Society and encouraged people not only to give to GBF, but to ask their workplace if they match 501(c)(3) donations. As a retired Shell employee, she still takes advantage of Shell’s matching gift program and said “it’s money wasted if you don’t take advantage of your company’s matching donation.” In the end, Betsy and Gene agree that the project was completed out of everyone’s love for the environment and the benefits it would have on their community.

They were thankful for the help of many partners along the way, including GBF. “Meeting all of the different people,we notice that they love the work, are proud of the results, they’re committed, they like doing what they’re doing. Always, just you could tell in their presentation and their answers, the sincerity, and support that I know my money is going to good use, that’s for sure,” Betsy said. On the drive back from Galveston one day, Gene pointed out two little kids playing on the sand. He and Betsy talked about their hope that there would still be access to the beach for kids in the future. Strong believers in GBF’s mission to preserve our coastal landscapes for future generations, Gene and Betsy felt a little more secure in that hope.

If you would like more information on the Heron Society or matching gifts, please contact Genevieve Genest, Donor Relations Manager at or 281-332-3381 ext. 204.

GALVESTON BAY FOUNDATION 1100 Hercules Avenue, Suite 200 Houston, Texas 77058 GBF Gazette stories and photos by: Claire Everett, Communications and Marketing Manager

p: 281.332.3381 f: 832-284-4982

Additional photos in this issue of the GBF Gazette contributed by: Amy Hallaron Andrew Hancock Gene Fisseler Austin Perez GBF Staff




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GBF is a 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with EarthShare of Texas, Restore America’s Estuaries and the Land Trust Alliance.

GBF Gazette underwriting is provided by our valued partner, Port Houston.


GBF Gazette - Summer 2018  

From finding love in the marsh grass to a lemonade stand making a difference, these Galveston Bay Foundation stories have all the summer fun...

GBF Gazette - Summer 2018  

From finding love in the marsh grass to a lemonade stand making a difference, these Galveston Bay Foundation stories have all the summer fun...