“There’s tons of litter on the beach everything from pop cans to lots of shoes and fish waste everywhere at low tide all over the beach, it’s gross really gross,” said Courtney Stroh last week. Stroh is a Kenai Central High School junior who as a freshman created her idea of R.O.C. the Kenai (Respect Our Community) as her science project for the Caring for the Kenai program sponsored by Tesoro and Chevron. “Although I began ROC the Kenai because of a school assignment, I quickly realized I needed to go beyond doing my homework in order to find a solution to the large amount of fish waste left on local beaches during dip net season and that began my journey of service learning,” explained Courtney in an interview with the Dispatch.
Now in its second year ROC the Kenai is now a partnership with the Kenai Peninsula 4-H and the Boys & Girls Clubs, “As a legacy to keep the program going after I graduate I started a 4-H Club called ROC the Kenai and in that club are kids from the Teen Center out here with me along with the kids you see here and we are out here everyday making a presence on the beaches and encouraging people to properly dispose of their fish waste. Most people recognize the problem and are willing to help and are disgusted having to be here among all the fish waste too, so we hand out brochures and answer their questions,” said Stroh.
According to Jason Floyd, 4-H youth development agent, “In partnership with the Kenai Watershed Forum, Stroh and members of the ROC the Kenai teens have produced radio public awareness ad in an additional effort to educate the public about the problem of fish waste at the mouth of the Kenai River. The teens have engaged in public dialog by meeting with administrators and writing to officials regarding the problem facing our community. I am very proud of these teens and respect their efforts, we’re fortunate to have them in our community,” said Floyd.
“Most people take us seriously even though we are just kids, they listen to what we have to say and we only hope they will respond,” added Jessica Paxton a ROC the Kenai volunteer. Juliet Bramante of cross town rival Soldotna High School joined her Kenai peers to walk the beaches, “It’s an important issue that effects all of us regardless of where we go to school and we all have a responsibility to help so I felt that as long as this was going on I needed to be part of it because I enjoy the beach too, we can compete on the sports fields, but this is something we all need to work together on,” she said.
Objecting to the sign at the toll booth that tells dip netters to through fish waste back into the water Stroh wrote a letter to City Manager Rick Koch, “We want the sign changed because the problem is people throwing fish waste back into the inlet because it just floats and piles up at low tide, we encourage dip netters to double bag the waste and take it to the land fill and folks from out of town we give directions to where the land fill is and Fish and Wildlife have even given us garbage bags and gloves to help with the clean up efforts,” explained Courtney.
For more information visit www.rocthekenai.org or log on to www.kenaiwatershed.org, or better yet volunteer and while visiting the Kenai if you happen to see a youth in a bright orange ROC the Kenai t-shirt listen to what they’re saying and give them a hand ROCing the Kenai.