For the cruiser in your life there are endless options for gift giving this holiday season from that new handheld GPS unit to a subscription to their favorite boating magazine. But what better stocking stuffer than a member subscription or “friend” of a non-profit organization that specifically restores and preserves their favorite waterways and cruising grounds?

While the giant non-profits tend to receive the most charitable donations, they also tend to have the highest cost overhead and expenses to cover before your money is brought into direct action. However, throughout the Gulf Coast there are small organizations made up of volunteers—many of whom might be your neighbors or friends at the marina—where $50 or $100 would go a long way to directly and specifically help preserve a favorite boating or fishing location. A few trusted organizations are listed below, but a simple online search will help you find a non-profit group dedicated to your favorite bay, lake or estuary.

Gulf Restoration Network (Gulf Coast): Covering the health and preservation of the entire Gulf of Mexico, this organization and their efforts came into real prominence immediately following the BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast in 2010. While a medium-sized organization, this group and their army of volunteers is very active throughout the Gulf Coast from the planting of marsh grasses to the restoration of barrier islands and fishing grounds.

Friends of West End (Louisiana): Created in the 1830s, West End is a massive and historical recreational boating and park complex in New Orleans. Situated on Lake Pontchartrain, West End is home to 100+ acres of historic parks and marinas, and the Friends of West End organization raises funds for restoration projects as well as building a large wetlands park that will aid in the downstream health of the fisheries throughout the Lake Pontchartrain Basin.

Coastal Conservation Association (CCA-Mississippi): Dedicated to the restoration of the once highly productive marine fisheries along the Mississippi Coast and the barrier islands, the CCA-Mississippi is a dedicated division of the larger Coastal Conservation Association which has been highly successful in their attempts to preserve recreational and commercial fisheries. Donations to the CCA-Mississippi stay within the state.

Dauphin Island Restoration Task Force (Alabama): Dauphin Island—Alabama’s incredibly beautiful lone barrier island—plays a crucial role in the estuarine environments for Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound that helps support the entire recreational and commercial seafood industries for the Northern Gulf Coast. The task force is devoted to restoring the shoreline of this treasure that is rapidly eroding into the Gulf.

Friends of St. Joseph’s Bay (Florida): Very few waters are as pristine as St. Joseph’s Bay in Florida. Located on the Forgotten Coast on the far eastern panhandle of the state, this spectacular bay is home to crystal clear waters that support everything from scallops to seahorses and needs more human advocates to help it remain this way.

By Troy Gilbert, Southern Boating December 2014

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