President’s Environmental Youth Awards 2008 Recipients
Protect the Dunes
Thousands of visitors come to the shores of the Kenai River during each summer's annual personal use fishery season. Their environmental impact on the sensitive areas around the beach grass and dunes has contributed to coastal erosion. Lincoln Wensley's first place award-winning "Caring for the Kenai" environmental project created educational materials to increase public awareness of the damage being done to the dunes and the health of the Kenai River. Through partnerships with local government and community organizations, Lincoln produced a 3-minute educational movie about protection of the dunes. Mass production and distribution of the video were funded by the City of Kenai, and the video was distributed through many local organizations. Lincoln also created a video public service announcement that was televised statewide throughout the personal use fishing community, as well as radio public service announcements that aired locally. City of Kenai officials credited his project with improved public awareness and a decrease in violations during the 2008 personal use fishery season. The success of Lincoln's efforts has decreased the human impact on coastal erosion.
In 2007, more than 18,000 personal use fishery permits were issued. The high volume of human traffic during this short period created the need for increased enforcement, managed access, and education. As a result, after the 2007 personal use fishery season, the City of Kenai outlined the need for increased protection of the dunes in its annual personal use fishery report. The city proposed plans to increase enforcement and provide more extensive managed access, including protective fencing around the dunes. Since the City of Kenai had already proposed plans for managed access and enforcement, Lincoln focused his efforts in the area of education. Although signs, fencing, and additional law enforcement during high-use times were critical, there was also a need to educate visitors and the local community about this environmental issue. Lincoln's goals were to create and distribute educational materials to inform the local community and its seasonal visitors about the environmental impact of people on the Kenai beach dunes and to make protection of the dunes a priority during the 2008 personal use fishery season. He was able to achieve these goals through the cooperation and support of the many organizations that assisted him in the research, development, and distribution of his educational materials.
Once his educational materials were completed, Lincoln shared his project with many different segments of the local community. The Kenai City Council awarded him a grant for mass production and distribution of his movie. In addition, after a review of his project, the City of Kenai passed an ordinance that increased the fine for trespassing on the dunes from $100 to $500. The city also assigned two seasonal officers to patrol the beach during the fishing season. Lincoln interviewed the mayor's office and the police department after the fishing season and both indicated that his project was the drive behind the City of Kenai's increased efforts to protect the dunes. They also noted that his educational materials helped to inform the public and, with their combined efforts, helped to prevent and minimize further erosion of the dunes by human impact during the 2008 fishery. The City of Kenai is now discussing the possibility of even more long-term protection of the dunes, including year-round fencing and construction of raised walkways.
Lincoln's project was selected as the first-place winner in the nationally recognized "Caring for the Kenai" environmental contest. He also won additional recognition with semi-finalist awards from the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and KDLL, the local public radio station. His project was recognized in the local paper, the Peninsula Clarion, as well on local radio stations.