Environmental Piece- Cooper River

Written Fall 2009.

Clean, water is very important, especially in small lakes and rivers. When the quality of a body of water is compromised, it affects the quality of larger bodies that it flows into. This ultimately affects our drinking water. The cycle continues until it affects all wildlife, plants and people. This is why taking care of our water and the environment surrounding it is so crucial.

            Cooper River is one of 36 tributaries which flow into the Delaware River. It runs west from Berlin Township to the Delaware River. The river flows 346.55 acres through Pennsauken, Cherry Hill, Collingswood and Haddon Township and comes equipped with many facilities such as two softball fields, one cross country course, four volleyball courts, the Cooper River Yacht Club and a sculpture garden.

            Cooper River is well known for its esteemed rowing events because of its Olympic-distance 2000 meter straightaway. There are also summer concerts and fireworks held there annually. There are many fundraisers such as benefit walks for causes like juvenile diabetes and breast cancer that are held at Cooper River as well.

            However, the Cooper River Watershed Study and Plan admits that “productive wetlands and valuable wildlife areas exist, but are struggling.”

            The water conditions of the Cooper River have been struggling for over ten years now, and with all the activity that happens in and around it, it is hard to understand why. According to the NJDEP Water Quality Assessment in January of 1994, “Cooper River…is a highly degraded urban stream receiving significant amounts of sewage treatment effluent and storm water runoff. Water quality monitoring performed on the Cooper River at Lindenwold, Lawnside and Haddonfield shows that water quality is generally good in the upper stretches of the stream, but rapidly worsens to some of the poorest quality surface waters in the State as it flows through Camden and adjoining towns. In addition, pesticide contamination in stream sediment and fish life has resulted in a recreational fishing ban on the Lower Cooper River.”

            One alleged source of the pollution, from Stone Creek, a tributary in Cooper River Lake, “could be the runoff of horse manure from the garden State Race Track after rain” and snow melts. The report also pinpoints other detrimental factors such as excess municipal and industrial wastewater dischargers, effects of urban storm water runoff and limited assimilation ability of the stream causing the problem.

            There hasn’t been another water quality assessment since this 1994 report because of the lack of grants provided by the government, as well as a lack of additional funding. Even without the official numbers, volunteers from the Delaware Riverkeeper group continue to fight to protect and preserve Cooper River and make its issues known to the public.

            Fred Stine, citizen action coordinator for the Delaware Riverkeeper group said that Cooper River is “significantly cleaner than 40 years ago thanks to the Clean Water Act and 14 sewer treatment plants being shut down.”

            Several students from Bishop Eustace High School in Pennsauken did some water sampling and concluded that the water quality was decent, however it still exceeds swimmability. Some point sources of the pollution include municipal and industrial wastewater discharges, although the regional sewage system is acting to eliminate most of the discharges.

            What’s causing the most damage though are the nonpoint pollution sources, which happen to be the most avoidable. Rain runoff from feces, fertilizer, driveways and streets causes a large part of the pollution. Suburban runoff like gas, oil and trash are also huge factors.

            “I’ll be the first to say I want to drive all over creation in my car and use fertilizer to have nice green grass so my kids can play, and if I wasn’t a tree hugger, I would,” said Stine.

            Thermal pollution causes the water temperatures to rise and sediment kills off the wildlife population in the river. A warmer water temperature means lower oxygen levels for fish and insects to thrive. You are then left with pollutant tolerant fish and insects such as carp, catfish and suckers. Fishing is permitted at Cooper River, but it is not recommended that fishermen take their fish home. The state advisory limits the amount of fish eaten from Cooper River to a certain amount depending on age, gender and preexisting health.

             Groups such as the Cooper River Fishway Restoration Team are trying to do their part in the improvement process by restoring fish populations by creating fish ladders which aid fish in the spawning process. There are three that have been installed and although they haven’t been effective yet, they might over time once fish adapt to the changes in their environment.

            Another improvement to the quality of Cooper River is the allowance of shoreline vegetation to grow. Years ago, the plant life used to be mowed up to the water’s edge, which was bad for the river. The plants around the water’s edge acts as a riparian buffer, which absorbs the nutrients from runoff of goose droppings and slows erosion. Regulations were put into effect for the natural vegetation and have since helped many bodies of water, including Cooper River.

            There have been noticeable improvements in the quality of wildlife as well as the water. Beaver and deer population is up most likely due to the adaptations of the species to the environment as well as the solitude of the nooks and crannies of the river that allows them to build and nest. Also, the population of blackbird cormorants has significantly increased, which is most noticeable in the summer on the water.

            Litter cleanups and tree and wildflower planting helps to improve the environment around the river, which then translates to the health of the river itself. Dredging also provides for a way to slow sediment going from land to lake. And although special groups like the Delaware Riverkeeper and Fishway Restoration Team try to do their part to raise awareness and become involved in restoration projects, it is ultimately up to the individual townships to make the final decisions.

            “The best way to fight for more funding or stop major detrimental changes is to attend township planning board meetings and get your voice heard,” said Stine. “Whatever you do, it is important to remember that we are all connected, and so is the environment; land, water, air. We need to be more responsible and really think about what we’re doing. It’s the small things that add up.”

                To become more involved in the projects or news concerning the South Jersey area, visit http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/. Or just to learn more about Cooper River and all that it has to offer, go to the Camden County website at http://www.co.camden.nj.us/index.html. For additional information on the Pennsauken Planning Board, visit http://www.twp.pennsauken.nj.us/gov-planning_zoning.cfm. 

Nora Dunn Profile

Written March 2010.

When first told to profile a journalist whom I’d like to emulate, I struggled because I can’t think of one particular traditional journalist that I religiously follow. I try to stay current on what is going on in the news, but it’s hard for me to really pinpoint one specific person that I look up to, especially in an age where technology borrows news and creates links upon links to the point where you can’t decipher where the original story came from. There is one thing that I instantly thought of, the one thing I consistently read. It happens to be a blog, but I do consider some blogs as journalism.

            Personally, I’ve always been interested in travel. Since my trip abroad to Italy in high school, I’ve been fascinated by foreign places and writing about them. I even found myself leisurely reading magazines, stories, tips and blogs about it online. When I took online journalism last semester, I decided to try a travel blog of my own. I searched for other travel blogs to read for inspiration when I came across The Professional Hobo. Written by Nora Dunn, it encompassed everything I aspire to do and be which is why I’m choosing to profile her.

            Although Dunn is not a journalist, at least in the traditional sense of the word, she does perform acts of journalism. I feel that anyone who writes to inform others in an honest way is just as worthy of the title as someone who studies it and writes for a major newspaper or magazine. That being said, I was lucky enough to get a hold of Dunn in the midst of her travels.

            After a few brief questions about her reasoning behind her methodology of picking up and leaving, it begins to not seem so extreme to do the same, and I even find myself considering it now.

            “At the age of 30 and after sinking myself into my business and ignoring the ever-present voice in the back of my head suggesting I had an unfulfilled dream, I decided to sell everything I owned to travel full-time.

            “That was back in 2006, and since then my boyfriend and I have been on the road. We travel slowly everywhere we go, staying weeks to months (to years) in each location. We often work in trade for our accommodation to reduce expenses and get a more local experience, and my writing helps pay for other incidentals. As such, we travel full-time in a financially sustainable manner (read: we can do it forever if we want)”, said Dunn.

            Dunn decided back in 2006 that there was more to life then a dull job and satisfactory life, so she sold her belongings, sold her financial planning practice and moved with her boyfriend to travel wherever the wind took them. And twice a week she writes about the places she sees, the people she meets and the things that she deems important to blog about.

            “Blogging was initially a way to stay in touch with family and friends while I was on the road. Once I was traveling, I realized there is more to traveling with an internet connection than I had anticipated, and paying writing gigs started to materialize, along with the increased popularity of my own blog. Now I still use my blog to stay in touch with family and friends, but I also write for a much wider audience,” said Dunn.

            There doesn’t seem to be any concrete strategy as to how this blog is written. When Dunn encounters interesting and compelling individuals or comes across a useful travel tool or tip, she posts it. That simple. The one great thing about travel writing is that it all appears to be interesting to an outsider, simply because we are living the experience through the author. And as far as future plans are concerned, there are none. The whole point of this journey was to get away from schedules and the mundane everyday routine of life. Dunn even admitted that sometimes things would come up, such as natural disasters, which would take precedence over another story she was working on.

            “In northern Thailand, my boyfriend and I stopped our itinerary in its tracks to raise money for the survivors of cyclone Nargis, who were hanging precariously on to life in the aftermath in May 2008. We raised $15,000 internationally and successfully sent aid into Burma. (http://theprofessionalhobo.com/category/burma-cyclone-relief/)

            The week after we finished our fundraising campaign, my boyfriend spent a week in a Thai hospital suffering from Dengue Fever. (http://theprofessionalhobo.com/2008/05/hospital-life-with-dengue/),” said Dunn.

            The Professional Hobo has gained a lot of press within the past year. I think what makes her work so appealing is her language. She has a way of writing that makes it seem more like a story from a postcard or letter than some formal piece. I like the raw excitement in every entry. It’s like the reader can feel her passion and enthusiasm about each place she visits, which gets them more interested. Another great attribute of her work is how vivid it is. Most of her readers may not even be knowledgeable of where she is, but she does really well with helping the reader understand where she is and what she’s doing.

            Following is a link to one of my favorite stories, where Dunn and her boyfriend attempt to find the bottom of a cave. Her words are descriptive and help the reader to imagine what it was like. (http://theprofessionalhobo.com/2007/09/disaster-point-an-ominous-caving-experience/)

            What makes a great journalist is someone who is open to new people, ideas and experiences. In a profession like this, it is fundamental for a writer to be without bias and judgment. Dunn tackles this challenge in a great way. Traveling probably helps her, and other travel writers like herself, better understand the world we live in and the people that make it up. Her writing is appealing to readers because it is diverse. Stories vary from profiles of locals, adventures of sightseeing trips, tips for travelers, photos and descriptions of places she’s been and even some book reviews.

                Although some would argue that what Nora Dunn does isn’t journalism, I’d have to disagree, just based on the grounds that the content is there and that, to me, is the most important thing. She may write for a blog and her stories may be unconventional, but nonetheless they are compelling and people enjoy reading them. I’ve been inspired to study abroad this summer by this blog and write about it. Hopefully I’ll be able to do something similar to Dunn when I’m a working professional. 

Brett Fahs Profile

You are 21. Senior Public Relations major with a minor in Advertising. This is your year. This is the time to soak it all in and prepare to take your first steps out into the real world. Sound scary? Try all of this on top of being a cancer survivor.

            Brett Fahs of Southampton is just this. A transfer student originally from West Chester University, Fahs decided to switch schools when he declared his major. Aware of Rowans superior PR program, he made the move, leaving behind his friends and band mates.

            Fahs originally decided to go into PR after seeing the movie “Thank You for Smoking”.

“I want to be the guy that creates one of the memorable ads like Budweiser or Geico,” said Fahs.

Convinced that being normal is boring, Fahs was attracted to the constant change that is the advertising field. He has traveled to Venice, Greece, France and London, all of which he loved for specific reasons, including history, nightlife, scenery and architecture.

            Like most young adults his age, Fahs enjoys random road trips with friends, writing poetry and song lyrics and working out. He can often be found riding his bike around campus, or around local Glassboro, consciously getting lost and trying to find adventure wherever he wanders.

            Unlike most young adults his age, Fahs is a cancer survivor. He underwent a 15 hour brain surgery to remove a tumor on April 1, 1998. He then was put through three months of chemotherapy, as well as radiation through the entire summer of that year.

Although he admits to short term memory loss and fatigue, it is a whole lot better than the predicted autism and paralysis that was expected after surgery.

            “You have to laugh at everything. Life sucks, you can’t deny that. But why get worked up when, in the big picture, it’s insignificant,” said Fahs.

            Fahs got interested in comedy after his surgery. He learned how to write a punch line at a local comedy club. He thought he could make light of his situation and help others like him by bringing his act to cancer and respiratory camps.

            One admiring child came up to him after his act, explaining how he died on the operating table and was brought back to life. “I beat Jesus,” he said. As Fahs told me the story, he smiled and looked away.

            He continues to visit these camps about once a month, as well as participating in Relay for Life here at Rowan.

            Fahs wasn’t always an optimistic person however. One of his most vivid memories was when he was a child, playing kickball at school. He wore a baseball hat then. It never left his head. Someone kicked the ball, which hit his hat and sent it flying. Embarrassed, he immediately retrieved it and put it back on.

            “Whenever people say ‘God bless you’ I just ask, if He loved me, why’d He let this happen,” said Fahs.

            His Jewish mother and Lutheran father didn’t really establish much religion in his life. He admitted that it never did much for him anyway.

            “It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re not hurting those around you,” added Fahs.

            Fahs has tremendous respect for the doctors that have helped save his life. He considers them family. He also is extremely grateful for his parents, for keeping everything together and being there for him. His top hero, however, is Tom Waits.

            “He’s an absolute God,” said Fahs.

            As for today, Fahs spends his days studying at Rowan, doing work for the advertising club, and being historian on the executive board of PRSSA. He has a core group of friends that he enjoys spending most of his time with as well.

            Fahs has a 19-year-old brother at Virginia Tech for engineering, a 14-year-old sister who wants to be a professional singer, and a beagle Lola, yes, like the song.

            Admitting he has a love/hate relationship with his life and his situation, he likes the fact that he isn’t normal.

            “Normal is boring,” said Fahs.

            Chocolate milkshakes and cherry water ice are just two of the simple pleasures that Fahs enjoys.

            “You are your own movie. It’s really not that bad,” said Fahs, sitting at his kitchen table drinking a Coke, and I couldn’t agree more.

Pennsauken Public Schools Combat H1N1

Written Fall 2009.

Pennsauken School District has come a long way since the outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus that shut down the Intermediate School last May.

            Action began in August to help prepare staff, parents and students for the threat of any outbreak. Measures being taken include staff meetings discussing techniques on how to handle specific cases, constant updates on the districts site with links to the Center for Disease Control and paperwork informing parents and guardians on school procedure.

            Last spring a number of students came to the nurse’s office with fevers and flu-like symptoms. The school contacted the health department who then instructed the Intermediate School to keep the children out for seven days.

            This year, any student with flu-like symptoms has to stay home from school until they have been fever free for at least 24 hours without medication. If the infected population grows, schools will return to the seven day mandatory absence policy.

            Camden County has approached the Pennsauken School District with the prospect of holding a vaccine clinic for public school students in Pennsauken and Merchantville. With a two thirds student consensus, the date has been set for December 12.

            Jane Campbell, nurse at Howard Phifer Middle School highly recommends getting this injection if it is available.

            “There are two forms of this vaccine. There is the nasal spray, which contains the live virus, and the injection, which is widely used because it is safer for a broader audience,” said Campbell.

            Anyone with underlying health problems such as asthma would not benefit from the nasal mist. In fact, it could make matters worse. In the cases of H1N1 that resulted in deaths, it was mostly because of the preexisting health conditions becoming worsened.

            With prevention and communication being the main focus points in their plan, Pennsauken schools stay in close contact with the health department and flu.gov, constantly updating their information and techniques.

            Meg Snyder, Chairperson for Pennsauken District nurses and nurse at Carson Elementary School, took charge in much of the planning. She ran a PowerPoint presentation, educating staff about the virus, as well as speaking to administrators and janitors on how to further prepare themselves for the worst case scenario.

            “We were able to get out ahead. We handed out fliers on the first day of school for all parents and guardians of students, and we took the action steps outlined by the CDC,” said Snyder.

            For the most part, parents have been cooperative, said Snyder. Although there was some frustration with the unavailability of the vaccine, she hopes that the clinic will settle the nerves of parents.

            Some parents and students are hesitant about receiving the vaccine. Snyder says they have nothing to worry about.

            “It’s just a flu vaccine. It’s manufactured the same way as any other; it’s just targeted towards a different virus. I don’t hesitate to recommend it,” she says.

            It is vital to remember that the H1N1 is a novel flu, which means it is new and before a couple months ago, no one had seen or heard of it before. This means there is no immunity to it. It seems to be targeting the under 25 age bracket, with chronic health conditions, or pregnant women.

            Pennsauken is gaining most of their information from the government flu site which contains video news briefs, as well as an interactive map which gives specific information on what is going on in each state concerning the flu.

            The measures being taken by Pennsauken have been successful thus far. There haven’t been any reported cases of the flu, but the schools aren’t taking any chances. Officials are pushing for the vaccine clinic and continuing to stay up to date and informed on what comes in from the CDC. 

Online Portfolio!

Hey All! It’s been quite a while, but I thought I’d do a little something to spark some interest (or not) in my writing. I’ve compiled seven of my favorite articles that I’ve written recently. Feel free to take a look and let me know what you think!

Three are in my blog roll because I can’t seem to figure out how to link them in this post. I’ll post the other four as posts. Enjoy!

Final Project

Here is Eric Dolezar, a Rowan University Radio/TV/Film major to tell his story about his trip to Jamaica.

Caitlin Lobitz is a nursing major at Thomas Jefferson University. She discusses her experience planning a trip to Key West.

A minute with Vicki Lattanzi, agent from Liberty Travel:

Have you had any students come in inquiring about winter vacations or even spring vacations?

VL: We get a lot of inquiry from students however most of the prices at this point end up being too high.

What locations they were looking at?

VL: Places like Cancun.

 Are there many affordable options for the college student on a budget? Any tips or ways to cut the costs?

VL: We have a few tour companies such as Top Deck and Contiki Tours that have some great prices to alternate destinations that I try to offer to some of the students that come. These 2 tour companies are budget tours catering to ages 18 to 30. They offer ski vacations, European vacations, Egypt and much more. The prices are very inexpensive and include some meals and sightseeing.  A great alternative.

Hopefully this serves as some inspiration to get out and plan a trip somewhere. Take the advice and tips provided to produce an adventure of your own! Remember, there are ways around spending a ton of money to go somewhere and do something fun! Best of luck!

Farewell post

Hello all. Well, here it is. My last (official) post. This was an interesting semester. I had high hopes for this blog and my class, and while some experiments exceeded my expectations, others failed badly. All in all, I’ve learned a lot about travel writing and the work that goes into it. And I was inspired to do some real traveling of my own in the process. For my last post, I interviewed a travel agent and two college students. The students told their stories of planning their own trips and the positives and negatives that came with it. They give some great insight into how to go about planning a trip over winter vacation, spring break or even something for the summer.

After my last post, I won’t be updating anymore. However, once I have the means to travel more often, I hope to start this back up. Thanks for all the support for this project and I hope to be back some time in the near future!