Last updateMon, 29 Apr 2019 1pm


Urban Coast Institute Honors Former New Jersey Governors

Urban Coast GovernersThe University’s Urban Coast Institute (UCI) honored former New Jersey Governors Thomas Kean and James Florio at the 14th Annual Coastal and Ocean Champion Awards at Wilson Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Florio and Kean received the UCI’s highest honor, the National Ocean Champions Award, for their advocacy in environmental and coastal protection in office, and their current leadership in the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance (NJCAA). The NJCAA is a network of partner organizations dedicated to enhancing New Jersey’s capacity to plan for and respond to climate changes. 

“Governors Jim Florio and Tom Kean are well deserving of UCI’s National Ocean Champions award,” said Tony MacDonald, Director of the UCI.  He explained that Florio’s and Kean’s many actions over the years have led to, “the reduction of marine debris, the phase out of ocean dumping, opposition to offshore oil and gas development, and support for protection of the Jersey Shore we all love,” which led to the UCI’s decision to honor the governors with this prestigious award. 

MacDonald explained that for 14 years, the UCI has brought national and state leaders to the University in order to acknowledge and honor their work and commitment to coastal and ocean issues. “Hopefully, bringing leaders of this stature to campus will inspire our students and local leaders, as well as to reflect to the broader community UCI’s and Monmouth’s aspiration to be a center of expertise to inform ocean and coastal management efforts,” he said.

“As an ocean research and policy institute within ‘The Coastal University,’ we feel a special obligation to shore communities on timely marine issues. Each year this event brings nationally respected leaders and scientists to Monmouth for a valuable dialogue with students, faculty, and members of the public,” said Karl Vilacoba, the UCI’s Communication Director

Vilacoba said that in the late 1980s, the Jersey Shore’s pollution problems were at their worst. “I’ll never forget the disgust I felt when I’d show up to find that the ocean was off limits again because of red tides, raw sewage or medical waste washing ashore,” he said. “I would pinpoint that as the moment I first became an environmentalist.”

Vilacoba continued, and explained that Kean and Florio put several environmental policies in place when they each were in office. “Those [policies] were responsible for turning things around,” he said. “We just went through a tough summer, with the heavy rains causing some of the state’s older combined sewer systems to wash waste on to our beaches. It brought back memories but was not really comparable to the bad old days, which are hopefully long gone thanks to the work of our 2018 Champions of the Ocean and New Jersey’s Coastal Management Program.”

Vilacoba noted that the annual event is a great for the University to showcase its efforts made on campus, through the UCI and overall. In addition, he explained that the event is a key fundraising event each year. Proceeds from the annual Coastal and Ocean Champion awards reception support UCI and funding for student research at the University.  

Kaitlyn Smith, a senior marine and environmental biology and policy student, and a research assistant at the UCI, explained that the event is aimed at inspiring attendees to contribute their own efforts toward climate change preparedness. “I hope those who attended the event acknowledge the dedication of the six honorary members and see the value of mitigating environmental issues as a collaborative community,” she stated.

Smith explained that the annual event also showcases the opportunities that students at the University have through their education and community involvement. “Monmouth University provides the academic platform of scientific research and environmental policy that will prepare students to follow in the footsteps of Kean and Florio,” she said.

The Coastal and Ocean Champions Awards reception this year also celebrated the 40th Anniversary of New Jersey Coastal Management Program.  MacDonald explained that since the establishment of the Program in 1978, “New Jersey’s waters and beaches are significantly cleaner, development is better managed to reduce impacts, and our communities are better prepared for the next coastal storm.”

“There is nothing more important than supporting and inspiring our next generation of ocean champions,” said MacDonald. “Perhaps in what seems like very contentious times, the legacy of Kean and Florio will remind us that our coastal and ocean resources are not a partisan issue but, rather, are a public trust resource that belong to everyone.”

IMAGE TAKEN from NJ Spotlight

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