by Marven Moss
SoundWaters and the Young Mariners Foundation have agreed to merge under the SoundWaters brand to enhance the educational opportunities they offer to students in Stamford and environs, many of them underserved.
“What emerges,” said a statement, “is a highly synergistic coalition of nonprofits with a focus on the underserved community, committed to enriching the quality of the educational experience for young people and the protection of Long Island Sound.”
“Together we will also transform Stamford Harbor into a vibrant destination for the Waterside neighborhood and the larger community, helping to make the harbor a clean, swimmable resource.”
Scott Mitchell and Tom O’Connell of Greenwich, the board chairmen of the two nonprofits, issued the statement with Dr. Leigh Shemitz, the president of SoundWaters. The merger becomes effective Jan. 29.
O’Connell joins the executive committee of a reconstituted board of directors with three members of the Young Mariners Foundation, Maureen Baillie, Greg Gigliotti and Fred Lorthioir.
Other members of the foundation’s board and volunteers are being added to the SoundWaters administrative committees.
The partnership intends to revitalize Boccuzzi Park (formerly Southfield Park) on Southfield Avenue over the next three years, converting the Young Mariners Foundation property into a robust ecological and economic zone, upgrading and expanding the Harbor Center in the Waterside section of Stamford Harbor into a flourishing educational center and sailing facility for adults and students alike.
In addition, the site provides docking facilities for the three-masted schooner SoundWaters, an 80-foot replica of an 18th-Century sailing ship that serves as a floating laboratory for studying the coastal waters and biodiversity of the sound, a region that encompasses a population of 20 million.
Since SoundWaters (www.soundwaters.org) was established 26 years ago, operating out of the Coastal Education Center and Laboratory (at 1281 Cove Rd.) in Cove Island Park, Stamford, upwards of 250,000 students have learned the tactics of sailing and studied the ecosystem of the Sound with its tidal marshes and wildlife and marine habit.
On the Sound itself, the students explore the coastal field sites on the rocky shore, the sandy beaches and the salt marshes, examining the cycles of marine life, the feeding adaptations, the survival rates and the interconnectedness of the habitat.
The Young Mariners Program — which has provided afterschool enrichment classes and summer sailing camping for more than 2,400 student over the past 18 years — meanwhile folds into SoundWaters as the Young Mariners Academy, continuing at Stamford Harbor and Greenwich Point in collaboration with the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club.
At the same time, the coalition allows for expanding the SoundWaters Academy called STEM — for science, technology, engineering and mathematics—to 100 students headed for grade five this year in Stamford’s public schools, ultimately to be adapted and exported to other communities in Connecticut and across the U.S.
The Harbor Center meanwhile would become an anchor for the Mill River Greenway and the stewardship of Stamford Harbor.