FALMOUTH — For Andy van Dam of Barrington, R.I., it took six hours to ride 75 miles and travel a half-century back in time.
“I lived on Oyster Pond Road,” van Dam, 72, said Sunday at Quissett Harbor minutes after completing the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s fifth annual Watershed Ride.
In the early 1950s, van Dam had a paper route and mowed lawns in the area. His father worked at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution after the family immigrated from the Netherlands.
“I know this bike path,” he said, adding that he also knows the pressures facing the Buzzards Bay watershed.
The fundraising ride from Westport on the west shore of the bay north to the Bourne Bridge and south to Woods Hole was beautiful, van Dam said. “It’s a great way to raise money for the coalition and to raise awareness.”
More than 100 riders were welcomed across the finish line at Quissett Harbor with a live band, cowbells, burgers and beer. On one side, dories and sailboats filled the calm harbor waters. On the other side, the bay sparkled like a field of diamonds in Sunday’s unexpected sunshine.
The roughly $60,000 raised will go to efforts by the Buzzards Bay Coalition to protect the watershed, according to organizers. A $10,000 donation from Keeper Springs, an organization co-founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will help increase protections against oil spills from tankers in the bay.
“They’re seeing salt marshes, open water, cranberry bogs,” said Rob Hancock, vice president of education and public engagement for the coalition, referring to the cyclists. “You get to see what makes this part of the world so special.”
The money raised by the riders goes to educate the public and combat the problems the bay faces, including the effects of development, he said.
“The largest threat facing Buzzards Bay is nitrogen pollution,” Hancock said.
Buzzards Bay Coalition has joined the Conservation Law Foundation in filing two lawsuits against the United States Environmental Protection Agency to speed up efforts to reduce nitrogen flowing from septic systems and other sources into Cape Cod’s bays and ponds. In the second suit filed last month, the environmental groups argue that the EPA failed to adequately update and oversee a regional plan to address the Cape’s wastewater management needs.
“We need a plan of action,” Hancock said. “It’s not just what we need, but it’s required by the Clean Water Act.”
A portion of the money that has gone into the fight to protect the bay comes from what some might consider a surprising source: plastic water bottles.
Keeper Springs sells bottled water and then turns 100 percent of the profits over to the international clean water advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance and 13 Waterkeepers across the U.S. More than 50 percent of the plastic used in the bottles is recycled, according to the organization’s website.
The bottles are sold in Stop & Shops across the Cape and in other locations elsewhere, said Mary Ellen McCooey, head of marketing for Spring Keepers.
In the past, all of the money went to the Waterkeeper Alliance but now the money also goes to local Waterkeeper groups so that consumers can link their purchase to work in a place they know, said Michael Hoare with Keeper Springs.
The Keeper Springs contribution will help Buzzards Bay Coalition continue its work to convince the U.S. Coast Guard to require that escort tugs and local pilots be used by both single and double-hulled oil tankers passing through the bay, said coalition president Mark Rasmussen.
With all of the debate and legal action surrounding the oil spill issue in recent years, Rasmussen said he would be surprised if the Coast Guard didn’t bring its regulations more in line with a stricter state law enacted in the wake of the 2003 Bouchard oil spill.