Save The Bay seal watches from Westerly and Newport in Narragansett Bay have been connecting environmentally conscious tourists and residents to this fragile natural area for the past 12 years.
“There’s demand for it: People really respond and appreciate what we offer,” Executive Director Jonathan Stone told Providence Business News.
The seal watches, a lighthouse tour, Prudence Island tour, and new this year, a marine science tour, comprise the ecotourism offerings that have grown out of robust educational programming at the nonprofit, Stone said.
Save The Bay’s ecotourism programs represent a sliver of the nonprofit’s approximately $3.5 million annual revenue – about $150,000 in 2013, says Stone – but have grown by 20 percent a year over the past five years. The educational programming, by comparison, represents about 40 percent of revenue, he said.
“Much of our emphasis in terms of advocacy is to clean up pollution that undermines the health of the bay,” Stone said. “It’s critically important that voters, when they are asked to consider [public] investments, understand that connection. The ecotourism programs allow us to make that connection.”
Rhode Island residents and voters are asked often to consider investments in clean water, Stone added. There are 19 wastewater treatment plants in the state and sewer fees and other costs associated with them, he said.
A self-described nature-conscious “tree hugger,” Lisa Kahn, 59, of Coventry, has taken two seal-watch tours and a lighthouse tour since becoming a member of Save The Bay three years ago. In March she enjoyed watching her 7-year-old grandson get excited eyeing the seals. She has since taken on a volunteer internship in the organization’s communication office, she said.