Volunteers helped plant marsh grass in Stump Sound despite oppressive heat and humidity.

Volunteers helped the North Carolina Coastal Federation complete the fifth phase of its restoration work at the Morris Landing Clean Water Preserve near Stump Sound in Holly Ridge in Onslow County.

On Wednesday, July 27 — the hottest day of the year so far — 18 volunteers worked to enhance and restore salt marsh habitat along the shores of Stump Sound. The group included an instructor, Chef Valerie Mason, and her seven students from the Farm to Table class at Cape Fear Community College. Mason wanted to provide her students with a chance to see where local shrimp and crabs come from and at the same time, donate some sweat equity to ensure future harvests of local sea food.

“It’s inspiring to see such a great and diverse group of volunteers battle extreme heat to help restore our coast,” said Ted Wilgis, the federation’s southeast coastal education coordinator. “Our volunteers enable us to get an incredible amount of work accomplished.”

The hardworking group planted approximately 2,000 smooth cordgrass plugs at low tide along the shores of the Morris Landing Clean Water Preserve. In addition to being a vital nursery habitat and source of food, salt marshes help hold in sediment to decrease erosion and filter pollutants from the water.

The participants were able to witness this as they pulled seine nets during lunch that were filled with juvenile spot, croaker, mullet, shrimp and crabs. The culinary students were amazed at the abundance pulled from the sound, and they gained new appreciation for a healthy coast.

The event was part of a larger project to restore habitats and improve water quality in Stump Sound by planting marsh grass and restoring oyster reefs. Healthy habitats and clean water bolster the importance of the recreational access provided by Morris Landing.

Stump Sound was also a focal point in the federation’s early history when it worked with shellfish growers and harvesters to protect Permuda Island. The federation has worked with partners on habitat restoration projects in the sound for more than 11 years, after the North Carolina Clean Water Trust Fund awarded a grant of almost $1 million to the federation so it could purchase Morris Landing in 2004. Work began the next year with Phase I, when the federation and other partners constructed a 600-foot living shoreline that helped restore estuarine shoreline. Morris Landing has also enabled the Division of Marine Fisheries and the federation to expand shellfish enhancement activities in the area.

Since that first project in 2005, the federation has completed four additional phases. In total, the federation and partners have built 1,640-feet of living shoreline in Stump Sound using marsh grass, oyster bags and stone. This fall, volunteers will be on-site again to help with the ecological monitoring of the projects.

Volunteers from the community have played a huge part in making these projects successful. Various organizations have also helped fund the projects.

For more information on volunteer opportunities in the southeast region, contact Ted Wilgis at or Jessica Gray at All volunteers events are also listed at