EXPIRED: 12/15/09 – Derickson Bennett, 79, was a pioneering environmentalist who crusaded to protect New Jersey’s fragile coastal areas from pollution and overdevelopment.
He loved the coast and the ocean and spent summers of his youth in the seaside town of summered Avalon, N.J. He earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from Amherst College in Massachusetts and was a diver in the Navy. When home on leave, he would head straight to Avalon and remain barefoot until he had to go back.
Eventually, that love of the sea caused him to found the movement that championed the federal Clean Water Act. Based in Sandy Hook, N.J., it’s dedicated to protecting coastal environments on the East Coast and lobbies on coastal land use and water quality.
When he founded group it was during the politically charged ’60s, and much easier to rally followers. People could see things like raw sewage and medical waste washing up on the beaches, and want to get involved. These days it’s harder to get people riled up when you’re talking about clean water issues in more scientific ways – in ‘parts per billion’ – so advocacy is more difficult.
In 2003 Bennett became the society’s director of special projects, and focused on educating children about the environment and working on hot-button issues such as public beach access at the Jersey Shore.
A good day was anyday that included a swim.