The North and South Rivers Watershed Association held their annual meeting on Friday, November 4, with a full house at the South Shore Natural Science Center. The year 2016 has seen lots of changes for the NSRWA. Two long time staffers (or half of the staff) left the organization. Paula Christie, the assistant director for 20 years and Debbie Cook the Communications and Marketing Director for 8 years, both retired in 2015. That has been bittersweet, we miss the wisdom of those staff members, but with every chapter closing a new one begins.
Two new staff members came on board, our new Director of Marketing and Communications Lori Wolfe, came to us from the South Shore Natural Science Center. Gabriela Silva, our new Director of Development and Community Engagement, was the former assistant director of The Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts.
We also said goodbye to two of our board members, Kathyrn Robichau and Tom Pratt, and thanked them for their service. Our outgoing president, Peter Kelly-Detwiler, was honored for his outstanding leadership and given an “Ask me about the Rivers” shirt since he is always telling everyone about our rivers and is definitely one of our best ambassadors! Incoming board members, Deb Ryan, Caleb Estabrooks and Tad Beagley were nominated and approved for the upcoming two year term. The officers elected for the coming year are President Sally Caverly, Vice President Deborah Lenahan, Treasurer Rick Mayfield, and Secretary Barbara Carney.
Not only have we invested in people this year, but we have also begun to invest in more technology to support them. In the world of the internet we must be using technology to both capture audience and retain them, and to do that the organization has upgraded its donor management systems and integrated them with our online communications. We believe these investments, both in our staff and the tools needed to accomplish our work, are critical to keeping the organization vital and sustainable.
This year we also embarked upon a new strategic plan that will carry us forward through 2020. We have defined three major programs that we have made into an equation – Engagement + Education = Healthy Rivers. This simple equation, we believe, tells people what the Watershed Association does and what our goal is. And we have redefined and simplified what we believe the purpose of the organization is: To Inspire a community stewards dedicated to a healthy and vibrant watershed.
In 2016, more than 2,500 students were educated in our Water All Around You program. Since 2010 we have had over 15,000 students from 10 communities on the South Shore go through our program, where they learn where their water comes from, where it goes, what the threats to it are and how to save it. Not to mention the 350 parent volunteers we recruit annually to help teach the program!
In 2016 we also began a new program to engage youth in discovering our estuary – the Estuary Explorers program. Funded through a grant from Battelle in Norwell, we used our pontoon boat to partner with 7 youth based organizations to provide free estuary exploration trips to 132 youth and their counselors. Groups included South Shore Stars, South Shore YMCA, South Shore Natural Science Center, Marshfield Boys and Girls Club, Mass Audubon and two high school groups – one an Environmental Science class from the South Shore Vocational High School and the other an Environmental Science Club from Rockland High School.
In the program, school-aged youth are brought out onto the North River estuary by boat and to the Spit, to perform scientific explorations of the estuarine environment through guided hands-on activities. Examples of these activities include taking temperature and salinity profiles in the water column, conducting phytoplankton tows with microscopic examination, and exploring salt marsh zonation and peat development. Our Estuary Explorers program is intended to complement the science education schools provide through their STEM curriculum during the school year by facilitating environmental education during the summer months in a hands-on, meaningful, and fun way. Four students and their teacher from the Rockland High School Environmental Club came to the annual meeting and spoke about the impact the program had on them. It was really inspiring to hear from all of the students, and especially nice to hear how we’ve made a connection with like-minded environmentalists. We are hoping to partner with them on projects in the future.
This year we also launched a new program to engage local businesses in saving our water. This effort, funded through the McKim Family Foundation and through our towns, has resulted in us providing water conservation assessments to 7 businesses throughout the South Shore. The assessments look at all aspects of water use and water pollution on their property and provide recommendations to businesses on how they can reduce water consumption and pollution through upgrades and behavior changes. We also provide an estimate of the costs and benefits to doing the upgrades so the business can assess how the reduction in water costs would pay for the upgrades over time. Already, three of the businesses have taken some actions to reduce their water footprint by upgrading their aerators and toilets, decreasing outdoor irrigation and providing staff training on water saving behaviors.
And finally, after over a decade of work, we were awarded the last $100,000.00 needed to finally remove the Tack Factory dam owned by the Cardinal Cushing Centers on the Third Herring Brook! This project will open over 8 miles of stream to migration for herring and other fish for the first time in over 340 years! We are starting the construction project this November or December and hope you will be able to join us on our upcoming New Year’s Day Walk to the site through the Cardinal Cushing property.
But the story doesn’t end with the removal of the dam – that is just the beginning. In order to complete the story, we need to be able to tell people what happened after we took out the dam. In order to do that, we need to raise the funds to tag the fish and monitor the health of the river as it comes back. So please support our Bring Back the Brook campaign. You can find more information on our website nsrwa.org.
Every year the association bestows upon an individual or group the Barbara Pearson River Champion Memorial Award to showcase exemplary efforts in furthering our mission. This year’s award went to Jay Wennemer, the recently retired Conservation Agent from the town of Marshfield. Jay has been an outstanding, passionate, professional partner to work with during the last 14 years and his work has had an incredible impact in protecting our rivers and watershed. The Volunteer of the Year award was presented to former NSRWA intern Rowan Lowell. Rowan was an outstanding volunteer, reliable, motivated, and knowledgeable, with a great “can-do” attitude. She was always eager to participate in projects, demonstrated strong leadership when working with others, and provided excellent support to our organization in our scientific, database management, development, community engagement, educational, and outreach programs and events. We thank both of these outstanding individuals for their contributions to the work of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association.
These are just some of the accomplishments that you, our volunteers and donors, helped us to achieve in 2016. Quite literally, this work – to engage, educate, and inspire people to insure healthy rivers could not be done without you. Thank you.