Building Capacity for Watershed Organizations

PEC is leading a statewide initiative to engage watershed groups and provide a forum to identify capacity and technical needs and share resource information.

Working through a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Growing Greener Grant, PEC is working to conduct a series of regional watershed group workshops in each of DEP’s six regions in the spring of 2016. The purpose of these meetings is to provide a forum to identify capacity and technical needs and share resource information. We also will gather recommendations for regional and statewide initiatives aimed to help organization’s watershed protection efforts.

Following the regional meetings, a statewide watershed conference will be planned for late 2016 or early 2017.

To help us plan the content of each regional meeting, we designed a very brief survey to learn about the current capacity and technical needs most important to your organization. PEC surveyed over 250 watershed groups in Pennsylvania to help identify and understand organizational capacity needs in order to link organizations to available tools and discuss ongoing technical and funding opportunities.

The goals of the program are two-fold: 

  • Increase organizational capacity of watershed groups to be sustainable and continue to address water resource issues
  • Increase technical capacity of local citizen groups to improve and protect water quality
May 6, 2016

Pennsylvania Regional Watershed Group Workshops: Updates and Reflections

Through a series of Pennsylvania regional watershed workshops across the Commonwealth, PEC has had the opportunity to meet with representatives from over 60 Pennsylvania watershed organizations in March and April.

Northcentral Watershed meeting

Paco Olliverides of the River Network discusses member recruitment at the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Watershed Workshop.

This effort — funded through a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Growing Greener Grant — is intended to identify local watershed groups’ organizational capacity needs and provide opportunities for shared learning and networking, as well as targeted technical assistance. Through the regional gatherings PEC heard from a wide range of participants, including staff and board members of watershed and conservation groups, county conservation district watershed specialists, DEP and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) specialists, and regional and national non-profit environmental organizations.

Participants learned about member and volunteer recruitment opportunities from leaders such as Mary-Ellen Olcese and Paco Ollervides from the River Network, Melinda Hughes from Nature Abounds, PEC’s Marla Papernick, along with Erin Frederick and Rebecca Kennedy representing the Pennsylvania Master Watershed Steward Program.

New water resource monitoring and modeling tools were summarized by experts from the Stroud Water Research Center including John Jackson and Matt Ehrhart. Debra Frawley and PEC staff members Frank Maguire and Paul Racette introduced participants to the Water Resource PA online mapping tool that PEC is currently developing.

An update on the resources available via the Pennsylvania Organization of Watersheds and Rivers (POWR) was provided by PEC Vice President Janet Sweeney. DEP’s Diane Wilson and DCNR’s Kelly Rossiter shared watershed program funding opportunities with the groups as well.

PEC’s workshops were held in a variety of venues including the J. Roy Houston Conservation Center of the Westmoreland County Conservation District in Greensburg, the Trails and Trees Environmental Education Center in Mechanicsburg, the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority Office in Scranton, Freedom Hall in the Upper Merion Township Municipal Building, and the Schlow Centre Region Library in State College.

Watershed photo Patrick Starr photo 2

PEC Executive Vice President Patrick Starr addresses the group at the South Central Pennsylvania Regional Watershed Workshop.

PEC Executive Vice President Patrick Starr opened several of the workshops and summarized PEC’s statewide program initiatives. PEC received additional support from staff members Lizzie Hessek, Angela Vitkoski, Paul Racette, Sweeney, Papernick, and Maguire who all participated in the workshops and provided planning and logistic support along the way.

Traveling around the state and convening many watershed organizations about their unique challenges and concerns was valuable in numerous ways. PEC was able to gain build its understanding of shared concerns about organizational sustainability, member recruitment, and fundraising. PEC also heard firsthand about the need for training in using online GIS tools and stream quality monitoring program development. Next steps include scheduling the Northwest Regional Watershed Workshop and planning a state-wide watershed conference for the spring of 2017.

PEC’s goal is to increase the ability of the hundreds of watershed organizations in Pennsylvania to continue their great work well into the future.

For more information on this project, please contact Susan Myerov at

March 23, 2016

Regional Watershed Workshops Kick Off With Event in Southwest Pennsylvania

On March 8, PEC officially held the first of six regional watershed group workshops as part of a statewide initiative aimed at building local capacity for stewardship.

Funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Growing Greener program, PEC surveyed over 250 watershed groups in Pennsylvania to help identify and understand organizational capacity needs in order to link organizations to available tools and discuss ongoing technical and funding opportunities.

Hosted at the beautiful J. Roy Houston Conservation Center in Greensburg — home of the Westmoreland Conservation District — we presented a program with information on volunteer and member recruitment and GIS and online mapping tools. We also reviewed funding opportunities from regional conservation organizations, private foundations, and state agencies.

Over 20 representatives from watershed groups including water specialists from five counties within the southwestern region of Pennsylvania were in attendance. Attendees had an opportunity to share their watershed’s special qualities as well as current challenges. We shared survey results with the group specifically for the southwest region and asked for input on a future statewide watershed conference.

Many thanks the Westmoreland County Conservation District for hosting the event and thank you to our presenters including Deb Frawley, Nature Abounds President Melinda Hughes, Jenifer Christman, Associate Vice President of Watershed Conservation Programs at the Western PA Conservancy, and PEC’s Marla Papernick.

The second of our six watershed workshops will be our Southcentral Pennsylvania workshop, scheduled for March 31 in Mechanicsburg.

Click here for more information and to register for upcoming watershed meetings in your region. 

List of Upcoming Regional Watershed Workshops
  • Southcentral Regional Workshop
    March 31
    Trails and Trees Environmental Center
    1731 York St.
    Mechanicsburg, PA  17005
    10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Northeast Regional Workshop
    April 6
    Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority
    213 South 7th Avenue
    Scranton, PA  18505
    10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Southeast Regional Workshop
    April 14
    Upper Merion Township Building
    175 West Valley Forge Road
    King of Prussia, PA  19406
    10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Northcentral Regional Workshop
    April 27
    Schlow Centre Region Library – Downsbrough Reading Room
    211 S. Allen Street,
    State College, PA 16801
    1 -5 p.m.
  • Northwest Regional Workshop
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