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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org