Northeast Pennsylvania Environmental Partners Announce Awards Dinner


August 17, 2017


Contact: Angela Vitkoski

Phone: 570-718-6507

Email: [email protected]


 27th Annual Evening for Northeast Pennsylvania’s Environment

The Northeast Environmental Partners (Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, PPL Corporation, Procter & Gamble Paper Products Company, and Wilkes University) are pleased to announce the 27th Annual Evening for Northeast Pennsylvania’s Environment will be held on Thursday, October 26, 2017 at the Woodlands Inn and Resort. This year’s event will feature Keynote Speaker Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary of PA DCNR  and Emcee Don Jacobs of WNEP’s Pennsylvania Outdoor Life.

Recipients of the 27th Annual Environmental Partnership Awards:

  • Paul Bechtel, Lackawanna County, for his commitment to partnering with numerous organizations on projects to improve the environment of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Paul consistently goes above and beyond in his activities including the design and construction of Lackawanna Heritage Valley’s Nay Aug Avenue Natural Play Area and the design and installation of a system of rain gardens at the Immaculate Heart of Mary campus.
  • Jeffrey Fleming, Lackawanna County, for his countless hours of volunteering and partnering with the D&H Rail Trail and the Countryside Conservancy Trolley Trail. Jeff has been an active committee member for both organizations and participated in numerous site clean ups, planning meetings, and student volunteer projects, he is often seen monitoring the trails for issues and is a good will ambassador for both trails.
  • Tom Kashatus, Luzerne County, for his partnership efforts with individuals, businesses, volunteer organizations, and public service entities. Tom initiated an environmental recycling program that not only keeps valuable metals from being discarded in local landfills, but turns these metals into funds which help sustain the Newport Township Community Organization so they can offer numerous programs and activities for area residents.
  • Gary Leander, Luzerne County, for his countless hours of volunteer work and partnering to sustain and expand the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails. Gary is involved in all aspects of this trail including building and maintaining it, conducting environmental monitoring and remediation of a stream that flows along the trail, coordinating volunteer efforts and promoting and educating the community about the trail.
  • Suskie Bassmasters, Luzerne County, for their partnership efforts and dedication to improving public access and use of the Susquehanna River Watershed by promoting environmental protection and responsible use of the river, its wetlands, and wildlife resources. Suskie has facilitated the installation of a 2-lane boat launch and canoe/kayak launch at Nesbitt park, installed a paved parking lot at Nesbitt Park with wetland mitigation, provided river access to disaster recovery officials during the flooding in 2011, and most recently purchased and installed solar lighting in the parking lot and boat launch area.
  • University of Scranton Sustainability Office, Lackawanna County, for their partnerships with organizations on numerous community minded projects such as BikeScranton, a free bike share program in the City of Scranton, a food composting program, and a community garden. The community garden boasts a diverse group of partners that plant, maintain and harvest the garden. In 2016, they donated over 600 pounds of food to the on-campus Leahy Health Center.
  • The Emerging Environmental Leader Award will be presented to Benjamin Oswald, Luzerne County, for demonstrating leadership, initiation, and dedication to protecting and promoting a healthy environment. Benjamin is currently a student at the Hazleton Area Academy of the Sciences. In addition to his rigorous academic course work, Benjamin also participates in the school’s ecology club and Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS). In the ecology club, Benjamin took the initiative to plan and execute a recycling program at the school and in PJAS he has competed both at the regional and state level. Benjamin also is a member of the National Honor Society and Future Business Leaders of America. Benjamin is very active in the community, he serves as the Conyngham Junior Councilman in the Borough of Conyngham, is an active Boy Scout who has served various leadership positions, and has attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

The 23rd Annual Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award will be presented to Dennis DeMara, Carbon County. Mr. DeMara is being honored for his years of dedication and commitment to the environment. For more than 40 years, Mr. DeMara has been a strong advocate in the conservation and outdoor recreation work that has made northeastern Pennsylvania a special, beautiful and scenic part of the Commonwealth. Mr. DeMara holds a long-standing connection to the local conservation community. During his career as the County Parks Director for Carbon County, he was instrumental in bringing state-of-the-art facilitates and nationally recognized programs to the local community. Mr. DeMara had a vision for the County’s Mauch Chunk Lake Park and to achieve this vision he and his staff engaged with the PA Conservation Corp, to provide young men and women the opportunity to learn a trade while making improvements at the park. This partnership earned the park the Top Conservation Youth Service Corp award and brought the park national recognition as the National Watershed of the Year due to the conservation and outdoor recreation projects completed. Also, while at the County, Mr. DeMara spurred an interest and assisted in the establishment of the Carbon County Environmental Education Center and worked to create the 18-mile Switchback Gravity Railroad Trail in 1977, one of the first rail-to-trails projects in the country.

For more than 13 years, he served a 14-county area in northeastern Pennsylvania and quickly saw the opportunity for the numerous conservation entities serving northeast Pennsylvania to work more closely together. He was instrumental in forming formal collaborations that, due to his leadership, resulted in the protection of more than 30,000 acres of open space and the implementation of countless community-related programs, many of which continue to this day.

He continues to spark new, creative ways for conservation and environmental education to be a priority in the local community, holding true to the belief that the working together makes a community stronger.

For more information on the awards dinner or to receive an invitation, please contact PEC at 570-718-6507 or visit the website at and click on “events.”



About the Pennsylvania Environmental Council

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is a statewide organization that brings people, government, and business together to find real world solutions for environmental challenges. These solutions bring about sustainable communities, protect our water resources, and address energy and climate issues. PEC was founded in 1970 and serves the entire state through offices in Luzerne, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.