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Expanding the Conversation about the Chesapeake

2010 August 20

By Scott Fraser

ELN members kayaking

Would you kayak, bike and run over 100 miles in the sweltering August heat? OK, how about if it were for a good cause? Well we’ve got a few takers for such an adventure here at EPA.

An EPA employee  group called the Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) is setting out on an Expedition from DC to the Chesapeake Bay to help raise awareness about one of our nation’s environmental treasures. This group of athletes and volunteers has been preparing for months not only for the physical endurance needed, but also to plan for listening sessions with the public along the way.

Now I like a good challenge and have raced in several Olympic distance triathlons over the years, so I was looking forward to joining the athletes. However, when ELN began planning the Expedition months ago I was already signed up to compete in the Timberman ½ Ironman the weekend before the Expedition. As it turns out, I had to withdraw from that competition due to a sore back. Let’s just say it’s important to use proper form when shoveling through feet of snow – thanks Snowpocalypse 1 and 2!

Back to the Expedition: it runs from August 26th through the 29th and the ELN Expedition Team will make their way through some of the Chesapeake Bay watershed – which covers over 64,000 square miles – to generate conversation about the environmental issues facing the Bay. The team will meet with citizens along the way to hear their ideas for protecting this vital resource. En route, athletes will describe their trek and what they’ve learned from the listening sessions through blog posts, Facebook entries, Flickr photo galleries, and Twitter. Check back to follow the Team and contribute to the conversation.

I think it’s so cool how this Expedition effort coincides with the work I’m now focused on in my new position with the Office of Public Engagement. So although I’m bummed I can’t endure the August heat exercising with the athletes, I’m excited to accompany this group and interact with the public on the lessons we’ll learn along the way (every successful expedition needs its sherpa).

About the author: Scott Fraser is currently working in the Office of Public Engagement in EPA’s Office of the Administrator. He has been with the Agency for five years and is fired up to expand the conversation on environmentalism! Stay tuned next year when he hits the triathlon circuit again and describes the joy of training outdoors.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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14 Responses leave one →
  1. Patricia Young permalink
    August 20, 2010

    Sounds fantastic. I know I could not keep up. What are your contingencies for emergencies? I’ll be tuning in to see how the effort works out. Thanks.

    Sincerely,

    P. Young

  2. Stephanie McGhee permalink
    August 21, 2010

    I hope that your back is feeling better and that this expedition, while not being physically involved, will help it to have some down time and heal. What a great way to stay involved and talk with the people. I look forward to reading about the events as they unfold and to learn more about this adventure. I am guessing that once this is successful, the ELN will tackle other environmental treasures to bring awareness to? Stay safe and tell all!

  3. August 22, 2010

    Sounds like a great expedition for a great cause. Good job EPA!

  4. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    August 22, 2010

    This is a great way for the people in the agency to actually reachout to and interact directly with members of the public and get information on issues concerning the Bay that are not being filtered. Direct communication agency staff with the people they serve is a great thing. It is one thing in the overall toolbox but a teriffic thing. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  5. Michael Nolan Raleigh permalink
    August 23, 2010

    Wow. This sounds like a great idea. Michael Nolan Raleigh NC

  6. Lindsey Campbell permalink
    August 23, 2010

    Scott,

    First of all, props to you for battling triathlons. They aren’t easy, and it takes a lot of determination and hard work to just COMPLETE one.

    Second, I think it’s awesome that you’re getting “testimonials” from people who live around and use the Chesapeake Bay. These are the people that can reiterate just important protecting it and maintaining it is. In fact, this wind energy company used testimonials from people living in wind farm towns to convince other towns resistant to wind farms to change their minds. All in all, I’d say the method is effective.

    Awesome job! Keep up the good work.

  7. Scott Fraser permalink
    August 23, 2010

    Thanks for your encouragement Lindsey! I once lamented over my slow triathlon finish time to a race organizer, and he said, “You claimed victory at the starting line.”

    Well I feel that in some ways we are at the starting line with expanding the conversation on protecting the Bay. There’s been a lot of great restoration work done to improve conditions, as evidenced by the Bay Health Index score increasing from 38.8% in 2008 to 45.1% in 2009 of goal achieved (see http://www.chesapeakebay.net). But the overall poor health of the Bay means we’ve got to do more. And by “we” I mean everybody and especially those in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

    There’s a lot you can learn from the people who are most passionate about this ecological gem right from their back yards! Thank you for joining the conversation.

  8. Scott Fraser permalink
    August 23, 2010

    Thanks Stephanie! I am amazed at how long it’s taken my back to heal from just a minor “tweak” but I’m sure anyone that’s experienced a herniated disk can attest to how much of a drag it is. My back has gotten better, as has areas of the Chesapeake Bay’s health, but unfortunately for the Bay it will take a much longer time than a few months to completely heal.

    By creating awareness of the issues that surround this amazing resource, more people will begin to learn and appreciate the Bay and actively participate in its restoration. Whether it’s working on policies at the highest level, like President Obama’s Executive Order, or simply choosing a more sustainable alternative to fertilizing your lawn or recycling that plastic bottle instead of tossing it out, there’s something that everyone can do to contribute.

  9. Scott Fraser permalink
    August 23, 2010

    Thanks Michael, we think so too! Here’s a link to a website that gives more info on how to follow along with the Expedition via Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

    http://epa.gov/epahome/bayexpedition.html

  10. Peter Fargo permalink
    August 24, 2010

    Hi Patricia — thanks for your interest! I’m one of the ELN coordinators for our Chesapeake Bay Expedition. I’m sure you could keep up if you trained since May, as the 18 athletes have been doing. We do have contingencies for emergencies, and much more, thanks to our experienced guides from Georgetown University Outdoor Education. Looking forward to more of your comments and questions!

  11. Elizabeth Van Riper permalink
    August 24, 2010

    I think your position sounds very interesting. I like the idea of bringing awareness and dialogue about our environmental issues to our communities in a form that is accessible. Obvisouly the science. technology and politics are important, but helping people understand the vocabulary and issues on a visceral and personal level will motivate personal engagement. When they feel they understand the stakes and what they can do to participate on an individual basis, they are more likely to take action. Keep up getting the word out there…Enjoy the Bay trip…that is a story in itself!

  12. Jim Fraser permalink
    August 25, 2010

    This is a great idea for getting the public involved in the EPA… and an opportunity for the ELN group to get public input concerning the Bay. I like that you call them “listening sessions”.

    I’ll be very interested to read about the public interaction during your trip. Good luck and have fun.

  13. Charles permalink
    September 1, 2010

    Do this an an annual event to help maintain awareness of Bay problems and progress (or lack of any progress – NONaction by feds & states who generally go soft on Bay polluters but otherwise do a lot of photogenic “we must” hand-wringing).

    But I bet lots of people would join you, esp if you involve other activity groups like Washington Area Bike Association. Get some dilettante TV reporters to come along, too; they think ratings.

  14. Kristen Kiselewich permalink
    September 23, 2010

    What’s so neat is that you can literally “feel” the passion radiating from the posts from the Expedition! I love it. Pictures are good, and I like how everyone put a personal spin on his/her post. Like how you included links as well (I definitely want to find out more about the Accokeek Foundation).

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