Restoring Natural Beauty

 Madeleine, a high school student who has been involved with the Girl Scouts since the first grade, wanted to make a difference.  It’s what the Girl Scouts had taught her –make a difference, be passionate about what you believe in, and use your voice to make it happen.

And she did.

She thought about how humans impact the environment and was looking to earn the Girl Scouts’ top honor, the Gold Award. She looked into recycling and prairie restoration, but found wetlands to be the most compelling because she learned they were in dire need of help to recover from erosion in her county. Over the last 70 years, they had experienced an unparalleled rate of loss.  If something wasn’t done, the wetlands would be lost forever.  They needed a voice to help them, so Madeleine became their voice.

With her mother’s assistance, she settled on a wetland in Holliday Park because restoration could be planned in a short amount of time, it was in her home county and it wouldn’t require a backhoe to rent.  Madeleine became the coordinator, organizer, and leader in the effort to restore several locally extinct wetland species at the park.  On a rainy September afternoon, her project group planted golden alexanders, white turtleheads, and marsh marigolds –just to name a few –while getting muddy because of the rain.  Madeleine chose these high quality wetland plants because they were self-sustaining and had been driven to extinction due to habitat loss and urbanization. They were native to the park and would thrive.  After about 2 hours of being knee deep in mud, the planting was completed. 

Now Madeleine is developing an outreach plan to educate the public about the importance of wetlands to their community by creating a species brochure, organizing workshops for local Brownie troops, and educating volunteer naturalists on the critical nature of wetlands. So far, her efforts are a success!  Trail guides often mention their excitement over Madeleine’s project when leading tour groups.

For Madeliene, the project brought the importance of caring about native wetlands and environmental issues home. She is thinking about studying environmental law in the future.  

How are your actions saving your environment and the planet?  Let us know!

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5.  She recently received her dual graduate degree from DePaul University

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Connecting at the Water’s Edge

By Maryann Helferty

Young Red Belly Turtle seen at Lardner's Point

Young Red Belly Turtle seen at Lardner's Point

Late on a warm spring afternoon a few weeks ago, I walked along a newly restored tidal wetland and gazed at the young sedge grasses and arrowhead plants.  The line, “If you build it they will come” from the movie Field of Dreams passed through my mind.  Here at Lardner’s Point Park in Philadelphia, PA, both wildlife and people were reclaiming their spot at the water’s edge.

Earlier that week, the opening ceremony for the park celebrated the creation of 300 feet of shoreline access and four acres of open space.  After the ribbon-cutting, a visitor spotted a small baby turtle climbing up the fresh soil bank.  It was a red-belly turtle, a threatened species in Pennsylvania.  It had emerged from the river to welcome the park supporters, just as the early players from baseball’s past entered the cornfield ballpark of Kevin Costner’s dreams. A local water scientist reported that in ten years of boat surveys, he had not seen a young turtle of this species in this area.

Creation of the park was truly a Cinderella story, as the shoreline had been wrapped in a concrete bulkhead from its days as a ferry terminal, and was later fouled by an oil spill.  Over $500,000 in federal funding was dedicated to the restoration and mitigation project.

The ecological restoration of Lardner’s Point is about more than the re-emergence of a living marine ecosystem for plants and animals.  Along the industrial riverfront, open space is as rare as the threatened turtle. The design of this site features a fishing pier, connection to a bike trail and picnic tables.  Check out our podcast on the Lardner’s Point restoration to learn more.

These amenities bring a breeze of recreation to the dense, row-home neighborhood of Tacony nearby.  That’s why as part of the Urban Waters Movement, EPA is seeking to help communities — especially underserved communities — as they work to access, improve and benefit from their urban waters and the surrounding land.

As I left the pier, I said hello to a 10-year old boy carrying a fishing rod.  He happily reported that this was the first time he could walk with his grandfather and fish on the Delaware.  By reconnecting the river to wetlands and greenspace, the park was also connecting friends and family with great memories along the river.

With summer coming, how are you going to connect at the water’s edge?  May is American Wetlands Month, so take some time to learn how you can protect and restore wetlands near you.

About the Author: Maryann Helferty is a water quality scientist with the Mid-Atlantic Regional office of the EPA.  She has worked on groundwater and watershed protection in both the rural Pacific Northwest and the urban corridors of the Atlantic.  One of her passions is teaching urban youth about water through the poetry curriculum: River of Words.  You will find her this summer walking the water’s edge in the Wissahickon Watershed.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Success on Santa Fe River Reflects Power of Partnership

By Nancy Stoner

One of the best parts of my job is when I get outside of Washington, D.C. to travel to see water issues firsthand and meet the wide spectrum of people involved in protecting waterways.

During a recent trip to New Mexico, I saw the incredible progress in improving the lower Santa Fe River over the past 10 years. Previously, grazing cattle prevented plants from growing along the river to filter pollution and provide wildlife habitat. An upstream wastewater treatment plant contributed to water quality problems. The result was a barren, erosion-prone stretch of the river with an unhealthy pH, too much sediment, and not enough dissolved oxygen.

Enter a diverse array of stakeholders: the New Mexico Environment Department, the County and City of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Soil and Water Conservation District, the WildEarth Guardians and private landowners, as well as community volunteers and school groups. They all met me that day to celebrate the restoration.

And enter EPA’s 319 program under the Clean Water Act, which provides grant money to tackle water pollution problems through activities such as projects, training, technical assistance, education and monitoring. EPA made $175 million in grants available in 2011. I am sure that most readers aren’t in New Mexico, but here is a list of 355 similar success stories from 319 grants around the country.

For the lower Santa Fe River, about $257,000 in 319 grants from EPA led to about $320,000 in matching funds for projects. Fencing was installed to keep livestock out of the area. Native vegetation — more than 5,000 cottonwood trees and 15,000 willow trees – were planted to filter pollution and provide wildlife habitat. Levees were removed to allow water to reach the floodplain, wetlands were created, and outreach and education activities occurred. The result is a lush corridor and cleaner water, along with the return of waterfowl and beavers to the area.

The State of New Mexico has removed the pH and sediment impairments and is proposing to remove the dissolved oxygen impairment in 2012. You can read more here .

While the improvements to water quality and the natural environment are critical, what truly inspired me – and everyone standing along the river that day – is the story of partnership. The federal, state and local government, along with environmental groups and private citizens, all worked together. It shows that water is vital to all of us and success in stewardship is a collective effort.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water and grew up in the flood plain of the South River, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.