This past Thursday evening the Anne Arundel County Master Watershed Stewards Academy held its annual graduation ceremony for the new class of Watershed Stewards at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center.
Twenty-three stewards, including myself, representing six of the county’s watersheds, as well as Howard County and the Anacostia region, received their certificates for completing the year long program.
The purpose of the Watershed Stewards Academy is to train local residents to work as volunteers within their communities to help reduce the negative effects of stormwater runoff pollution, which is degrading all of the watersheds in the county. Participants in the program receive classroom and field training on a variety of topics related to protecting and restoring the ecological health of our local watersheds.
In addition to their classroom and field training, stewards are responsible for completing a rigorous Capstone Project which includes conducting several outreach and education events as well as planning and installing three rainscaping projects in their communities.
In order to accomplish their Capstone Projects, stewards work in small groups with class members who live in the same watershed. They also work collaboratively with the staff of the academy and members of academy’s consortium, which is a group of professionals who provide the stewards with guidance and assistance on a wide variety of subjects.
Since its inception in 2009, the Watershed Stewards Academy has trained and certified more than 70 Master Watershed Stewards including the recent graduates. The current class of stewards has 26 candidates enrolled with 25 people from Anne Arundel County and one person from Baltimore County.
While the academy focuses primarily on training stewards to work in this county, it also trains several stewards each year to help begin a similar program in other areas. So far, this training has helped establish programs in Howard County and in the Anacostia region.
On a personal note, participating in the Watershed Stewards Academy program over the past year has been a great experience for me. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement, as I had the privilege of being taught by a number of guest lecturers who are knowledgeable in their fields of expertise.
While my awareness of the effects from stormwater runoff pollution in our waterways increased dramatically, so did my knowledge for ways to combat this problem.
In addition to all of the knowledge that I gained from the program, I also made many new friends. The class in which I participated was made up of people ranging in age from their 20s to folks old enough to be eligible for “senior discounts.” Our diverse professional backgrounds enriched the learning and social interactions that our class experienced.
The mission of each steward is to help their community reduce the harmful effects of storm water pollution in their respective watershed. If you have concerns about controlling runoff and improving the water quality of the streams, creeks, and rivers in your area, contact the Watershed Stewards Academy to find a steward who lives in your area who can offer their assistance in addressing your concerns.
If you are interested in becoming a Watershed Steward contact Suzanne Etgen for information on the next class that will begin in the fall of 2012.