On April 29th, 2018, the Urban Waters Learning Network presented four awards to leaders from around the country, honoring them for their contributions in environmental justice and equity, environmental education, and youth leadership.
The Urban Waters Learning Network Awards, sponsored by the U.S. EPA, celebrate significant achievements of individuals who have improved urban waterways and revitalized the neighborhoods around them. These members exemplify the UWLN’s goal of providing peer-to-peer support, solving challenges through collaboration and sharing knowledge with their peers.
“These awards recognize two very important aspects of the Urban Waters Learning Network: first, that we have outstanding peer experts who share their knowledge; and second, the generosity to others working to improve local waterways,” says Ann-Marie Mitroff, Director of River Programs, Groundwork USA and Co-Coordinator of the UWLN. “The UWLN is stronger because of our members.”
“The inspiring work to restore urban waterways and surrounding communities is led by everyday heroes,” says Diana Toledo, Leadership Development Director of River Network and Co-Coordinator of the UWLN. “These leaders show kids how to connect with nature in urban settings; draw connections between clean waters, healthy people, and vibrant communities; and help residents have a greater voice in local decisions.”
The 2018 Urban Waters Learning Network Awardees include:
Darryl Haddock (Signature Award); Atlanta, Georgia. Haddock, Environmental Education Director for West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, is recognized for sharing his expertise and experience with his peers in the Learning Network and for inspiring fellow urban waters practitioners around the country. Darryl has over 20 years of professional experience as an environmental scientist. Environmental Leadership Program and Toyota Together Green/National Audubon Society recognized him as a fellow and emerging leader in the environment and conservation movements. Haddock was selected by the Environmental Protection Agency as the Proctor Creek Ambassador. As Ambassador, he seeks to build capacity within watershed communities to have a direct voice in decisions pertaining to the revitalization of their neighborhoods. Darryl’s role is to work with 9 federal agencies, numerous corporate, philanthropic, and nonprofit establishments to help contribute vision, guidance, and resources, both financial and technical, needed to improve Proctor Creek’s water quality and quality of life in nearly 40 neighborhoods in the watershed.
James Rasmussen (Expert Award for Environmental Justice and Equity); Seattle, Washington. Rasmussen represented the Duwamish Tribe on the organization’s Advisory Council for 10 years before joining the staff as Executive Director in 2011. He served as a member of the Duwamish Tribal Council for 26 years, and as the founding Director of the Duwamish Tribe’s Longhouse and Cultural Center. Prior to serving as Director, Rasmussen was a member of the non-profit board for the tribe that located the land, raised funds for its acquisition, and finally raised funds for construction of the Longhouse. He has served on the WRIA 9 (Green-Duwamish) Salmon Habitat and Recovery Board since it was founded in the 1980s and was a small business owner for ten years in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square. For over 30 years, Rasmussen has been an active voice in environmental, habitat, and community issues along the Duwamish River and in the region.
Nicole Messacar (Expert Award for Environmental Education); LaPorte, Indiana. Messacar has served as Education Coordinator at the LaPorte County Soil and Water Conservation District for eleven years. Messacar grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan and the banks of Trail Creek. Her family had a boat and spent most weekends swimming, fishing and camping. Messacar serves on the Trail Creek Watershed Partnership, and coordinates Trail Creek Week and Kankakee River Days, two five-day, place-based environmental education events. Over the course of three weeks, she introduces at least 2,000 students to their local waterways. Nicole serves on the City of LaPorte Park and Recreation Board where she coordinates the Natural Resources Advisory Committee and spends time helping the Park Department with their natural resources planning.
Shane Wright (Expert Award for Youth Leadership); Denver, Colorado. Wright is a community development professional who has guided river and mountain trips professionally in Washington and Colorado. For the last nine years he has directed Youth and Water programs for Groundwork Denver. At Groundwork Denver he built the employment-based, youth development program with the goal of connecting youth to nature and improving our natural resources from urban backyards to mountain backcountry. His watershed work focused on youth and community connections to the Bear Creek in the South Platte River Watershed. In partnership, he raised money, planted trees, developed a watershed plan, built a water quality sampling process and connected people, particularly youth, to where their water comes from.
Some text in this article was excerpted from River Network’s announcement, “2018 UWLN Awards Celebrate Four Leaders.”