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These Delawareans are Keeping Our State Beautiful

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Edward W. Cooch, Jr. Environmental Education Scholarship winners. L to R: Karen Deming, Michele Tracy, Samantha Tracy, Lauren McNulty, Owen McNulty, and Joanne Rufft

Today’s recognition of 31 citizens at the State Fair by Governor John Carney is the latest in a host of recent awards made by leading environmental organizations and government agencies calling out individuals of all ages and every part of the state for their leadership and innovation in supporting conservation and natural resource stewardship efforts.

Among their ranks include award-winning students, educators, activists, policymakers and nonprofit organizations.

Awards presented at the fair today in Harrington went to the Young Environmentalists of the Year, Outstanding Volunteers, Youth Fishing champs, and winners of Hunting and Fishing photo contests. See below for a complete list of winners.

The Christina Conservancy recently presented Edward W. Cooch, Jr. Environmental Education Scholarships to Lauren McNulty of Lincoln and Samantha Tracy of Lewes.  The scholarships were awarded in memory of the late John Deming who served the Christina Conservancy Board for more than 20 years.

McNulty is a 2018 graduate of Milford Senior High School, where in addition to outstanding academic success she spent more than 700 hours volunteering at the DuPont Nature Center in Milford.  Lauren plans to major in Marine Biology and Wildlife Conservation in college.

Samantha Tracy is a 2018 graduate of Cape Henlopen High School.  Her involvement in the Green Club at Cape Henlopen High School had her collecting recycling and volunteering at beach cleanups. She plans to major in Marine Science at the University of Delaware.

The awards ceremony was hosted by Judge Richard Cooch at the family’s historic residence at Cooch’s Bridge, on Old Baltimore Pike, in Newark, Delaware.  Judge Cooch told the gathering about his father who was a lifelong environmentalist who championed the Christina River and land preservation.  Cooch spoke of the rich history of the property and Cooch’s Bridge dating back to 1746, including the popularly held belief that the Betsy Ross American flag was first flown in battle at the Revolutionary War Battle of Cooch’s Bridge in 1777.

At another recent event in Dover, Governor John Carney was joined by other officials to present the annual Governor’s Agricultural and Urban Conservation Awards.

This year’s Conservation Award winners in each of the three counties are:

New Castle County

Urban: Cheltenham Bridge –Westminster Civic Association, Hockessin

The community of Westminster has privately-maintained streets including three bridges that cross Hyde Run, a small tributary of Mill Creek. In 2013, the Westminster Civic Association (WCA) contracted with Pennoni Associates to inspect the Cheltenham Bridge and provide recommendations to the WCA. The association planned to replace the existing bridge and remove an adjacent upstream bridge, realigning an affected driveway. The WCA contacted Representative Gerald Brady to request funding assistance; Rep. Brady contacted the New Castle Conservation District seeking engineering and funding assistance for the project.

NCCD contracted with Pennoni for bridge engineering and design services, permit acquisition, limited construction services, and technical assistance. Pennoni used accelerated bridge construction methods to design a prefabricated concrete arch bridge to meet the community’s needs while allowing for a three-month construction period – about one-third of the construction time for a site-built bridge, minimizing community inconvenience and stream resource impacts.

The contractor, Merit Construction Engineers, delivered and erected the 30-foot-long by 30-foot-wide precast concrete arch frame in just two days, saving an estimated $200,000 in construction costs. This bridge construction method may have applicability in other communities in New Castle County and throughout Delaware.

Kent County

Agricultural: Broad Acres, Dover

In 1943, Joseph Zimmerman started his first farming operation across from Dover Air Force Base and in 1944 moved to a Leipsic farm. On Sept. 15, 1952, Joseph signed his cooperator’s agreement with the Kent County Soil Conservation District. In 1978, the farm was named Broad Acres, Inc. From those early days until the current day, the Zimmerman family has been long-time supporters of all conservation practices and excellent environmental stewards. Current owners Fred and Dan Zimmerman grow 300 acres of potatoes, 600 acres of small grains, 700 acres of corn, and 1,000 acres of soybeans on the 800 acres they own plus an additional 1,200 acres they rent. Through conservation practices, they address water quality, soil erosion, nutrient management, and water management through tile and open drainage practices. The Zimmermans also serve as managers on the South Muddy Branch Tax Ditch, and support the Delaware Envirothon through the Kent Conservation District’s Barn Dance fundraiser by donating potatoes for the event’s auction.

Urban: Delmarva Power and Light Company

The Delmarva Power and Light Company and their environmental consultant, McCormick Taylor, Inc., demonstrated a commitment to protecting natural areas and minimizing environmental impacts throughout the completion of a major transmission line rebuild from Cedar Creek to Milford along the entire eastern length of Kent County. The project crossed substantial areas of freshwater wetlands and tidal marsh while minimizing environmental impacts. The project utilized 776,500 square-feet of composite wetland matting, 81,000 feet of filter logs, and 48 temporary bridge crossings to minimize the impacts of equipment and vehicles. The project also utilized aerial sky cranes to transport and install transmission poles and lines across critically sensitive areas, further minimizing impacts to those areas.

Sussex County

Agricultural: Chip Baker, H&V Farms Inc., Millsboro

As the owner of H&V Farms in Millsboro in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Chip Baker has made a long-term commitment to improving water quality, using innovative methods of enhancing soil health, planting cover crops, and protecting the environment.

Baker farms 621 acres of corn and soybeans and has a 50,000-broiler operation. His farm has been never-till for 25 years, and he plants multispecies blends of cover crops on all of his acres, with the goal of having all his ground covered all year round. Baker participates in the Conservation Stewardship Program for nutrient management, irrigation water management, conservation tillage, and pest management, as well as the District’s Air Seeder Pilot Program.

Because of Baker’s innovation and interest in improving soil health and promoting soil health practices with his peers, he became a Delaware Soil Health Champion, joining a large national network of more than 200 soil health champions. In 2016, Baker hosted and shared his experience with about 115 people for an Air Seeder Demonstration/Soil Health Field Day at his farm. He also serves on the District’s Soil Health Advisory Committee, providing guidance and direction to the District in regards to soil health outreach and education efforts.

Urban: Delaware Avenue Streambank Restoration Project, Laurel

Initiated by DNREC, the Delaware Avenue/Ellis stream restoration project in Laurel addressed damage from the June 2006 flood in western Sussex County. During this flood event, parts of western Sussex County received between 12” and 18” of rainfall in a 24-hour period. The high storm flows caused severe bank erosion, resulting in considerable loss of property.

After visiting the site, DNREC’s Drainage Program staff decided to apply a natural channel design or stream restoration approach, rather the traditional bank stabilization methodology. Natural channel design restores degraded streams by creating a system that mimics natural conditions, including sequences of pools and riffles, floodplains, and meanders. These features increase bank stability while helping to improve water quality and ecological diversity.

This project was completed for approximately $75,000 from the Resource, Conservation, and Development 21st Century fund and Community Transportation funds provided by Representative Timothy Dukes.

Delaware Association of Conservation Districts’ Legislator of the Year

State Rep. David L. Wilson (center) received a conservation award.L to R: DNREC Sec. Shawn M. Garvin, State Conservationist Kasey Taylor, State Rep. Wilson, Governor John Carney, and DACD President Edwin Alexander.

The Delaware Association of Conservation Districts (DACD) also recognized State Representative David L. Wilson, 35th District, as the 2017 Legislator of the Year, an annual award given for outstanding service, loyalty and devotion to conservation efforts in Delaware. Rep. Wilson has advocated for DACD in his capacity on the House Agriculture Committee and the Bond Bill Committee. He has also been an active supporter of Sussex Conservation District activities and has participated in both Sussex and USDA cost share programs.

Delaware’s Conservation Districts, one in each county, are a unique governmental unit within DNREC. Their mission is to provide technical and financial assistance to help Delawareans conserve and improve their local natural resources, including solving land, water and related resource problems; developing conservation programs to solve them; enlisting and coordinating help from public and private sources to accomplish these goals; and increasing awareness of the inter-relationship between human activities and the natural environment. Delaware’s district supervisors have a statewide organization, the Delaware Association of Conservation Districts (DACD), a voluntary, non-profit alliance that provides a forum for discussion and coordination among the Conservation Districts.

Governor John Carney, along with Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn M. Garvin, Department of Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse, Delaware Association of Conservation Districts President Edwin Alexander, and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Kasey Taylor, led a ceremony recognizing this year’s honorees and signed a proclamation officially designating April 29-May 6 as Soil and Water Stewardship Week in Delaware under the theme, “Healthy Soils Are Full of Life.”

Governor Carney said the “honorees have demonstrated their ongoing commitment to improving the environment, and on behalf of the people of Delaware, I would like to thank each of them for their dedication and for their time, effort, and investment to implement model conservation practices.”

DNREC Awards – Presented today at the Delaware State Fair

Young Environmentalists of the Year

Elementary School: As a third grader at Dover’s Holy Cross School, Grace Coyle, 8, founded a nature club during recess, with different environmental activities each day, such as observation day on Mondays, trash cleanup day Tuesdays, and “free choice day” on Fridays. The group of about 13 also began getting together with their families outside of school. Their pledge includes: “I pledge to the Nature Club that I will not damage nature, litter, stomp on bugs or kill animals. I will keep the environment clean.”

Middle School: Shay Wilson, 13, a 7th grader at Saint Anne’s Episcopal School in Middletown, started a research project to assist Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge with studying the monarch butterfly population at the refuge. Shay worked with refuge biologists to survey populations and improve monarch habitat. She presented her results and conclusions at the Delaware Environmental Education Association Conference and the Saint Anne’s Science Fair. Shay also volunteers in the annual horseshoe crab surveys at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. 

High School: As a junior at MOT Charter School, Caroline Dowd of Townsend has a lengthy resume of Girl Scout conservation projects with Smyrna’s Troop 975, including a large community tree-planting project in 2015. In 2017, Caroline began work on her Gold Award project: planning, organizing, and planting a riparian buffer on 14 acres along Cypress Branch, a new addition to Blackbird State Forest. She devoted 118 hours over 10 months to the project, which culminated in 476 volunteers planting 8,700 oak and 100 persimmon seedlings at the site over two days in March.

Special Recognition: At age 5, Charli Evans of Laurel already understands that what we put into the earth is what we get out of it. A “lover of all living things,” she grows sunflowers, avidly participates in recycling and composting, and raises chicks and ducklings. Last summer, she planted sunflowers, tended them, and harvested the seeds to feed the squirrels and birds over the winter.

Special Recognition Group: Strawless RES, Rehoboth Elementary School. Fifth graders Savannah Montgomery, Alexandra DeEmedio, Melanie McKean, and Sawyer Brockstedt founded a movement at their school to “go strawless” and make a positive impact on Delaware waterways – and soon expanded their drive into the community and businesses. Following a presentation by the group, Rehoboth Beach Commissioners are considering ways to encourage the whole city to go straw-free.

Special Recognition Group: FLL Aqua Dories, comprised of Magnus Culley, Kaitlyn Dunphee, Elaine Ko, Benjamin Wootten, Grace Wootten, and Jessica Wu, grades 5-9, HB duPont Middle School/Caravel Academy/A.I. DuPont High School/Charter School of Wilmington.

The Aqua Dories participated in Delaware’s FIRST Lego League (FLL) regional and state tournaments in 2017-2018 under the theme “Hydrodynamics.” (FLL is a STEM program that challenges teams to both design and program a robot to complete a series of complex problems, and to research and present a real-world scientific problem.) After extensive research and visits with area experts to determine problems involving the human water cycle, the Aqua Dories designed the Direct Observation, Remote Information – or DORI – meter. The team wanted to create a device that promotes awareness about what goes into people’s drinking water. They built a working prototype, which can be installed in a stream or pond to measure water qualities such as temperature, pH and electrical conductivity. The DORI meter monitors these characteristics and transmits data using the cellular network at a fraction of the cost of existing water monitoring systems.

The Young Environmentalist of the Year Awards are presented annually to Delaware students who have worked to protect, restore or enhance our state’s natural resources. For more information, contact Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902, or joanna.wilson@state.de.us.

DNREC’s Outstanding Volunteers of the Year

Youth Conservation/Restoration: For his Eagle Scout project, Jonathan Ray designed and supervised construction of two new deer stands using volunteer labor and donated material at White Clay Creek State Park. The stands were specifically built for hunters who have permanent physical disabilities that limit their mobility.

Youth Group: Middle schoolers from Campus Community School’s First State Club in Dover contributed a total of 1,216.5 hours to First State Heritage Park this school year. They volunteered at events including First Saturdays and 18th Century Market Fair, which drew more than 3,500 visitors. In May, the club presented programs to more than 1,200 fourth graders; the students also spend time on training, research, and preparing presentations. The club also recently received a Governor’s Youth Service Award for their excellent work.

Administration & Coordination: Ernie Felice, former president of the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation, has organized an annual run that raised $20,000 this year for the Tower 3 restoration project. He also coordinates a run with all proceeds going to Children in Nature, and helped found the Friends of Holts Landing.

Conservation: Since December 2017, dedicated Brandywine Zoo apprentice Kelsey Deneen has truly stepped up, performing animal husbandry duties, preparing animal diets, engaging visitors with keeper talks, and assisting with maintaining exhibits and grounds, all with a smile, plenty of team spirit, and a “can do” attitude five days a week.  

Conservation Group: The Delaware Mobile Surf Fishermen support DNREC on various efforts such as beach driving classes, beach grass planting, and special events such as the Children’s Fishing Derby on the Cape Henlopen Pier and a Special Olympics day at the beach. They recently worked with Delaware state parks to address overcrowding of vehicles on multiuse beaches and encouraged local legislators to support additional Ranger positions for Delaware Seashore, Fenwick Island and Cape Henlopen state parks.

Environmental Education: Described as “incredibly reliable and a great interpreter,” volunteer educator Bill Cook leads evening programs several nights each week during the summer at Delaware Seashore State Park, including Wild Crab Chase and the Amphitheatre nature programs.

Research: Outreach volunteer Kim DeLeon assists the Brandywine Zoo in several Traveling Zoo programs each month, especially with the A.I. duPont Nemours Children’s Hospital program, and is phenomenal with young children. She also works with staff on fieldwork for the Urban Wildlife and Kestrel Nestbox Monitoring community programs.

Friends Group: Trap Pond Partners are a dedicated group that supports Trap Pond State Park with special events such as Healthy Kids Day, Halloween Howl, and the Summer Concert series. They also organize their own events to raise money for the Park, such as the Bike Rally, Jeep Jamboree, and the increasingly popular Beer and Wine Festival. Recently, their contributions have helped to build a new playground at Trap’s campground.

Business Partner: The Little Creek Volunteer Fire Company has provided excellent decontamination service to support DNREC’s Emergency Response Team and law enforcement partners for approximately 15 years. They respond to all incidents, mostly meth labs, in Kent County, providing copious amounts of manpower, a rescue team, and performing decontamination of responders and those being detained by law enforcement, as well as providing stand-by decontamination services at NASCAR races and Firefly.

Youth Fishing Tournament

First place: Elise Britton, 14, of Middletown, statewide winner and New Castle County winner for the second year in a row, caught the most fish, including a 7.94-pound carp, on June 3 at Lums Pond.

Second place: Adrianna Gott, 11, of Viola, Kent County winner, caught 7.01 pounds of fish in the Akridge Scout Reservation pond near Wyoming.

Third place: Luke Hitchens, 11, of Dagsboro, Sussex County winner, caught 4.54 pounds of fish in Ingrams Pond near Millsboro.

Held annually on the first Saturday in June, the Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Youth Fishing Tournament was established in 1986 to introduce young people to the sport of fishing and to teach the catch-and-release approach to conservation.

Hunting and Fishing Photo Contests

Angela Garcia of Smyrna won the Hunting Photo Contest for “At the End of the Day,” featuring her husband Paul and son Dominic on their boat during a hunting trip in Little Creek. Angela’s photo appears on the cover of the 2018-2019 Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide.

Chad Betts of Milton won the Fishing Photo Contest for his photo titled “Small Boat-Big Fish,” featuring his son Cohen holding his striped bass catch on Delaware’s Inland Bays. His photo appears on the cover of the 2018 Delaware Fishing Guide.

For information on the upcoming 2018/19 contests, click Fish & Wildlife photo contest.

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