2021 Elizabeth Thorndike Environmental Leadership Awards

Genesee RiverWatch is pleased to announce its 2021 Elizabeth Thorndike Environmental Leadership Award recipients – Commissioner Norm Jones, Robert Stryker and Michael Kannard. The awards are given to individuals, organizations, projects or events in recognition of significant contributions to our mission of “championing solutions that improve the water quality of the Genesee and initiatives that connect people to the River”. Nominations were solicited in early summer 2021 for review and selection by the Board of Directors of Genesee RiverWatch. The awards are given in honor of Elizabeth Thorndike, longtime supporter of Genesee RiverWatch and one of the founders of its predecessor organization, the Center for Environmental Information.

Award winners have demonstrated success in (1) improving the water quality of the Genesee River Basin; (2) creating environmental, recreational, and economic assets for their communities; and/or (3) connecting people to the river by encouraging them to explore, experience, and celebrate the river.

A separate category of the awards recognizes volunteers whose work on behalf of Genesee RiverWatch has significantly aided us in furthering our Mission.

Commissioner Norm Jones – Petten Street Access

Commissioner Norman Jones manages the Department of Environmental Services for the City of Rochester. In that role, Commissioner Jones oversaw the development of the City’s Harbor Management Plan, including the idea of a car-top boat launch at the end of Petten Street. Adding reality to this item, a placeholder amount of $20K was included in the City’s 2017-18 Capital Plan. When Genesee RiverWatch obtained a $13K donation for this project from Genesee Brewery, Commissioner Jones authorized his staff to begin a project siting, engineering, and permitting study.

Over the next two years, in the face of severe budgetary constraints, Commissioner Jones’ unwavering support for this project was crucial to keeping it funded and on track.  Despite the delay in project timing, he preserved the originally budgeted funding.  When preliminary engineering estimates substantially exceeded the initial $33K, he negotiated with suppliers to reduce their proposed fees and successfully challenged Genesee RiverWatch to find additional donations.

The new dock was formally opened on September 12, 2020.  Dozens of people make use of this dock every weekend from spring through fall – paddling upstream for recreation and to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the Genesee. Along the way, they have the opportunity to explore the river’s history as a pathway for commerce in wheat, coal and iron and learn of its role as a critical final link in the Underground Railroad. The Petten Street dock makes this easy and safe for those who have their own boats or participate in Genesee RiverWatch’s public paddling events, including those who need the dock’s handicapped access equipment.

As projected in the Harbor Management Plan, this facility is a significant recreational asset for our community.  Commissioner Jones’ steadfast advocacy and fiscal management of this project perfectly represent the high standards that the Thorndike Environmental Leadership Awards are intended to recognize.

Robert Stryker – Jaycox Creek Agricultural Best Management Practices

As Manager of the Livingston County Soil & Water Conservation District, Bob’s daily work involves promoting and implementing agricultural “best management practices” (AgBMPs) on farms in Livingston County. These BMPs reduce soil loss and, with it, the amount of phosphorus and sediment that flows into the region’s waterways and the Genesee River. His success in this work is based on years of cultivating trusted relationships with the county’s farmers.

Since its launch in 2014, Bob has been an active partner with Genesee RiverWatch. His work to develop and implement AgBMPs is directly supportive of the RiverWatch mission to improve water quality in the Genesee River watershed. He has been an active participant and valued speaker at several of the annual Genesee River Basin Summits. Furthermore, he has been extremely helpful in helping define new projects in the Canaseraga Creek watershed and the Middle Basin of the Genesee.

In 2020, Bob partnered with Genesee RiverWatch to secure a $198K grant ($251K including farmer in-kind contributions) from the Great Lakes Commission that will implement multiple AgBMP projects in the Jaycox Creek watershed of Livingston County. The initial 85-acre project on North Road in Geneseo was begun in October 2020 and completed in July 2021. Under Bob’s supervision, fields owned by three farms were graded and an extensive system of drains and sediment control basins (WASCOB’s) was constructed. A second project under this grant will begin this fall, preserving more valuable farmland in the Jaycox watershed and further reducing sediment and nutrient flows into the Genesee River.

Bob’s skilled work in mobilizing Livingston County farmers to undertake farmland preservation and water quality improvement projects, as well as his expert management of the projects being done under the current Great Lakes Commission grant, perfectly represent the high standards that the Thorndike Environmental Leadership Awards are intended to recognize.

Michael Kannard – Citizen Monitoring Program Volunteer

Michael is a professional landscape architect who has been an active volunteer for Genesee RiverWatch for two years. He started as a Citizen Monitoring Program team member, sampling at Black Creek and on the main stem of the Genesee River. His responsibilities have him going out two to four times per month, regardless of weather, to collect and analyze water samples for phosphorus and sediment levels.  In a program where consistent and timely sample collection is essential, Michael’s reliability has been remarkable.

Early in his tenure as a volunteer in the Monitoring Program, Michael expressed an interest in helping RiverWatch with other projects. Making use of his professional experience, he became a key member of the team investigating the idea of crowdsourcing trees for use in streambank restoration projects. As part of that work, he has helped harvest and plant live willow stakes on one RiverWatch streambank project and supply stakes for projects being run by the Genesee Community Charter School and the Oatka Creek Watershed Committee.

Michael has also been instrumental in helping RiverWatch secure funding for upgrading canoe and kayak access sites in Avon and Geneseo. His research investigating design alternatives, and subsequent drawings used in the grant application, lent clarity and credibility to the proposal, building confidence among the reviewers that the projects would be executed properly.

Michael’s work as a Genesee RiverWatch volunteer has greatly aided the organization in performing its Mission and is a perfect example of the high standards that the Thorndike Environmental Leadership Awards are intended to recognize.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: