Celebrating 15 Years Of The Watershed Steward Academy


Fifteen years ago, what were you doing? In December 2008, the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy (AAWSA) was officially formed, after several years of about 40 partner groups working together to create it.

Last month, WSA celebrates its 15th anniversary and many successes, including training over 300 Watershed Stewards.

But what do Watershed Stewards do? And what is a watershed anyway?

A watershed is an area of land that drains into a common outlet — in our case, the Chesapeake Bay. Anne Arundel County has 12 watersheds that drain into the bay.

The mission of AAWSA is “to train and mobilize community leaders to drive change for sustainable landscapes and clean waters.” During their course, steward candidates acquire skills and knowledge and then work with their communities, which can be defined as neighborhoods, congregations, businesses, schools, libraries, etc., on projects that reduce pollution at its source; and all of these actions together improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Stewards learn about methods and solutions to control water runoff; how to use assessment and planning tools; how to write grants to obtain funding for projects; accessing resources for native plants, trees and materials; and understanding county agencies and their functions in permitting and promoting healthy waterways.

Besides training and classwork, each Watershed Steward candidate works on an outreach project in their community. That project can be one of two types: either educational, “environmental literacy,” or in-ground, or “rainscaping.”

WSA will celebrate its 15th anniversary this month with the graduation of its 15th class of Watershed Stewards, with many family, friends, and county officials in attendance to mark the occasion as well as the work WSA has done. Besides the 325 stewards trained to date, WSA can boast that since 2009, those stewards, working with neighbors, businesses, schools and one another, have participated in hundreds of projects to reduce pollution in our watersheds. Since 2009, stewards have installed over 4,350 projects, planted more than 202,500 native plants and trees, and engaged nearly 205,000 residents. WSA has also worked to train over 150 Tree Troopers to date.

Watershed Stewards also form friendships with others while acting to make a difference and come away from the program with new perspectives.

Karen Kiehne, a Severn Watershed Steward of class 15, said, “The Watershed Stewards Academy opened my eyes to simple practices that I have been missing as well as missteps I have been taking in my gardening efforts that can make a world of difference to our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. My eyes are opened to the ability for one person to change the world for the better – one yard at a time!”

John Garofolo, a Stoney Beach Watershed Steward of class 15, agreed.

“WSA is much more than a teaching organization – it’s a growing family of knowledgeable people who care about each other, their communities, and nature and want to learn and make a difference and help other stewards with their projects. I’m honored to now be a part of … WSA. It’s fun and enlightening, you’ll meet great people, you’ll enjoy getting your hands dirty and getting your community involved, and especially in making a difference!”

A new WSA cohort will form in the spring.

To learn more about AAWSA, visit www.aawsa.org.

Janet AlJunaidi is a Watershed Steward candidate.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here