by Chris Trumbauer
In 2005, West/Rhode Riverkeeper was founded by Bob Gallagher. Bob raised some money from his friends and colleagues, and got to work setting up a small organization to fight to keep pollution out of the West and Rhode Rivers. From those humble beginnings, West/Rhode Riverkeeper has grown and matured into a top-tier watershed organization in a very short time.
In addition to being the “eyes and ears” for the West and Rhode Rivers, we have been responsible for many tangible projects and programs to benefit the Rivers. These include several major policy initiatives (e.g. Critical Area reform, dedicated local stormwater funding), a number of important restoration projects (e.g. Shady Cove, Galesville rain garden), our annual Report Card, and various stewardship and outreach efforts. All of these accomplishments have been possible because of the support of our members, donors, and private foundations such as the Keith Campbell Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
Now, thanks to new opportunities from the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network (CBFN) and the Town Creek Foundation, we’re ready to take the next big step. This year we will begin a new strategic planning process. Working with professional consultants, we will assess the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of the organization to best determine our vision for the future. We have currently been operating on a strategic plan from 2007 – a five year old plan for a much less mature organization. Since 2007, the world has changed, and our organization has changed. As we work to enhance our role in the community and set priorities for cleaning up our rivers, a new strategic plan to guide our work will ensure we are working efficiently and effectively.
West/Rhode Riverkeeper’s activities may be divided into four main categories: Advocacy, Enforcement, Restoration, and Outreach. Each of these four pillars is important to our mission. Prioritizing our existing efforts and deciding where to devote new energy is critical to our continued success. We plan to have a process where you - our members and supporters - can give input on what is most important to you. Help us become an even more effective organization!
In addition to the strategic planning process, funding from CBFN has enabled us to hire a part-time Fundraising Manager. I’m pleased to announce that Kate Mahood has been selected out of a pool of very talented applicants. Kate will be working with us on a contractual basis to help us update our fundraising plan and work with our supporters – both individuals and businesses. We’re really looking forward to having her help!
The final new addition to our team is our 2012-13 Chesapeake Conservation Corps member, Will Saffell. The CCC is a program run by the Chesapeake Bay Trust which places young adults with Maryland environmental groups. Will began his year of service with West/Rhode Riverkeeper on August 27. He lives in Annapolis and has grown up on the water. He has a degree in Biology and Environmental Science from Towson University. Will is looking forward to assisting with our water quality monitoring program, oyster growing operation, and working with communities to install restoration projects.
I’ve saved the best news for last: Many of you have gotten to know Joe Ports, our former CCC member over the last year. I am very pleased to announce that Joe has accepted a position with us and is now West/Rhode Riverkeeper’s Restoration Coordinator. He will be leading our water quality monitoring, our Marylanders Grow Oysters effort, and many other conservation and restoration efforts. Joe’s hiring was made possible by the Town Creek Foundation, which recently awarded us a grant to support the Riverkeeper/Executive Director position, thereby freeing up some salary funds that we can use to hire Joe.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome Kate and Will to our team, and Joe to his newrole. Thanks to your support, we have developed into a regional leader in watershed and environmental issues. With these new additions, we are keeping our trajectory heading up and up. Now, we need to work hard to make sure the health indicators of the West and Rhode Rivers (and the Bay) are headed in the same direction.