The 2018 Environmental Excellence Awards recipients are:
- Jennifer Cole
- Betsy Martin and Paul Siegel
- Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts
County Employee Award:
- Sally Carter
- Judy Fincham and Danielle Wynne
As the Executive Director of Clean Fairfax Council, Inc. (Clean Fairfax), Jennifer Cole applies her passion for the environment on a daily basis in support of Clean Fairfax’s mission to encourage environmental stewardship and urban sustainability in Fairfax County through education, programming and community involvement. In that capacity, she has been a tireless advocate for the county’s environment. Her nomination cited her leadership in the planning and production of the county’s annual Earth Day and Arbor Day celebration (SpringFest Fairfax), her coordination of dozens of community cleanup events each year, her leadership in Clean Fairfax’s administration of a grant program supporting environmental education programs, and additional outreach and mentorship efforts. Her nomination also highlighted her support to Fairfax County in addressing litter prevention and floatables (in-stream trash) monitoring requirements in its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. When faced with these new MS4 permit requirements, county staff turned to Ms. Cole for her guidance and expertise. Ms. Cole responded not only by providing advice as to how best to raise awareness about littering and its detrimental impacts, but also by developing a “Clean Streams Initiative” to evaluate the effectiveness of targeted litter prevention strategies. Data from five monitoring sites established through this program are being used to identify sources of litter and to develop and implement a targeted education and outreach plan to reduce the litter. Successful strategies can then be deployed more broadly in the county. Ms. Cole’s nomination describes her as having “boundless energy, in-depth knowledge, and positive attitude” that support and enhance county environmental initiatives and programs.
In the Environmental Stewardship core service area of Fairfax County’s Environmental Vision, the following vision is presented: “An informed community works together with Fairfax County and its partners to care for and responsibly manage our treasured natural resources.” Betsy Martin and Paul Siegel are exemplars of this vision. Since moving to the Mount Vernon District in 1994, they have provided leadership, advocacy and passion to environmental protection and enhancement within their community and beyond. They co-founded Friends of Little Hunting Creek, which has, since 2002, cleaned up trash through annual cleanup events in and along the creek. Since 2006, they have collected 3,597 bags of trash and recyclables, 270 tires, 176 shopping carts and tons of bulk trash. They have recruited over 1,500 cleanup volunteers, including Virginia Senator Scott Surovell. Drs. Martin and Siegel are also passionate about the protection of riparian areas and have worked with the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust to preserve sensitive riparian areas, including such an area on their own property. They have volunteered their time and expertise to the development of the Little Hunting Creek Watershed Management Plan and its implementation. They have expanded their efforts beyond their community by partnering with other groups to form the Northern Virginia Trash Action Work Force, which is challenging policies and practices that enable and incentivize single-use plastics and other pollutants in our communities. They have also advocated frequently and passionately for changes to laws and actions to reduce litter. Many other of their volunteer efforts are highlighted in their nomination, and the many supporting letters included with the nomination attest to their dedication and leadership in support of environmental improvement in Fairfax County.
The Fairfax County Park Authority and NOVA Parks maintain hundreds of miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails for the benefit of recreational users throughout the region. Many of these trails are natural surface trails that require particular care in their design, construction and maintenance to ensure that they will remain both viable for recreational use and sustainable from an environmental perspective. Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE), a nonprofit organization representing thousands of area mountain bikers that is committed to environmentally-sound and socially responsible mountain biking, provides extensive support to both park authorities in designing, constructing and maintaining these trails in an environmentally-sound manner. Through memoranda of understanding with both park authorities, MORE members have constructed over 100 miles of new, sustainable trails in the region and have dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours to aid in keeping trails open and available for use. In Fairfax County, MORE donated over $40,000 toward the replacement of an erosion-prone segment of the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail with a more sustainable trail, thereby reducing sedimentation and providing connectivity with a broader trail network. MORE also aided in the design and funded construction of an environmentally-sensitive trail network in Mount Vernon District Park. In 2017, MORE celebrated its 25th anniversary by contributing over 3,500 hours of volunteer service work in Fairfax County and by donating over $50,000 for construction costs MORE has proven its dedication to environmental stewardship and remains a key partner to the county and region.
A Youth Services Librarian at the Reston Regional Library, she is a passionate advocate for environmental stewardship and has taken a number of initiatives aimed at improving the library’s environmental efforts. In support of her goal to transform the library into a model of environmental stewardship, Ms. Carter:
- Orchestrated a presentation by Jen Cole of Clean Fairfax (another award recipient this year) to educate library staff on environmental stewardship opportunities;
- Conducted research and compiled a comprehensive guideline for her colleagues on materials that can and cannot be recycled, adding a list of dedicated drop-off locations for items that should not be placed in county recycling bins;
- Created an environmental-themed bulletin board in the children’s area of the library and an interactive environmental display for adults in the library’s main lobby; and
- Periodically writes and disseminates online a “Green Page” newsletter in an attempt to rally more enthusiasm among her colleagues for responsible environmental stewardship at the library.
Ms. Carter spreads her passionate enthusiasm for the environment to her colleagues and the library’s customers through dedication of her own personal time to providing outreach on best green practices and environmental stewardship. While she works at the library part-time, her personal environmental impact at the library is, as described in her nomination, full time.
Environmental outreach is critical to the achievement of the Board of Supervisors’ Environmental Vision—without broad public understanding and engagement, our environmental challenges cannot be addressed successfully. Judy Fincham and Danielle Wynne are on the front lines of the county’s outreach efforts--their efforts to instill scientific understanding and appreciation of environmental concerns among county school students are exemplary. As employees in the Stormwater and Wastewater business areas of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Danielle and Judy have initiated, facilitated and developed meaningful ways and programs to connect teachers and their students with actual scientific work and scientists. The educational programs they have developed and/or led for school-aged children (through a partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools) include: the Chesapeake Bay Grasses for the Masses program (in collaboration with the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences); the Citizen Scientist Floatable Monitoring Program; educational trips on the Potomac River (in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation); the Field Guide to Fairfax Plants and Wildlife; the Gunston Cove Environmental Education Program; the Revitalize, Restore and Replant program; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs; the Sewer Science Program; the Stormy the Raindrop Public Education Campaign; Stream Crime Investigation Labs; and more. Danielle also helped Fairfax County Public Schools develop its Fields of Science Unit that will be taught to all fifth grade students beginning next school year. Through their tireless efforts, Judy and Danielle are helping to form a community of student scientists who understand and embrace their roles in protecting and restoring our vital water resources.