Master Watershed Steward Robert Pace Partners To Protect Watersheds In Montgomery County

By Kelly Jedrzejewski, Penn State News

For Penn State Extension Master Watershed Steward Robert Pace, building community partnerships and working with other program volunteers as a team have been essential for contributing to successful projects in Montgomery County.

“I’ve had a life-long interest in water and the environment,” said Pace, who has been a volunteer in the program since 2016. “Becoming a Master Watershed Steward was a way to follow my passion.”

After working in both the public and private sectors, Pace retired from a 43-year career in the water resources field.

During his time with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he was based in the Baltimore District and worked on Chesapeake Bay environmental restoration projects, flood risk management, navigation and water supply.

He also spent 16 years as a national and international environmental consultant, including work in Africa.

“Our waters, plants, wildlife and the citizens of Montgomery County are vulnerable to a changing climate and landscape,” Pace said. “Our citizens can play a huge role in restoring and protecting our watersheds. They can best do this when they are informed and have access to science-based education, proper tools and resources.”

With more than 60 Master Watershed Stewards throughout Montgomery County, Pace said he believes the program has tremendous reach and potential to educate and guide people on the importance of water resources and how best to care for them.

“I have more to learn from the people I volunteer with than I could ever hope to teach them,” he added. “All of the projects that I’ve worked on have entailed support by other stewards. None could have been accomplished without strong teamwork.”

In 2020, the Master Watershed Stewards formed a program advisory committee for the Montgomery County program.

For more than three years, Pace served as the committee chairperson and worked closely with other stewards.

A strategic emphasis for the committee was developing partnerships and mutually supportive relationships with other organizations to improve watersheds in the county.

Over the years, volunteers have participated in joint projects, demonstrations and educational events with a variety of partners including the Montgomery County Conservation District, the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, Wissahickon Trails, PA American Water, PA Trout Unlimited, Curtis Arboretum and numerous municipalities.

The goal has been to increase the visibility of the Master Watershed Steward program through education and active engagement.

One cooperative project that Pace led with the critical support of the Master Watershed Stewards was establishing a riparian buffer in the food forest at Martha’s Community Farm in Audubon, Pennsylvania.

“We took a lead role in preparing a successful TreeVitalize Grant application on behalf of the farm and in cooperation with the Montgomery County Conservation District,” Pace explained.

Master Watershed Stewards then designed the site layout and selected 350 native trees and shrubs, including nut- and fruit-bearing species.

They supported extensive site preparation activities, then ordered native trees and shrubs from suppliers.

Fourteen Master Watershed Stewards and many other volunteers held a tree-planting event, installed a variety of deer protection and supported the farm staff in implementing an irrigation system.

The team also created a comprehensive monitoring and maintenance protocol.

Riparian buffers are areas adjacent to bodies of water that are planted with native trees and shrubs.

They are beneficial for filtering runoff, decreasing erosion and reducing stormwater effects.

When mature, this buffer also will supply fresh produce for community food pantries. After the first year, the buffer zone has a 95% survival rate.

Kathleen Connally, Master Watershed Steward program coordinator for Penn State Extension in Bucks and Montgomery counties, noted Pace’s willingness to take on new projects and mentor his fellow stewards.

“Robert has patiently helped our program develop important partnerships with the Montgomery County Conservation District, the Montgomery County Planning Commission and other organizations,” she said.

Pace emphasized that having a background in watershed issues is not a prerequisite for joining the Master Watershed Steward program.

The program is flexible, and volunteer participation can include everything from research, writing and educating at all levels to more hands-on projects and demonstrations.

“All backgrounds are welcome,” Pace said. “I would strongly encourage anyone considering volunteering to attend one of the educational sessions to learn more. What we’re looking for are individuals who have a sincere interest in learning about watersheds and participating in activities that result in watershed improvement.

“As a Master Watershed Steward, I’ve gained the valuable perspective of not just thinking globally, but working locally,” he said. “I’ve found this is a tremendously powerful way of making a real difference.”

The Penn State Extension Master Watershed Steward program provides extensive training in watershed management to volunteers who, in return, educate the community about watershed stewardship based on university research and recommendations.

The program was established to strengthen local capacity for management and protection of watersheds, streams and rivers by educating and empowering volunteers across the Commonwealth.

Anyone interested in becoming a Master Watershed Steward can learn more at the program's website.

For more educational opportunities, visit the Penn State Extension website.

How Clean Is Your Stream?

The draft 2024 report has an interactive report viewer that allows you to zoom in to your own address to see if the streams near you are impaired and why.

Click Here to check out your streamsClick Here for a tutorial on using the viewer.

Upcoming Events:

-- Webinar: April 19 - Uses And Benefits Of Rain Barrels

-- Extension Online Water Courses

Other Extension Articles:

-- Springtime In Riparian Buffers: Flooded With Challenges, Opportunities

-- Downspout Planters For Residential Stormwater Management

-- Protect Your Wellhead To Safeguard Drinking Water Supplies

-- Participate In Pond Owners Survey

-- Stocking Fish In Ponds Now Requires Notification Of Fish Commission

(Reprinted from Penn State News.)

Related Articles:

-- Master Watershed Stewards In York County Recognize Betsy Leppo, Western PA Conservancy, Gifford Pinchot State Park Staff As 2023 Outstanding Partners For Work On Vernal Pools  [PaEN]

-- Master Watershed Steward Robert Pace Partners To Protect Watersheds In Montgomery County  [PaEN]

-- Master Watershed Steward Cindy Rogers Strengthens Partnerships In Indiana County

-- DEP Invites Comments On Draft Strategy For Prioritizing Development Of Total Maximum Daily Load Watershed Plans From 2024-2032  [PaEN]

-- Learn How Your Property Could Be Certified Watershed-Friendly By Penn State Extension At April 25 Workshop In Cumberland County  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Extension: April 9 Webinars: Introduction To Working Riparian Buffers You Can Eat; Other Buffer Resources  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Extension, Partners Host Volunteer Tree Plantings/Workshops April 13 - Lebanon County, April 16 & 20, May 11 - Lancaster County  [PaEN]

-- Call For Artists: Street 2 Creek Storm Drain Street Art Contest In City Of York  [PaEN]

-- Allegheny National Forest Partnership Projects Improve Stream Health Using Federal Inflation Reduction Act Funds  [PaEN]

-- April 23 Webinar: Importance Of Tree Equity Amidst Changing Community Climates Hosted By Penn State Extension, Partners  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Extension Hosts April 25 Webinar On PA Countywide Clean Water Action Plan Public Engagement Strategies  [PaEN]

[Posted: March 21, 2024]


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