Master Watershed Steward Volunteer Rich Troscianecki 'Rain Barrel Guy' Engages Youth To Protect Watersheds In Lackawanna, Luzerne Counties

By Kelly Jedrzejewski, Penn State News

For Penn State Extension Master Watershed Steward volunteer Rich Troscianecki, one of the most rewarding aspects of his role is getting the next generation involved in and excited about watershed management.

“Our educational programs working with children and young adults are very impactful,” Troscianecki said. “It’s important for youth to get outside and explore. If we can add context to that and help them understand more about the natural world, then we can look forward to future generations seeing the value in protecting water quality in streams, lakes, ponds and rivers.”

Troscianecki moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania in 2014, then to his current home on the Upper Lehigh River the next year.

To get more familiar with his new community, he joined a local watershed association called North Pocono CARE, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the environment in the North Pocono area.

“I learned how important it is to maintain the quality of the water in the streams and rivers in the Pocono region,” Troscianecki said. “Our watershed is Exceptional Value rated, which means it has a very high quality.”

Troscianecki became involved with the Master Watershed Steward program in 2016. He said it provided an avenue to learn more about preserving watersheds and a way to get the word out about their importance.

Cathy Tombasco, Master Watershed Steward coordinator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, met Troscianecki in 2020.

“When the Lackawanna and Luzerne team was without a coordinator, Rich stepped up and kept the program running,” Tombasco said. “He faced the unique challenge of holding a training class during the pandemic. Although we couldn’t meet in person then, Rich’s friendly and welcoming manner made the classes seem personal and enjoyable.”

Troscianecki and the other Master Watershed Stewards host programs specifically to engage kids and teach them about the importance of healthy watersheds.

One of the highlights of the year is participating in a local elementary school’s “Grow with the Flow Day,” a program that includes a variety of stations highlighting different aspects of conservation.

“They have partners from the Penn State Master Gardener program, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and other organizations there,” Troscianecki said. “The kids have the opportunity to learn about macroinvertebrates and what bugs in the water means about the water quality.”

Another highlight for Troscianecki is seeing how the parents and chaperones also get excited to learn more about watersheds, too.

“Getting people engaged can be challenging,” he said. “Many times the topic of watershed protection and water quality is something most people think is someone else’s problem. If everyone did a small part, the rest would be easy. It’s always our goal to keep people aware and involved.”

An ongoing project for the Master Watershed Stewards is a live-stake nursery at the Lehman Sanctuary in Luzerne County.

The nursery was planted a few years ago to provide native vegetation that could be used for riparian buffer zones or stream restorations.

The stewards are making plans for future maintenance of the site and how best to use the plantings.

“I’m also known as the rain barrel guy in northeast Pennsylvania,” Troscianecki added. “We’ve come up with a great process, and we have a relationship with a local vendor who donates the barrels.”

This programming is geared toward homeowners. Troscianecki said his goal is to show people how even something as simple as adding a rain barrel to their property can save them money and help prevent pollution from getting into the water.

“Individuals forget how important their contributions are. Everyone can make a difference, no matter how small it is,” he said.

“Rich has a wealth of knowledge about watersheds and all water-related issues,” Tombasco said. “He’s a great example of a Penn State Master Watershed Steward and exhibits important qualities like patience, reliability, dedication to teamwork and, most of all, a true passion for the environment.”

Troscianecki said participating in the Master Watershed Steward program is very rewarding.

“There are different ways to participate,” he said. “We need people for everything from hands-on tree planting and invasive plant removal to leaders for educational programs for adults and youth. The opportunities are endless.”

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.

Visit the Penn State Extension Master Watershed Steward webpage to learn more at the program’s website.

(Photo: Rich Troscianecki is at far right.)

(Reprinted from Penn State News.)

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[Posted: May 6, 2024]


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