Reflecting and Passing the Torch

As year-end rapidly approaches, it also marks the bittersweet end of my professional environmental career. While I anticipate future opportunities to explore other options, my immediate plans include travel, volunteer opportunities, the Cleveland Hiking Club, and walking Coco (my grand dog)! That said, I want to reflect on the past year and the last twenty years and do a shout out to the future.

This year, we slowly came out of Covid, but not without some lingering effects. Covid challenged us, but we learned to be more flexible, acquire new tools, and learn new skills, all of which enabled us to continue putting conservation on the ground.

Thankfully, Cuyahoga SWCD accomplished most 2021 goals. Tools, like Zoom, software applications, such as Fulcrum, and tools such as “the Beast,” (used in the field during inspections), allowed staff to get the work done throughout Cuyahoga County. That work included numerous outreach programs, stream clean ups, tree plantings, watershed projects, and construction and post construction site inspections.

The racial turmoil of 2020 presented staff with an opportunity to contemplate how we could better deliver our programs, improve collaboration and communication to all communities of the county. Initiatives in 2021 included:

  • Conservation Action Grants-small grants available to both organizations and individuals meant to encourage and expand community engagement
  • Legacy Tree Donation Fund-an expansion on the SWCD’s ability to take donations, to specially take donations to plant trees throughout the county
  • Linked In-expanding our use of social media platforms to reach business audiences and a more diverse social media audience
  • Conservation Career Expo-a program that connected students to the array of conservation careers
  • George Washington Carver-a program aimed at raising awareness of the Black preeminent scientist of the 19thcentury who explored soil health and healthy eating
  • Master Rain Gardeners and ads in the Bureau of Motor Vehicles stations-to raise environmental aptitude and engage people in environmental actions.

These innovative programs are built on a solid foundation that has become stronger over the last 20 years. It is impossible to grow without trial and tribulations. Whether is it a small staff, limited budget, funding cuts, or internal/external issues, perseverance and resiliency paid off. As Cuyahoga moves into its 73rdyear, it with be without long time board member Ruth Skuly and me. Proudly, the SWCD is in strong financial position, with a new, experienced Executive Director (Kristin Hall) in the leadership role and strong professional staff, the future looks extremely bright! I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

I have been blessed to hold a position that fits my personality like a glove. I am deeply indebted to so many people who took the time to listen to me, answer a myriad of questions, and support me—especially during rough times. Their support ultimatley helped make Cuyahoga SWCD what it is today! There were so many opportunities over the last 20 years to collaborate, create, nurture programs, build an agency and be part of a local, state, and national movement to put conservation on the ground. I am proud of what I accomplished and the difference that I made, and I will always cherish being part of Ohio’s Soil and Water World.

Here's to continued success in the New Year and beyond. And (corny as it sounds), thanks for abundance of memories!

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