Guest blog by Sandra Spreckley, TTF Intern
On my first day as a TTF intern, I had the opportunity to attend the second annual Excellence in GSI Award Ceremony as a guest of the TTF team. This event celebrated the many public and private partners that have developed substantial green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) projects in the Greater Philadelphia area.
TTF was there as a finalist for their restoration work along the Jenkintown Creek at Abington Friends School, the Abington Monthly Meeting, Manor College, the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great, and McKinley Elementary School. Many of TTF’s partners for this project were also in attendance, hoping their work with TTF would win first prize; the Planning and Design Team from AKRF, Cerulean, NAM Planning and Design, and the Construction, Maintenance, and Monitoring team from ThinkGreen LLC, Ruppert Landscape, NativeScapes, Cerulean, Villanova University, and Temple University.
I was astounded to hear the amount of work that has been done to improve these sites; these organizations have been collaborating with TTF since 2014 to design and install rain gardens, riparian buffers, and a bioswale in order to manage runoff, improve water quality, and create habitat along the creek. This project had an impressive amount of community support, with over 1,000 volunteers helping out by planting the 935 native trees and shrubs, and 3,000 native plants at these sites. This project was mostly funded by a Delaware River Restoration Fund grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Delaware River Watershed Initiative of the William Penn Foundation.
All of the GSI projects being considered were evaluated for their environmental, social, and economic benefits. Awards were given out in five separate project categories: public, private, early approach, research, and leadership. TTF was in the running for best public project. I was very interested to learn about the other projects that were being considered but hoped TTF would bring home the gold!
When we entered the venue, we were greeted with name tags and hors d’oeuvres. As I made my way around the different snack tables, I was able to meet many people from organizations that work closely with TTF. All of these people were extremely knowledgeable in the environmental protection industry and gave me helpful insights into their day-to-day work. After this lovely cocktail hour, we were ushered into the theatre for the award ceremony.
Anna Shipp, the Executive Director of Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, gave a great overview of the ceremony, explained the tremendous impact that GSI projects have on the environment and community, and introduced the keynote speaker, Michael DiBerardinis. Michael is a Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia and gave an extremely motivating speech. When Michael finished his speech, the winners of the awards were called.
Up first was the public project award. TTF’s “Jenkintown Creek Restoration” project was in the running along with Rowan University’s “Crossroads at Robinson Green” project and the School District of Philadelphia’s “John H. Taggart Elementary Schoolyard Improvement” project. After careful consideration, SBN (Sustainable Business Network) selected TTF Watershed’s “Jenkintown Creek Restoration” project as the winner!
I was extremely excited to see the organization for which I volunteer receive such a distinguished award. I know TTF put in a lot of time, resources, and hard work to make this project a success. I am so proud to be a part of an organization that is dedicated to improving the quality of our environment, especially one that is at the top of the industry.
The private project, early approach, research, and leadership awards were then presented. All of the organizations that were contenders for the Excellence in GSI Award had amazing projects that will continue to improve the quality of our water for years to come. It was inspiring to be in a room surrounded by organizations committed to using Green Stormwater Infrastructure to create positive change in the Greater Philadelphia area by spurring the local economy, growing businesses, creating jobs, increasing property values, and fostering a healthy and beautiful environment.
I had such a wonderful experience at the Excellence in GSI Awards. I was able to network and meet many amazing people who take part in bettering the environment every day. I learned about an array of GSI projects throughout the Greater Philadelphia area and was truly inspired by all of them. This event has motivated me to think outside of the box as well as push myself to be a leader in this industry.