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*This article was published in the  December 2012 edition of The Charlotte News

Charlotters may remember a survey going around town this past year from the Lewis Creek Association.  The intent of the survey was to learn more about our community values and understanding of local water quality issues and concerns. This wasn’t just busy work though: it is part of a larger collaborative caretaking program for streams and shorelines in Charlotte and Shelburne. In order for the program to be effective, the coordinators needed to gather a baseline of information for evaluating the effectiveness of local water quality initiatives over time.

The results of the survey were very informative, and revealed that residents of Charlotte are interested in water quality, and support their town in undertaking water quality initiatives. The survey also revealed that while outreach programs have increased understanding, many residents were not familiar with the issues and dynamics that are degrading our waterways.

A logical question following these results is “what’s next”? The answer has come in the form of a partnership that is creating a new, town-wide water quality education program called Charlotte WatershED. This unique and forward-thinking endeavor has captured the spirit of Charlotte citizens’ concerns for the quality of our local streams and Lake Champlain. The partnership is pulling together the expertise, creativity, energy and connections of several individuals and groups, in order establish effective water resource stewardship practices that that will be passed from generation to generation.

So who are the members of this partnership? It all started at the Charlotte Library and grew from there. During the summer of 2012, Library Director Margaret Woodruff learned about a grant opportunity for town projects offered by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission’s ECOS plan. She contacted Conservation Commission Chair Bob Hyams, Vince Crockenberg and Joanna Cummings to brainstorm about possible projects for the town, and decided that because water quality is a growing and imperative issue regionally, the Town of Charlotte could make a difference about it locally.

The resulting partnership now includes: the Charlotte Library, Charlotte Conservation Commission, Charlotte Central School, Lewis Creek Association, Transition Town Charlotte, Shelburne Farms and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

Although our town was not awarded an ECOS grant, the group decided to move ahead with developing the program. Our mission is a community education initiative and call-to-action to help citizens think regionally about the health of our water resources, and act locally to protect and improve them.

The Charlotte WatershED program is currently a work in progress with a roll out date to the town on January 23, 2013, in the form of a community event called the WatershED Café. Based on the popular Café Scientifique model (a place where anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology), the café will be a series of monthly community workshops that explore topics related to water quality and watersheds.

Other activities will include:

  • A future water quality curriculum for students at the Charlotte Central School.
  • Homestead outreach to provide information for homeowner driveway assessments, shoreline restoration recommendations and native vegetation landscaping techniques.
  • Land management outreach in the form of field walks and demonstrations on how to control nonpoint source pollution, manage riparian buffers and assist small farmers to protect water quality.
  • Inclusion of language in the town plan that demonstrates support for community water quality education and outreach.
  • Plus water quality-related activities at the Charlotte Library, a Green Up Day event, and a tee-shirt design contest related to the Frogbit aquatic nuisance vegetation removal project.

You can get involved too! Mark your calendar for the WatershED Café on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at the Charlotte Senior Center, starting at 5:30 p.m. Also contact the Charlotte Library at 425-3864 to add your name to our email list. A website will be online soon with a resource library of helpful information about our water resources, the watersheds of Charlotte, and how you can act locally to make a difference.

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