River-Friendly Certifications Celebrated

The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association recently honored four watershed heroes at its inaugural River-Friendly certification ceremony at the Watershed Center. Executive Director Jim Waltman and Science Director Steve Tuorto congratulated the honorees and commended their hard work and passion for environmental stewardship.

The Sept. 26 ceremony honored the Hightstown Housing Authority, TPC Jasna Polana, Princeton Friends School and The Pennington School, all of which were certified by an advisory committee in June.

“Bringing our certified participants together to share their experiences and success stories energizes others to protect water quality where they work,” said River-Friendly Coordinator Brittany Musolino.

Since 2004, the River-Friendly Program has provided the tools and guidelines for residents, schools, businesses, and golf courses to improve local environmental health. Each program has different requirements, yet they all focus on the core concepts of water quality management, water conservation, wildlife habitat enhancement and outreach.

The Pennington School and Princeton Friends School each earned the highest level of River-Friendly Certification by connecting students with local waterbodies, ecosystems and issues impacting the natural environment. Students planted trees along the Stony Brook, enacted school-wide composting, and monitored water quality. Princeton Friends School’s Patrick Lynch spoke about the need to pull children away from screens and encourage outside play time. The Pennington School’s Margo Andrews, who teaches environmental science, said her 11th and 12th grade students thrive on hands-on learning out of doors.

Keith LePrevost, Executive Director of Hightstown Housing Authority (HHA), accepted an award for transforming the three-acre housing development for about 100 families into a demonstration site for stormwater management. The addition of rain gardens, drywells, porous underground piping and rain barrels have helped to capture and recharge over 50% of the site’s stormwater runoff.  He also worked to upgrade laundry and bathroom fixtures, saving an estimated 1.5 million gallons of water annually.

Most recently, the HHA switched to natural fertilizers. “We have 63 children under the age of 15 on our site, many of which love to play outside on the lawns,” he said. “That makes you think about what you’re putting on it.”

Tim Connolly, Superintendent of Princeton’s Jasna Polana golf club, dedicated more than two years to the program. He and his staff worked to recertify the golf course with projects such as native wildflower meadows, non-irrigated grass plantings and several other water conservation techniques, making them a River-Friendly example for other courses in New Jersey.

This ceremony not only celebrated these four sites, but the family that won the title of River-Friendly Resident of the Year. Mark, Samantha, and Emma Bean were in attendance for the premier of a short video about their journey to be better stewards at home. Watch the video here.