GAITHERSBURG — Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council presented the city’s annual Environmental Awards at City Hall Monday Night. First given in 2002, the awards ceremony recognize businesses, nonprofits, individuals, schools, and other organizations for their environmental conservation efforts.
Ashman described Brown Station Elementary School, one of the honorees, as near to his heart, as his own children attended the school.
“Brown Station Elementary recently reopened and its students are enjoying the eco-friendly design features of the new campus,” Ashman said. “The school involves its students in many environmentally-responsible activities, including the recycling efforts led by the green team of fourth- and fifth-graders. Students have also been studying pollution in watersheds. In the fall, they took a field trip to learn about food production, waste, and the water cycle and the implications for the Chesapeake Bay.”
Ashman referred to the Muddy Branch Alliance, an organization dedicated to preserving the health of the eponymous stream and its surrounding environs, as “No stranger to this awards ceremony.”
The Muddy Branch Alliance received an award for holding four trash cleanups and a dozen invasive weed removal volunteer events in 2017, as well as for distributing more than 350 native trees to local families in their spring tree planting event.
“These trees will help improve the water quality of the stream, provide habitat for wildlife, and keep the trail attractive for our community,” Ashman said.
“The corner of our mission is water quality,” said Paul Hlavinka, a founding member of the Muddy Branch Alliance who continues to serve on its board of directors as well as on Gaithersburg’s Environmental Affairs Committee. “Muddy Branch feeds the Potomac, which gives us a lot of the water we drink and also affects the Chesapeake Bay, so we care about things that affect the stream and the woods.”
Several other honorees worked in conjunction with the Muddy Branch Alliance in their efforts. Quintin Nguyen, a senior at Quince Orchard High School, created s software program to map various trails in the Muddy Branch area.
“I like programming and I care about the environment, so I was looking for a way to combine those interests,” Nguyen said. He credited Hlavinka with encouraging the project and providing him with guidance and valuable contacts.
“An important aspect of Quintin’s work is that if you don’t map the trails, no one knows they’re being used,” said Karl Van Neste, an engineer and political activist who advised Nguyen during his project. “The State Highway Administration could come and say, ‘Oh, we can take this land because no one’s using it.’ When it’s mapped, it shows that it is being used.”
Earth Stewardship East, a regional affiliate of the Utah-based organization LDS Earth Stewardship, received an award for its efforts to improve stormwater management and plant native plants on the historic African-American site Pleasant View. This project was supported by a $25,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
“What makes this particularly interesting, and I didn’t know this when we started, is that this property is about to celebrate its 150th anniversary of being purchased by freed slaves,” said Merikay Smith, a member of Earth Stewardship East’s board of directors. “Our garden will be completed just in time for this celebration. Our volunteers got to learn a lot about the history of the site.” Smith also serves on the Muddy Branch Alliance board of directors.
Delegate Kumar Barve (D-17), who chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee, attended the ceremony, as did Delegate Jim Gilchrist (D-17). Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) did not attend but sent citations to the honorees.