History of WSA
In 2003, Arlington Echo Outdoor Education center began to partner with the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works (DPW) to install restoration projects to address stormwater issues. These innovative solutions represented a paradigm shift away from “collect and convey” toward mimicking nature to clean, cool and infiltrate stormwater. As school children and their parents toured these sites, planted native plants and learned about stormwater, they began to understand their role in Bay restoration. Communities began to ask what more they could do to help restore their creek, river or the Bay. As Arlington Echo and DPW began to work with these communities, they quickly understood that they were outnumbered by people wanting to take action. Each of these communities needed someone to work with them, but there were not enough staff resources to capitalize on all of the enthusiasm.
In 2005, Ron Bowen and Ginger Ellis of DPW began meeting with Stephen Barry and Suzanne Etgen of Arlington Echo to brainstorm ways to turn this growing awareness into action. Over the next 2 years, and 100s of hours, the Watershed Stewards Academy concept was born. After pitching the idea to a few funders, intital funding was secured. In December 2008, a staff person, Suzanne Etgen, was dedicated to work with the program and WSA was born.
Early in the development of WSA, about 40 partners, consisting of RiverKeepers, landscape architects, local government leaders and environmental activists , were engaged to assist in the formation of the key components of the program: Certification Curriculum, Tool Box for Sustaining Action and Consortium of Support Professionals. In March 2009, WSA began training our first class of 32 Master Watershed Stewards.
Since the spring of 2009, over 200 Master Watershed Stewards have been certified. In the fall of 2017, we began training the tenth class of Master Watershed Steward. Master Watershed Stewards have been active throughout the County, educating their communities, building rain gardens, planting trees, talking about pet waste. They truly are an army of leaders motivated to restore our waterways.
In addition to training and supporting Master Watershed Stewards in Anne Arundel County, WSA has also assisted several other counties to duplicate WSA in their areas including. In spring of 2010, the Chesapeake Bay Program wrote WSA into their strategy to address President Obama’s Executive Order for Bay Restoration. In the 2015 Bay Agreement, the WSA model has been indicated as a successful model to reach the Citizen Stewardship goals for Bay restoration. Through a strategic partnership with the University of Maryland Seagrant Extension, the Anne Arundel WSA has helped to start several other Watershed Stewards Academies throughout Maryland. WSAs now exist in the National Capital Region (Montgomery and Prince Georges County and DC), Howard County, Cecil County, and St. Mary’s counties. Additionally, WSA has been replicated in upstate New York and Minnesota.