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Thursday October 10th, 2013

Posted at 7:40pm

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Top row: Nicole Palazzi, Vic & Darlene Bernyk, Lisa Bauer. Seated: Alan & Karen Batke, Carabel & Hector Ringrose

This past Sunday at the  John R. Park Homestead’s Harvest and Horses Festival the Essex Region Conservation Authority recognized its newest Conservation Champions.

“As part of ERCA’s 40th Year of Conservation, we will recognize 40 people who have had a significant impact on shaping the Conservation movement in the Essex Region,” said ERCA General Manager Richard Wyma. “It is our honour to recognize these individuals who have made significant contributions to the conservation of human and natural heritage in this region.”

Lisa Bauer was elected by her peers as the President of the Friends of the John R. Park Homestead. She is the longest standing member of this committee, and began volunteering at the John R Park Homestead Conservation Area when she was a university student and has continued with ERCA for more than 20 years. She has also involved her family as volunteers. This past spring Lisa received a Provincial volunteer award for her two decades of service. She has been particularly active in contacting federal and provincial elected representatives to advocate for student employment programs in the conservation areas.

Nicole Palazzi was one of the first educators to get involved when the Greater Essex County District School Board initiated its EcoSchools program, and she started an ECO Club at Davis Public School. Her enthusiasm for the environment was infectious, and ECO Club meetings were always well attended by the students who shared her desire to make a difference. She brought together a team and secured the funding to plant over 100 large stock trees and transform a previously void space into outdoor classrooms that are nurtured by students and teachers alike allowing Davis students to regularly play, explore, and connect with nature right in their own schoolyard. Wanting parents to be aware of the benefits of outdoor play, and so she brought together staff to host community nights where families came to the playground and enjoyed the natural greening areas. Parents were informed about how playing on the rocks and logs helped their children’s gross motor skills to develop and how students could acquire empathy and appreciation for nature through their involvement in caring for the environment. Additionally, she has initiated a ‘Nature Buddies’ program whereby Grade 6 students mentor the Kindergarten students, spending time together exploring the outdoors recognized a need in the community for students to connect with nature at home and began networking with other schools in the area, the local library branch, and staff at the Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation and ultimately was able to organize community tree plantings in this area.

Vic and Darlene Bernyk have long been strong local leaders in the use of native plants across the landscape. The couple established their ‘Native Trees and Plants’ initiative several years ago, in which they specializing in growing and cultivating native plants that are used in restoration projects around the region. They have worked with many groups in the region, sharing their knowledge and expertise to help establish native plant gardens. In addition to helping ERCA establish these important gardens, Vic and Darlene are working with the Herb Gray Parkway initiative on large scale native plant restoration projects. They also share their expertise and help to mentor others in Native Plant Gardening through their education and outreach to groups, through local events and others.

Alan and Karen Batke have been members of the Friends of Cedar, Mill and Wigle Creek groups for over 10 years, often taking a leading role in identifying and encouraging projects to benefit these watersheds. As long-standing members of the Kingsville Horticultural Society, they actively maintain numerous gardens around Kingsville. They are master gardeners and take a lead role in mentoring others to learn about the benefits and intricacies to native plant gardening. They have helped educate our entire community, through contributed pieces to the Windsor Star on native plant gardening, integrated pest management, chemical free gardening, and a range of other topics. They also provide the answers to the questions submitted by readers regarding gardening efforts. Their home garden has been transformed into a paradise for local wildlife, and they showcase this effort in hopes of inspiring others to do the same.

Hector and Carabel Ringrose have also been members of the Friends of Cedar, Mill, and Wigle Creek groups for over 10 years, and Hector has served as both Chair and Vice Chair for the group. They have solidly supported a variety of conservation efforts for decades. Hector built and installed many bird boxes along the greenway and both Hector and Carabel have participated in the planting of hundreds of trees and many creek clean ups. They were key members of the ‘Save Our Station’ committee, dedicated to the preservation of the Kingsville Train Station. When ERCA was successful in acquiring the station, Hector and Carabel were an important part of the team that aided in fundraising. When ERCA obtained the grants and funding necessary to restore the station to its former glory, Hector was on-site, with camera in hand every day to record the history of its glorious transformation. Hector was also helpful in video-documenting some of ERCA’s early water quality efforts. “Hector celebrated his 85th birthday last year, and the couple have recently shared their 60th wedding anniversary,” Wyma revealed, “but they show no signs of slowing down!”

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