On July 24th we turned thirteen years old. We’re a teenager! On that day in 2007, in a small upstairs meeting room in the Law Offices of Timothy J. Lozen, P.C, six founding members gathered to create and sign our Articles of Incorporation. I am proud to be one of those founding members, and the only member still serving. Since that time, Friends has had many evolutions, board members, volunteers and leaders. Our mission has remained rooted in community science, stewardship education and habitat management to restore, protect and enhance the St. Clair River and its watersheds.
Reflecting on where we’ve come and as we look to the future, that’s when I was struck by the notion of “think and act like a Sturgeon”. It’s a concept based on a species that can live for up to 100 years. Lake Sturgeon have been around a lot longer than we have, so the idea of thinking like a sturgeon is what it would mean to have such a long perspective of our impact for Michigan’s Thumb Coast. Here’s a synopsis of where we’ve come in thirteen years:
|There were no staff, no strategic plan, no programs and no place to call home||We have a fully engaged board, staff, hundreds of volunteers, dozens of programs, a 3-year strategic plan and a new home|
|Just beginning a small, grass-roots non-profit environmental organization||Has grown to become the area’s largest environmental non-profit and only watershed organization|
|There was no Great Lakes Restoration Initiative federal bill to fund St. Clair River restoration work. Progress to clean up legacy pollution problems in the river was slow.||GLRI funding has allowed us to coordinate dozen of river restoration projects leading to rapid progress for cleaner water for swimming, drinking and fishing.|
|No one was talking about sturgeon and there was no Blue Water Sturgeon Festival to tell the story of their recovery||Successful sturgeon education efforts have paid off which represents a decade of successful fish habitat restoration efforts, and Sturgeon Festival has entered its 8th year reaching thousands|
|Much of the 40-mile St. Clair River shoreline was industrial, forbidden and inaccessible||There are ten completed fish and wildlife shoreline habitat projects, several of which rely on Friends to manage. These sites are havens for people, plants and animals.|
|Momentum and stakeholder commitment for land and water trail development was inconsistent and lacked momentum||We are proud partners supporting both land and water trail development. The county now boasts 17 water trails and a push to complete the Bridge To Bay Trail|
This region’s environmental reputation has come a long way since our 2007 inception. We’re responding to this as communities are pivoting to face the water and outdoor recreation activities relying on land and water trails, green spaces and healthy rivers are thriving.
As we look to the future, it’s important for us to transition from celebrating where we have grown to focusing on the utilization of our resources in the most effective, equitable and impactful way possible.
I want to thank our current Board of Directors, past board members, our dedicated staff, and hundreds of passionate volunteers. It is the donors and partners who generously support our crucial work that has given Friends an incredible 13-year journey.
All that we have accomplished in 13 years and all that we are poised to accomplish in the next 13 years is possible because of your support, friendship, trust and dedication. I hope you are as excited as I am about the future of Friends of the St. Clair River.
Here’s to living like a Lake Sturgeon!
Sheri Faust is the President and Co-Founder of Friends of the St. Clair River. She works in the Environmental Division of the St. Clair County Health Department and loves to soak up the sunshine, water and outdoors with her family by her side while on her bike and boat.
Guest Writer: Kristen O’Reilly, Past President
I think about how far Friends of the St. Clair River has come and my heart absolutely beams. I think about the crew of characters that all believed we could do it – sustain a nonprofit dedicated to the St. Clair River Watershed. So many names and memories come to mind as I smile. Board meetings in Tim Lozen’s office filled with lots of laughs, dreaming, and plenty of heated moments. The Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives tour and ALL the community support we received locally and throughout the Great Lakes. The Stream Leaders Program and many a day spent collecting “bugs” with volunteers in local creeks dreaming of the day we could see some of them restored. And, many a conversation with Sheri Faust about how we would raise enough money to actually hire someone to help us. Great times. The best. I truly can’t believe that the dream has come true. Every post I see about Friends warms my heart beyond belief. The Blue Water Area is a stunning spot on this earth and I’m so glad to see it’s being protected and cherished. Congratulations especially to Sheri for continuing to work tirelessly all these years and to the community for rallying around this idea and making it happen for… the River.