Environmental commission chair reports on panel’s achievements during 2019

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HOWELL – Joan Osborne, who chairs the Howell Environmental Commission, presented the panel’s annual report to the Township Council and residents during the Dec. 10 meeting of the governing body.

The commission is comprised of volunteers who promote conservation, conduct research into the possible use of open areas in Howell, and make recommendations to the Planning Board for plans and programs for the use of open areas of the township.

In addition, the commission members review all development applications that were considered by the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Adjustment and provide recommendations regarding the environmental aspects of the applications.

Osborne said that in addition to reviewing development applications during 2019, the commission members attended courses, workshops and conferences; participated in education through webinars; and facilitated a presentation to eighth-graders about the process of making water clean for public use.

The commission members also participated as mentors and facilitators with Howell Middle School South on the National Geographic Challenge; sponsored a recognition event for successful teams participating in National Geographic Challenge; obtained an Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions grant for the expansion and fencing of the Howell Organic Community Garden; and evaluated candidates and presented the Ann G. Ritchey Award to Danielle Gianelos.

The award is presented annually by the members of the commission to honor the memory of Ritchey, a devoted environmentalist who worked to sustain the environment and quality of life in Howell.

Gianelos is a science teacher at Howell Middle School South. Osborne said that during the past year, the commission worked with one of Gianelos’ eighth grade classes to research local environmental issues of concern and the students’ proposals for solutions.

Gianelos’ class participated in the National Geographic Nat Geo Challenge, which focused on plastic pollution in the local environment.

Osborne said that through this interaction, the commission members learned about the quality of the curriculum for students in Howell’s schools with regard to environmental issues.

The commission members “were able to observe Ms. Gianelos’ effective facilitation of awareness and concern for environmental issues to her students. The members of the commission who were present for the students’ presentations were in awe by the Nat Geo projects and the students’ achievements in the competition, as well as their problem solving approaches, all fostered by Ms. Gianelos,” Osborne said.

In addition, members of the environmental commission regularly attended Township Council, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment meetings and spoke about environmental issues on those bodies’ agendas, as well as any application for changes to open spaces, Osborne said.

Commission members obtained bids and proposals for the preparation of an environmental resources inventory update and they obtained approval to participate in the “Leave Only Your Footprints” campaign to reduce litter in public spaces.

In addition, the commission members facilitated participation of the Monmouth County Park System in the Howell Day/Green Fair; they participated in the Howell Day/Green Fair; and they formed a subcommittee and proposed ordinance changes to address plastic bag usage and the pollution of waterways.

“We have been gratified that we have had some participation in the schools this year. We think training the next generation in environmental issues is very important. We have worked hard on some significant applications that are before the town, including the Monmouth Commerce Center and the solid waste transfer station,” Osborne said.

She said the commission sponsored the Ann G. Ritchey Award.

“We would like to encourage people to go out and do some good things in Howell for the environment and you could be considered for receiving that award,” Osborne said.

Osborne thanked commission members Patricia Fuschetto and Charles Senders for their service as they prepare to leave the panel.

“I thank all the members of the commission for the hard work they have done throughout the year,” she said.

In addition to Osborne, Fuschetto and Senders, the members of the environmental commission during 2019 were Chris Garrick, Nicholas Huszar, Michael Poland, Paul Dorato, Jerold Blustein and Kristal Dias.

Deputy Mayor Evelyn O’Donnell said, “Pat and Charles have been intricate parts of the commission and have given their time selflessly. They have always been very engaging and we thank them for all their years of service.”

Councilwoman Pamela Richmond thanked Osborne and said the commission does a tremendous job.

Councilman Thomas Russo thanked all of Howell’s volunteers and said, “Without our volunteers we do not have a functioning town and functioning boards, so thank you.”

That evening, council members passed a resolution which supports the environmental commission’s application for a Roots for Rivers Reforestation grant.

According to the resolution, the Watershed Institute recently announced it is partnering with the Nature Conservancy and Sustainable Jersey on a Roots for Rivers Reforestation grant and technical assistance program.

The program provides grants between $1,000 and $20,000 that support efforts to undertake floodplain reforestation initiatives. Program participants receive technical assistance with the design of their restoration projects and certain eligible expenses are covered.