The Merrimack Conservation Partnership (MCP) announced the 2022 recipients of its sixth round of Environmental Science, Education and Outreach grants in the Merrimack Valley Watershed region of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In this round of grants, the MCP awarded grants totaling $15,000 to eight projects that will help fund environmental science, education, and outreach activities related directly to the Merrimack River or its watershed. Funds can be used for activities such as youth or public environmental educational activities, development of outreach and educational materials, river clean ups, water quality testing and monitoring activities, and other science, education, and outreach efforts.
In 2010, the Merrimack was identified by the US Forest Service as the most threatened watershed in the nation in terms of projected loss of private forestland over the next 20 years. The two-state region of the Merrimack Watershed spans a total of 2.1 million acres and 3,275 square miles of which 54% is in NH and 46% in Massachusetts. The Merrimack River starts in Franklin, NH and flows through eight of NH’s largest cities, then continues into Massachusetts to its mouth at Newburyport.
Launched in 2012, the Merrimack Conservation Partnership is a collaborative effort of private organizations and public agencies working on land conservation in the Merrimack Valley Watershed. The partners share a vision of conserving (on a strictly willing-seller/donor basis) the region’s most ecologically significant forests and the key connections between them for wildlife passage and human recreation.
Applicant: Appalachian Mountain Club
MCP Grant Award: $2,363
Estimated Total Project Costs: $53,478
This project addresses the need to understand the extent of and to communicate environmental risk of mercury in the Merrimack River watershed through hands-on, place-based environmental education. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) will continue its participation in the Dragonfly Mercury Project, a national-scale monitoring, research, education and community science project, to help reduce the community’s exposure to mercury through fish consumption. Staff of the AMC will partner with community organizations and schools, engaging Lowell and Lawrence youth in the scientific process, environmental education and outdoor experience, and in communicating environmental risk. They will conduct a Summer Institute to train educators to support data collection, train students in the use of the scientific method, and assess relative risk for mercury based on dragonfly and fish data. The following winter, they will work with students to develop and deploy a symposium to share scientific results and strategies.
Applicant: Ipswich River Watershed Association
MCP Grant Award: $1,182
Total Project Costs: $17,328
Parker, Ipswich, Essex Rivers Restoration Partnership (PIE-Rivers)
The Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) began the RiverWatch program to address water quality threats to the River. The PIE-Rivers Partnership was then created to increase collaboration around common restoration and water quality goals among regional stakeholders. IRWA will continue to provide training and materials to volunteers to perform river monitoring procedures. Results of that monitoring will be converted into a scoring system, forming the basis of the river health index. A data dashboard will be produced online describing the current state of the river with recommendations on how conditions can be improved.
Applicant: Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, Inc.
MCP Grant Award: $2,198
Estimated Total Project Costs: $11,650
Community Conservation in our Waterways – Powered by People
Lowell parks & Conservation Trust (LP&CT) staff, with help from trained volunteers, will engage youth stewards, intergenerational teams of volunteers, corporate groups, senior resident and local college student to contribute to community science while also learning how their stewardship contributes to our local water quality. Community conservation projects will include conducting fish surveys, monitoring endangered Blanding’s turtles, offering youth naturalist programs, and hosting river clean-ups and invasive removals.
Applicant: Merrohawke Nature School, Inc.
MCP Grant Award: $2,363
Total Project Costs: $103,200
Merrohawke Nature School established their BOAT Camp summer program to foster nature connection and environmental education through a maritime lens. BOAT Camp runs for 9 weeks during the summer, when every day the F/V Erica lee departs from the Newburyport waterfront with 26 students to explore the Merrimack River, Isles of Shoals and area tide pools and beaches. Over the course of the summer, 300 students ages 9 and older spend their days visiting and exploring salt marshes, beaches, and river flats, haul lobster traps, fish, and examine sea life on the ocean bottom. Students learn about the unique ecology and history of the Merrimack River, as well as current threats to its water quality. Funding helps to support staffing and operations so that no student is ever turned away for financial reasons.A
Applicant: Merrimack River Watershed Council
MCP Grant Award: $2,363
Total Project Costs: $3,549
River Clean-Up and Outreach
Trash and debris in the Merrimack River is a persistent problem and contributes to the degradation of water quality and aquatic habitat. The Merrimack River Watershed Council (MRWC) recognizes the need to coordinate consistent cleanup events in a strategic manner throughout our river system. In 2023, the focus for trash removal community events will concentrate on the following Merrimack River tributaries: Beaver Brook in Dracut, MA, the Concord River in Lowell, MA, and the Spicket River in Lawrence, MA. These trash clean-ups will bring local volunteers to the sites, provide an education experience on trash removal and river restoration, and create a visual impact on the area. MRWC staff will identify trash hot spots, implement four cleanup events in 2023, and create an education handout and web page with information on issues affecting the river.
Applicant: Nashua River Watershed Association
MCP Grant Award: $1,829
Total Project Costs: $5,069
Nashua River Junior Scientist Program
During February 2023 school vacation week, Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA) will lead this program for 20 children ages 9 – 13 at Nashua Public Library. With the river as their “outdoor laboratory,” participants will explore river issues using exciting hands-on activities related to river ecology, watershed protection and explore this important resource through the lens of climate change. Watershed stewardship and activism are key components of this program. Combining nature-based projects with stewardship activities helps urban children understand not only where their drinking water originates but also empowers them to participate in local environmental protection. “Junior Scientists” will design solutions and create a 3-D model of the river incorporating their inventions in miniature to demonstrate their solution to human and climate impact on the river and city. The 3-D model will be placed on display for library visitor viewing to educate the public about protecting our rivers.
Applicant: New Hampshire Audubon
MCP Grant Award: $1,182
Estimated Total Project Costs: $19,908
New Hampshire Audubon will deliver in-person education programming at Manchester’s Beech Street Elementary School to all 125 second-grade students, providng monthly classroom lessons and two field trip to NH Audubon’s Massabesic Center. Most Beech Street students come from low-income homes and several barriers (transportation, language, awareness of offerings) prevent these kids from experiencing time outside and near water. This project will educate and inspire students about nature and the important role the Merrimack River watershed plays in the world around them, while building transferable skills like water monitoring and overall appreciation for water quality. At the close of the school year, NH Audubon will host a capstone celebration inviting families to the Massabesic Center for a Community Science Event. The gathering will include opportunities for students to share work from the school year about water exploration and water study with families, peers, and community members.
Applicant: Rindge Conservation Commission
MCP Grant Award: $1,520
Estimated Total Project Costs: $6,132
Water in Pool Pond in Rindge is part of the Contoocook River watershed which contributes to the Merrimack River. Most residents of Rindge, however, are not aware of how the run-off from their homes can affect water quality downstream. The Rindge Conservation Commission (RCC) will use MCP funding to create and post educational signage, discussing watershed and water quality protection, native vegetation and wildlife, along a well-used trail within the 22-acre Contoocook Marsh Conservation Complex. They will also offer a watershed protection presentation with an expert on watershed protection, handouts, and a hike at the marsh. Handout information will be available on the Rindge website and at conservation events.
For more information about the MCP, please contact Brian Hotz at (603) 224-9945 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available at http://merrimackconservationpartnership.org.