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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

ERCA hosts annual awards ceremony

The Essex Region Conservation Authority honoured volunteers and staff members of the organization last Thursday evening at the annual awards ceremony.

by Kyle Reid

The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) held its annual conservation awards ceremony last Thursday evening as a way of thanking individuals, volunteers, staff, and business groups who aid the organization.

  Eight individuals were honoured on Thursday for their volunteer work with ERCA, including Essex resident Ceara Copat, who received ERCA’s Youth Award. Copat was recognized for her volunteer work with the John R. Park Homestead, for helping with various tree planting projects, and for volunteering as the program assistant for the summer Teen Ranger program. She was most recently named an ERCA outreach intern and a Youth Environment Ambassador.

  ERCA’s Volunteer Award went to the late Karen Batke, who passed away from cancer in August at the age of 74. She was posthumously recognized for her environmental volunteer work over the past 35 years, alongside her husband, Alan, who accepted the award on her behalf. ERCA’s officials described her as a “beloved individual.”

  Batke took on a number of environmental stewardship projects, including tree planting, creek clean-ups, maintaining gardens, and her dedication to removing a number of invasive plants from ERCA sites.

  The Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment Association won the John R. Park Homestead Award for their work in maintaining and promoting the historic and cultural significance of the Regiment. This past year, the association put a tremendous amount of effort into commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in November.

  Maurice Chauvin was recognized with the Conservation Farm Award for adopting conservation-minded farming practices to protect soil integrity on his farms.

  ERCA’s Education Award went to St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School for more than two decades of working to inspire students to become environmental stewards through clean-ups, invasive species removals, and monarch butterfly protection.

The Volunteer Organization award went to Just Fishin’ Friends for educating the public through Learn to Fish programs, and for teaching people about fish species native to the Great Lakes.

  Tepperman’s Furniture earned the Environmental Achievement Award for its achievements in waste reduction, energy consumption, and innovative recycling. Since 2015, through the ‘Live for Tomorrow’ sustainability plan, this business has reduced its annual energy consumption by more than 70 percent and reduced waste by 87 percent.

  ERCA staff members were also honoured on Thursday, with Laura Monforton winning the Dennis Chase Staff Award for her multiple roles with ERCA, including Outreach Assistant and Crew Leader for Tree Planting.

  ERCA staff members Kathryn Arthur, Tom Dufour, and Corinne Chiasson were recognized for serving 15 years with the organization. Robert Davies, Devin McCann, and William Tate were all recognized for 10 years of employment with ERCA.

  ERCA also named its next chairperson during Thursday night’s meeting. Windsor Ward 7 Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk was acclaimed to the role and will serve as the head of the organization for his second term on ERCA’s Board. Kusmierczyk said he is honoured to be appointed to the role, and replaces outgoing Chairperson, Rick Fryer.

  “ERCA is an incredibly important organization,” Kusmierczyk said. “The leadership ERCA demonstrates on things like flooding, climate change, urban forest restoration, urban management in terms of managing the growth in our cities as well — it’s absolutely critical to the health of our community.”

  For the Vice-Chairperson position, Tecumseh Councillor Tania Jobin was elected in a run-off against LaSalle Councillor Sue Desjarlais.

  ERCA also replaced 10 exiting members on its board on Thursday. ERCA’s board consists of representatives from municipal council’s throughout Windsor-Essex.

The outgoing board reviewed accomplishments from last year, including the restoration of 143 acres of habitat and the release of the five-year watershed report card. Almost 10,000 children learned about the environment through education programs and more than 75,000 people used ERCA areas and trails.

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