Conservation heroes honored at annual recognition dinner

Watershed Excellence Awards
Artist Eric Sommers designed this year’s Watershed Excellence Awards to evoke water molecules.

Watershed Excellence Awards

During our annual recognition dinner held Nov. 8 at Keller Golf Course in Maplewood, we recognized several local citizens and conservation professionals for their outstanding efforts in the watershed. The evening was also a great chance to connect with dozens of friends and partners who continue to make positive contributions in our community. Here are this year’s Watershed Excellence Awards recipients, followed by photos of other attendees who helped make this a special night.

Mark Gernes
Roger Lake Stewardship Excellence Award

Mark Gernes
Award recipient Mark Gernes(left) with presenter Dana Larsen-Ramsay.

Mark Gernes has been a RWMWD volunteer for 24 years, contributing scientific expertise and enthusiasm to countless watershed projects. As a research scientist for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, a former state park naturalist and Maplewood resident, he brings a wealth of plant and animal knowledge, monitoring expertise, and dedication to improving the natural environment. He is a current member of the District’s Citizen Advisory Commission and serves as co-chair of its LEAP and Environmental Forum teams.

Virginia Gaynor
Outstanding Partner Award

Ginny Gaynor
Award recipient Ginny Gaynor (left) with presenter Mark Gernes.

Virginia (Ginny) Gaynor, natural resources coordinator for the City of Maplewood, has successfully merged city projects and District goals through her vision, support and open communication. She is instrumental in the preservation and  restoration of open spaces including Fish Creek Natural Area and Gladstone Savanna. She has championed new conservation techniques such as using compost bags for shoreline stabilization at Kohlman Creek and a reinforced turf parking lot at Bruentrup Heritage Farm. A creative leader in rain garden design, Ginny has developed innovative prototypes and led many workshops.


Ann Hutchinson
Youth Engagement Award

Ann Hutchinson
Ann Hutchinson (left) accepted her award in costume with presenter Sage Passi.

Ann Hutchinson, lead naturalist at Maplewood Nature Center, is a creative leader in engaging youth in watershed, habitat and outdoor learning projects. Since the early 2000’s, she and her team of naturalists have engaged hundreds of local students in watershed topics by using theater, puppets and outdoor experiences like rain garden planting. Ann recently partnered with RWMWD to offer pollinator and watershed lessons for students in St. Paul, North St. Paul and Maplewood, along with service learning opportunities at Southwood Nature Preserve, Fish Creek and Beaver Lake.


Anita Jader
Conservation Champion Award

Award recipient Anita Jader, District Administrator Tina Cartsens and presenter Michele Hanson.

Photographer Anita Jader has helped to raise awareness of native landscaping in the watershed, and she has photographed dozens of RWMWD events including the annual awards dinner and WaterFest. Anita and her husband Scott were pioneers in restoring their shoreline on Kohlman Lake, using native plants to prevent erosion and provide pollinator habitat. She has generously shared private access to the lake for carp management and other District projects, and she actively supports invasive buckthorn and garlic mustard removal in the watershed.
Cathy Troendle
Community Catalyst Award

Award recipient Cathy Troendle (left) with presenter Karen Wold. Photo by Anita Jader.

.Cathy Troendle is a strong leader in restoring Southwood Nature Preserve in North St. Paul as a valuable natural area and educational resource for the community. She has volunteered thousands of hours to remove invasive species, organize prescribed burns, grow plants, coordinate volunteers, raise funds and implement the preserves’ management plan. Cathy organizes an annual Prairie Days festival, leads classroom lessons and field days for local students, and has been active in the Master Naturalist program for the past 10 years.

Debbie Meister
WaterFest Champion Award

Award recipient Debbie Meister (left) with presenter Linda Neilson. Photo by Anita Jader

Debbie Meister has been the driving force and creative impetus behind the success of WaterFest, RWMWD’s annual community event, for many years. Thanks to her collaborative leadership, WaterFest has become a rich venue to learn about water, natural resources and taking action in the watershed. Beginning months in advance, Debbie engages cities and partner agencies, solicits sponsorships, coordinates exhibitors and volunteers, and promotes the festival to local media. WaterFest 2018 will be held June 2 at Phalen Regional Park.

Faces in the crowd

Enjoy a few candid shots of this year’s recognition dinner captured by Anita Jader, Conservation Champion and our go-to photographer for District events.
The watershed community celebrates at Keller Golf Course.


Board members Cliff Aichinger and Dianne Ward.


Master Water Steward Chris Strong and her husband Richard showed off their door prizes:

buckthorn walking sticks created by Carol Gernes and Debbie Barnes.


Youth Engagement Award recipient Ann Hutchinson fittingly donned a heron costume

she uses to teach young people about watershed conservation.

Jordan and Sarah Wein of Carp Solutions and Capitol Region Watershed District, respectively,
brought their son Cooper (the evening’s youngest guest).

L-R: Sherry Brooks, retired Farnsworth Elementary science specialist, Henriette Bissoy,

L’Etoile du Nord science specialist, and Ed Shinbach, Master Gardener school coordinator.

Board member Jen Oknich looked on as her daughter received a door prize from intern Matt Doneaux.
Artist Eric Sommers (left) displays Mark Gernes’ Watershed Excellence Award. Eric crafted
this year’s awards using glass, white marble and cedar at his studio in Minneapolis.
Ramsey County Master Gardener Sally Prouty was the lucky winner
of this wooden birdhouse handmade and donated by Dave Nelson.

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