Volunteer Screeners Speed LakeSmart
A three-year experiment trying out volunteers as LakeSmart Property Screeners has just wrapped up in the Pemaquid and Belgrade watersheds. Begun to add flexibility and power without added cost, the pilot program trained volunteers to conduct site visits to preview properties before a paid evaluators was called in. The result? Greater property-owner participation, more Awards and Commendations, and an enthusiastic commitment on the part of both groups to continue the volunteer effort.
Martha Naismith who coordinated the Pemaquid Watershed Association effort, reports that 43 properties were screened by volunteers between 2009 and 2011. Volunteer Award recommendations were forwarded to DEP-certified evaluators. This resulted in 28 LakeSmart awards and 7 property owners receiving Certificates of Recognition.
Perhaps more importantly, Martha notes that “without exception all property owners gained new perspectives knowledge and awareness of responsible lakeside stewardship and management” and were all “receptive to recommendations of ways to improve their stewardship.” This is what LakeSmart is about.
The Belgrade program got a big boost this past summer from 8 Colby College interns who took the volunteer screener training and swelled the numbers of local volunteers. A paid coordinator scheduled visits and tracked progress on two of the three lakes that participated. The Belgrade group ended up with 72 Awards and 75 commendations over the three year period. Several of their screeners have ‘graduated’ to evaluators, which saves even more money for the DEP. 42 homeowners have signed up for site visits in 2012.
COLA backs this use of volunteers. It accomplishes more with less funding, a prudent and effective way to manage always, but especially smart in these tight economic times. People are influenced by what their neighbors do, so when a neighbor offers stewardship advice, it’s a good bet people will listen.