‘Ah, Why Knot?’

Citizens United To Protect the Maurice River applauds some exceptional volunteers.

Ah Why Knot Awardee Beverly Smith, center, poses with, from left: CU Maurice River’s Jane Galetto, Karla Rossini, Joe Moore, and Ethan Aronoff.
by J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River
Ah Why Knot Awardee Peter Manzelmann, right, receives accolades from CU Maurice River’s Wildlife Management Director Allen Jackson.

At the heart of CU Maurice River’s watershed conservation are 340+ active volunteers, who in 2021 dedicated nearly 12,000 hours to protecting the integrity of the Wild and Scenic Maurice River—a river recognized for its outstanding resource values of national significance. Each hour that is dedicated advances the protection of water resources, biodiversity, and habitat health for the enjoyment of future generations in Down Jersey.

During the calendar year, CU Maurice River staff identifies potential projects, coordinates volunteer opportunities addressing local environmental issues, and connects the public to these activities. CU Maurice River invites the public to make a true positive impact on local environmental health through its community science and stewardship programming. Last year volunteers installed rain gardens, cleaned natural areas, renaturalized urban spaces, mapped wetland health, enhanced shoreline buffers, returned horseshoe crabs to the bay, managed a variety of avian species, surveyed flora and fauna communities, collected water and air quality data, and so much more.

Meanwhile, those with either a background in or passion for education shared their knowledge of the great out-of-doors with others. As instructors, teachers, naturalists, and general nature enthusiasts, they dedicated time to cultivating the appreciation and awareness of the natural world. They made a difference by leading nature walks, improving accessibility for all, maintaining nature trails, designing and conducting outdoor learning activities, connecting children with outdoor recreation opportunities, and serving as ambassadors, among other activities.

Since 2006, CU Maurice River has been recognizing the exceptional contributions made by volunteers via the Ah Why Knot Award. The name is derived from volunteers’ responses when asked to help out—“Ah, Why Knot?” The ‘knot’ is a play on words because the original award was a wood carving of the nationally threatened shorebird species called the red knot. Since the onset of this volunteer recognition program, CUMR has added the Sanderling Award to celebrate the achievements of youth, the Executive Director Award to laud volunteer leaders for new accomplishments, and the Presidential Award whose recipient is always a surprise. Let us introduce you to the 2022 Ah Why Knot Award winners and their work.

Brenda Bundy and Pricilla McCoy were honored as a dynamic duo who have served the community and CU Maurice River for many years. In their ministerial capacity with Word of Life Christian Worship Center in Vineland they have led a summer enrichment program called Elevate. In that capacity they have coordinated CUMR’s interactions with children and families on the river for more than 16 years. In fact, three generations of children have attended the event.

CU Program Coordinator Joe Moore, left, presents Thomas Riggins with the Sanderling Youth Award.

Pricilla, who works at Rutgers University in Camden as a Senior Scheduling Officer, is a trainer and speaking coach with great oratory abilities. She is beginning an MBA program this year. Brenda, also a minister, hails from Williamstown, and is a former high school teacher who completed her studies at Stockton University. Every year CU volunteers look forward to their interaction with the Elevate group. The children’s behavior is stellar! We attribute it to the excellent role models that Brenda, Pricilla, and their cohorts provide.

 

Beverly Smith is a member of First United Methodist Church built in 1868. She is a board member whose responsibilities include helping to maintain the grounds, buildings, and properties of the church. A defunct building just adjacent to the brick church had to be demolished, leaving behind another vacant lot in downtown Millville. Soon after, the church and CUMR started working together to renaturalize the lot with a system of pollinator and rain gardens. Beverly, a volunteer, played liaison between church administration, the parish, and CUMR. Her enthusiasm for the outdoors was easily visible via the slogans on her t-shirts. “Plant Trees” read the one she wore on the first day of installation. Her support of the project must have been infectious because Beverly brings with her a team of parish volunteers who show up again and again to get involved and to make a difference.

Beverly taught physical education at Vineland High School for 30 years, received Teacher of the Year in 2008, and was inducted in the Vineland High School Wall of Warriors in 2015. If you are local to the Millville-Vineland area, you may have met Beverly when receiving a bouquet from Colonial Flowers.

Peter Manzelmann is a CU Maurice River member, volunteer, and educator. Over the last year he has volunteered 65 hours to different restoration projects and outdoor education programs. He has helped at clean-ups of natural areas, monitored bluebird trails, installed avian nesting boxes, returned horseshoe crabs to the bay, led experiential learning outings designed for families, and has been a partner and friend for staff. Peter and his wife MaryAnn also just received a CUMR Wildlife-Friendly property designation in recognition of their sustainable land management practices.

From left: Executive Director Awardee Tony Klock, CU Maurice River Trustee Sue Fenili, and Presidential Awardee Dave Fenili.

Peter is an educator by trade. He taught different subjects, including language arts, social studies, science, environmental science, and outdoor learning during his 27 years at the Friends School of Mullica Hill. He resides in Mauricetown with his wife with whom he has four sons. Today you can find Peter working at Belleplain State Forest or Corson’s Inlet. He is a member of the Commercial Township Environmental Commission and Mauricetown Historical Society.

 

SANDERLING AWARD: Thomas Riggins is a recent high school graduate, Class of 2022. This past year Thomas decided to work with CU Maurice River to complete his Eagle Scout Project, which included the improvement of the rain gardens at WheatonArts. The group worked on cleaning out the trenches, increasing their slope, improving water channeling, and adding to the garden plantings. This was a dirty and onerous project (especially since he broke his arm just before the work dates), but Thomas coordinated a large group of Boy Scouts to get the job done, and left the system much improved.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AWARD: Tony Klock is a CU Maurice River trustee, naturalist, and youth educator. For his volunteer leadership, he was presented an Ah Why Knot Award in 2006 and the Presidential Award in 2017. Each year Tony dedicates hundreds of hours to helping CU Maurice River meet the goals of its mission. Leading outdoor education programs comes naturally to Tony, but he also works hard at it. He has an insatiable drive to learn about the great out-of-doors compounded with a passion for connecting others with the natural world. This year, Tony was presented with the Executive Director Award for his generous disposition for lending a hand to CU staff again and again over the last two years.

During the upheaval caused by the pandemic, Tony’s willingness to help out was an enormous benefit to CU Maurice River’s programming. Tony upped his leadership in many ways to usher CUMR through. He went above and beyond to provide staff with virtual programming ideas in order to meet the unusual circumstances, and also offered to lead many of the same. Once it was announced that the safest place to be was outside, Tony led dozens of outings, assisted in maintaining ongoing projects, collected data, fundraised, and so much more. Staff is forever grateful for Tony’s dedication to conservation, outdoor education, and CU Maurice River.

Recently retired CU Maurice River Office Manager Doreen Homan poses with Ah Why Knot Awardees Priscilla McCoy, on left with grandchild, and Brenda Bundy, right.

This is Tony’s 32nd year as a school teacher, currently at Kresson Elementary where he offers enrichment activities and gets students outside in the Kresson native meadow he worked to establish. While he grew up along the Atlantic in Ocean City, Tony has spent the last 30 years in Port Norris. Unfamiliar with Port Norris until he found his home there, he quickly fell in love with the New Jersey Delaware Bayshore through experiences with the fire company and the Bayshore Center at Bivalve. While at home, he enjoys gardening and watching birds, butterflies, dragonflies and all of nature’s wonders. Tony is a family man who enjoys life with his wife, Marcia, their two labs, and his large Irish family. You can find him and follow his outdoor adventures @TKPortNorris on Instagram or Facebook.PRESIDENTIAL AWARD: Dave Fenili has been a quiet force at CU Maurice River. He is always doing things for CU and the community. Reticent and modest such that folks often don’t notice all that he is accomplishing, Dave is constantly making things, whether for our avian projects, educational programs, or fundraisers; he loves creating and constructing. His artistic talents have continually added to the CU coffers. If there is trail trimming, trash cleanup, education programing, event set-up, cooking, ferrying of items, tree planting or the like, Dave is there. Beyond his and his wife Sue’s contributions to the organization they both volunteer for the Vineland Shade Tree Commission and Vineland Environmental Commission.

 

RETIREMENT COMMEMORATION: At the Annual Ah Why Knot Awards, CU Maurice River honored Doreen Homan, the soon-to-retire Membership, Events, and Office Manager. Doreen has handled the membership roles for CU Maurice River for 35 years. For the past eight years Doreen has worked full time for CU and was instrumental in setting up our local office. Prior to working full time Doreen ran incubator units to launch businesses and was president both at the Millville and Vineland chambers of commerce. Her service and expertise have been invaluable in expanding CU to a full time workforce. She left our region for a time to assist her mother through her twilight years. When her mother passed, Doreen and her husband Carl returned to our area. Since then, she has been the voice and face of CU. She keeps track of many of our members’ milestones, health, accomplishments and the like. Her interest in people has served our membership well and we are all grateful.

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BUCK MOON PADDLE

Grab your life-vest, pack your paddle, and load up your boat. Then head to the Union Lake Sailing and Tennis Club for a moonlight paddle with Karla and Kimberly of CU Maurice River on Wednesday, July 13 at 7 p.m. Once on the water, we will travel to the lake’s western shoreline before meandering upstream. We hope to reach the mouth of the Maurice River with Union Lake, where wetland flora is rich and beavers are building. As the sun sets, we will make our way back taking in easterly scenic views spotlighted by July’s Buck Moon.

“What is the Buck Moon?” you ask. It is July’s full moon, a supermoon. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the name reflects that July is the time of year when male deer antlers are in full growth.

While underway, Karla and Kimberly will interpret the natural values that pique the paddle team’s interest and provide insight into the Maurice River’s outstanding resource values. Sunnie of CU Maurice River has organized an informal social hour for after the paddle. We would like to invite everyone to stay on to mingle and relax at the Sailing Club before driving home. Bring a snack or refreshing drink to enjoy on the dock. To register for this outing and any other Raise the River event(s), visit cumauriceriver.org/.

BE PREPARED: Life jackets are required. Bring your own boat that is sturdy and the right fit for you. CU Maurice River will be able to supply some reflector vests and a few headlamps, but may not have enough for all. If you have either of these items or are willing to buy them, please bring them with you. CU Maurice River will provide glow sticks for safety—and possibly some fun.

Nature Around Us