Black River advocate wins Zetterstrom award
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | May 07,2014
Kelly Stettner received the Green Mountain Power Zetterstrom Environmental Award at a State House ceremony Tuesday.
SPRINGFIELD — Her husband, John, calls her “The Energizer Bunny.”
How else could Kelly Stettner hold down a full-time job, coordinate and run the volunteer organization Black River Action Team and tirelessly promote awareness of the river that runs through southern Windsor County?
Stettner, 43, was honored Tuesday with the Green Mountain Power Zetterstrom Environmental Award at a State House ceremony.
John Stettner said his wife’s environmental awareness began in 2000 when they were walking across the so-called McDonald’s Bridge near the Springfield Shopping Plaza and peered over the railing of the bridge to the river below and saw an upended shopping cart.
“She said, ‘Someone should clean that up,’” he recalled Tuesday. “I looked at her and said, ‘You’re that someone.’ And it took off from there,” he said.
“I said to myself, ‘Why should I make it someone else’s responsibility?’” said Kelly Stettner. “It’s my river and my town. And that’s what we did.”
She said the first year she contacted the Connecticut River Watershed Council to see if they did anything as far north as the Black River.
“They said, ‘Why don’t you do something?’” she recalled.
The first summer, four people tackled 150 feet of the Black River in downtown Springfield, and pulled out a dozen shopping carts and many tires. “That was exhausting,” she said.
She plans on using her prize money to buy a dissecting microscope to help her identify the microorganisms of the river, and to set up a swimming hole monitoring project in Cavendish near Greven Field.
Last summer, Stettner and dozens of volunteers helped pull debris out of the river and map its environmental health. There are now people all along the river, from Plymouth, Ludlow, Proctorsville, Cavendish, Perkinsville, North Springfield and Springfield, who help in the annual river cleanup, which is set to be held the Saturday after Labor Day.
Stettner also conducts monthly water sampling at 11 sites along the river and manages an “Adopt a Swimming Hole” program, which currently includes Buttermilk Falls in Ludlow.
In her citation for the Zetterstrom Award, Stettner was cited for her “spirit, determination and commitment to improve the Black River.
Her work has inspired hundreds of people, said GMP President Mary Powell.
“Through force of will and incredible optimism, Kelly built a broad coalition that collaborated to clean up the river. And her ongoing focus on environmental education and stewardship will help protect the river for generations to come.”
Stettner was one of eight nominees for the annual award, which is named for noted osprey advocate Meeri Zetterstrom. The award comes with a $2,500 prize to be used to continue Black River Action Team’s work.
Stettner and her husband moved to Springfield 16 years ago, and they are the parents of two children. Her husband said she is very involved in their children’s education and activities, in particular their daughter Moira’s wrestling team. Stettner grew up in Contoocook, N.H.
As part of the BRAT effort, Stettner is leading a garlic mustard identification and eradication workshop at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Springweather Nature Area She has dubbed it the “First Annual Garlic Mustard Pull-A-Palooza.” Stettner promises instruction on identifying the invasive plant, the best way to pull it out by its roots and recipes for those inclined to eat it.
“She recruits people — it’s purely a grass-roots operation. She tries to avoid government money and government involvement,” John Stettner said.