At the Delaware State Fair in Harrington last month, Governor John Carney and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Shawn M. Garvin honored three dedicated Delaware students as DNREC’s Young Environmentalists of the Year for their work to protect, restore or enhance the state’s natural resources, as well as this year’s winner of the annual Youth Fishing Tournament.
“Every Delawarean, no matter their age, can have an impact in protecting and conserving our natural resources, while also raising awareness for environmental stewardship. At ages 9, 11 and 18, these three young people have taken a stand as environmental advocates who are already making a difference today for a better tomorrow,” said Secretary Garvin of the 2021 class of Young Environmentalists.
“Today, we also recognize a volunteer who has had a long-term impact on DNREC’s Emergency Response mission, and a young angler who caught the biggest fish in this year’s Youth Fishing Tournament, a conservation-minded event to introduce children to the joy of catching – and releasing – a fish.”
In the Elementary School division for Young Environmentalist of the Year, Rowan Smith (age 9) of Dover was honored for independently forming a plant club in her third grade class at Banneker Elementary. According to DNREC, young Rowann uses her recess time to lead nature walks and plant investigations, sharing plant facts she has learned from avidly reading and researching Delaware plants.
In the Middle School division, Maggie Wieber (age 11) who active as a third-year member in Kent County’s Peach Blossom 4-H Club was honored for projects involving wildlife, woodworking and community service. Upon learning of a need for bat boxes at Killens Pond and Trap Pond state parks, Maggie researched plans, solicited funds from the Delaware 4-H Foundation to buy materials, developed kits with pre-cut parts and enlisted eight fellow 4-H members to construct 10 boxes, which were donated to the two parks to provide nesting areas for these important insect-eaters.
At the High School level, Julia Rial (age 18) of Lewes has planned beach cleanups in Sussex County, organized tree plantings and made videos at James Farm in Ocean View and founded the Delaware Youth Chapter of Extinction Rebellion with her friend Jade Carter to work in her community on environmental issues and sustainability.
Now in its 28th year, DNREC’s Young Environmentalist of the Year Awards program recognizes Delaware students whose actions have helped protect, restore or enhance our natural resources by initiating an innovative project, practicing environmental stewardship, increasing public awareness or demonstrating environmental ethics.
The state of Delaware also honored New Castle County resident Richard Morris as DNREC’s Volunteer of the Year Award. As a volunteer firefighter with the Belvedere Fire Company, which partners with the DNREC Emergency Response team, for more than 15 years and 2,250 hours Morris has served as the primary keeper and driver of DNREC’s Hazmat 30, a bright red 60-foot, 60,000-pound emergency vehicle nicknamed “The Beast.” In 2019 alone, Morris drove the Beast to more than 50 hazardous incident calls.
Kane Messina (age 9) of Millsboro, received this year’s top trophy for catching a 21-inch bass in the 35th annual Youth Fishing Tournament held June 5. Established by the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife and sponsored by the Delaware Natural Resources Police, the tournament introduces youth to the sport of fishing and teaches the catch-and-release approach to conservation.