Michael Walsh, CT Insider
CORNWALL — The Housatonic Valley Association is encouraging the exploration of its 2,000 square miles of the Housatonic River watershed, all with the goal of raising money and awareness.
The nonprofit, which was founded in 1941 and in Connecticut is based in Cornwall Bridge, has long worked to protect the river’s watershed, which touches portions of 82 towns across the state and in Massachusetts and New York.
“Much of what we do is centered on that interplay on how what’s happening on the land is affecting water quality,” said Lynn Werner, the executive director. “Over the last 30 or 40 years, we’ve protected … 19,000 acres of land and we’ve restored 150 miles of stream. We’ve developed educational and outreach programs.”
And this month, the group is hosting its inaugural explore-a-thon, asking people to get out and explore all parts of the watershed.
“The explore-a-thon is really all about helping people find new ways and new places to go,” Werner said. “There are so many wonderful places. You can go anywhere in the watershed. It’s just so simple and such a fun way to get more people involved in what we’re doing … and falling in love with this watershed all over again or maybe for the first time. Get out there, have fun and share your experience.”
Participants can register online for the month-long event. The website, Werner said, has instructions on how those participating can raise money and even win prizes, simply for finding activities to do in the watershed.
Money raised helps the nonprofit continue its work to protect the watershed.
“We’ve got a land protection team and a water protection team and an education team,” Werner said. “They are spread all over the watershed doing things like working with land owners to protect forest land … trying to preserve the ecosystem and the climate benefits. There are tons of people working with community leaders and private landowners.”
But at the same time, Werner hopes the event raises awareness for the watershed, and how climate change is having a real impact on the quality of the water.
“In recent years, the reports both country wide and globally from our scientific community really points to a rapidly accelerating pace of climate change,” Werner said. “Many of the things that threaten water quality are exacerbated by that.”
For instance, Werner said, an accelerated rainfall can drop so much rain that the river picks up polluted run off.
“We’re really trying to understand the worst effects of climate change on rivers and streams,” Werner said. “We want to engage more and more people on what’s going on. Everybody can do something. This river valley has so much natural beauty and health. It’s worth not losing it.”