Authors: Mr. Ryan Zerbe
Organizations: Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection
Contact Person: Mr. Ryan Zerbe, Ryan.Zerbe@montgomerycountymd.gov
The impact of stormwater runoff on the environment is a growing concern in Montgomery County and the Chesapeake Bay. Community engagement is a key component to mitigating this impact, and active, passionate individuals have the ability to inspire others to change their behavior. It is the intent of the DEP to influence social change by utilizing these individuals to integrate personal fulfillment through watershed protection activities to reduce stormwater pollution. This will results in achieving a stronger sense of community within the County, allowing all stakeholders to reap the benefits of cleaner, healthier watersheds. To achieve the desired social change, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection developed: 1) a "Good Neighbors" Workshop Series, 2) a Stakeholder Eco-Workshop, 3) a Culturally-Diverse Environmental Event and 4) a Sustainable Watershed Forum.
Behaviors: Reduction of impervious surface, Conservation landscaping
Behavior Pattern: Continous
Audiences: Rowhome/town home/condo owners/renters, Detached single family homeowners/renters
Primary Audience: Detached single family homeowners/renters
Secondary Audience: Rowhome/town home/condo owners/renters
Demographics: Asia/pacificislander, Black or african american, Hispanic or latino, Native american or indian, Other, White
Montgomery County- Based on a survey conducted in 2009, 33% of respondents indicated they were not American born citizens. The same percentage indicated they speak a language other than English in their home. The following percentages of demographics are based on a culmination of 3 studies completed from 2007-2010:
African American: 9-16%
This community awareness and engagement project targeted to all Montgomery County residents will be especially focused in identified impaired watersheds with densely populated areas of HOAs, minority groups, and diverse cultures. DEP has determined that engaging these traditionally underrepresented groups is essential to meeting the requirements in its MS4 permit. As DEP and its partners work together, they will determine how to script their message to reach these key communities to become involved in watershed protection. Once this strategy is formulated, tested and evaluated, these projects can be a model that can be transferred and replicated in other urban or suburban areas that are faced with heavy impacts from stormwater runoff. By holding these events and working with existing programs like Targeted Neighborhoods, more residents and community groups will become aware, understand and accept their role in the reduction of stormwater pollution, so that they can take ownership and feel proud that their actions improved and protected the vulnerable watersheds and ecosystems in which they live.
By identifying and forming a bond with the community outreach partners listed in this project, DEP has shown it intends to use the depth and diversity of the community to foster behavior change from within. Partnering with organizations that have a strong presence in the community like the Friends of Sligo Creek, and in cooperation with County Offices including Community Partnerships and Consumer Protection allows DEP to reach a specific demographic population that can then act as mentors to engage their constituency communities to participate in watershed protection activities.
Each aspect of this project is intended to continue after grant funding is exhausted to become a fixed staple in the community. The means for funding this effort in the future will be determined in the POSWP, to be included in future County financial budgets as part of the DEP workplan. Watershed groups often face challenges in increasing membership, self promotion and sustaining activity. The creation and continuation of a watershed forum will expose the groups more readily to the community envouraging membership growth, increasing activity and community participation. As the Good Neighbors workshiop series grows, it can easily be transferred to any count with similar environmental issues, community groups and demographics.
How did you research your audiences: Focus groups
Montgomery County has a history of fostering positive working relationships with community organizations. DEP believes the workshops and events will fortify these growing relationships and sprout new relationships that will prosper in the future. In addition to example provided above, known community activities include:
Some of these activities are known in the community but many are not, especially to minorities and residents in home owners associations. The proposed events intend to complement the existing programs by building awareness and enhancing participation utilizing the proven outreach partners and media tools.
Outreach Tactics: How-to-skills, Prompts, Social diffusion, Social norms
What media/communication channels did you use? Events, Newspaper, Online or other digital media, Small group or public meetings, Social media
Forums and workshops have been an effective means to educate the public for many jurisdictions including Montgomery County. In Pennsylvania, Lancaster and Lebanon County have held a successful watershed forum for approximately six years involving over 20 watershed organization.s This event is anticipated by the local watershed group members and community as it has become a fixture in their area. The forum has grown every year it has been held from an initial 60 attendees to the nearly 200 residents that attend today. More locally in past years, the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) has held a watershed summit provide networking opportunities for the community and the watershed groups alike to "compare notes" pledge future partnerships and increase membership. Recent financial restrictions have prevented future development of this summit. The Montgomery County DEP intends to build on the AWS regional approach to create a similar forum for newly created watershed groups in the County and link them other members of the community.
Additionally, DEP's RainScapes training workshops have proven to be another great success in promoting DEP's mission. Demand for these training has become quite high to the point that a waiting list up to 40 people for single training can occur. In 2010, demand for more workshops has increased resulting in more offerings and public participation. DEP plans to model the proposed stakeholder workshops in the style of these successful training. Evaluations recently completed requesting feedback of past RainScapes participants indicated that roughly 82% of participants retained the information presented at the workshop and educated their neighbors or friends. Approximately 53% of the responding former attendees had adopted a water quality practice that was recommended at the training.
Adopting the proven techniques from the AWS and RainScapes workshop approaches are expected to enhance the success of the proposed events to achieve behavior change. DEP proposes the following events:
In order to promote the events to targeted communities, DEP will use effective, proven social media such as community list serves, websites, e-gazette, and newspapers. Social media such s Facebook, Twitter and subject-specific blogs has been effective for the county, especially for the DEP-Division of Solid Waste Services. The DEP blogs experience approximately 30-50 views/day; the Twitter account has a growing following of 300 residents while the yahoo groups and E-scriptions have a following of over 20,000 residents. The Montgomery County's Facebook platform has a following of 1,250 residents since the County Began using the social media tool in 2010.
Press released and other advertising material will be coordinated through the Montgomery County Public Information Office (PIO) which will increase awareness of these DEP-sponsored activities. In addition, advertising and program information will be related via list serves, websites, newsletters of the partner groups as well as through County outreach efforts. The above-mentioned media have all been proven to be effective outreach tools and will be used by partners to advertise the events and envourage involvement.
All DEP communications and activities reflect its mission to protect and enhance the quality of life i our community through the conservation, preservation, and restoration of our environment guided by the principles of science, resources management, sustainability and stewardship.
As part of its mission, Montgomery County DEP has embraced its role in fulfilling the new MS4 permit requirements. These new permit requirements include an expanded outreach and education component. A Water Restoration Implementation Strategy (WRIS), currently being developed by DEP, addresses this component through the Public Outreach and Stewardship Work Plan, scheduled for completion in late summer 12010. Realizing the necessity to address these requirements, DEP also hired a Watershed Outreach Planner to implement the POSWP. Initial feedback from the recent "State of the Streams" public input meeting indicate that involving community stakeholders in the education process are essential to the County's success in reducing stormwater impacts and successful reaching its MS4 permit goals within the five year limit. The proposed events will provide a jump start to begin implementing the POSWP by providing additional opportunities for every citizen to gain awareness, increase stewardship, and foster community involvement.
The proposed stakeholder workshops will be used to introduce the public to other important DEP program initiatives outline in its COunty Performance Plan (12/10/2009) as well. In addition to the WRIS, DEP is developing a Green Montgomery website and energy leadership program through an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. The events proposed in this grant will introduce individuals to the Green Montgomery concept and encourage participation as the program and website materials develop, therefore assisting in meeting multiple organizational goals.
The intent of the Green Montgomery website will be to serve as a single place for residents and businesses to go to:
Additionally DEP has a long history of reaching out to property owners, homeowners associations, and community groups in support of its watershed management projects and programs. Examples include:
The proposed events will be multi0faceted to ensure they strengthen participation in existing programs and support the broader goals of DEP and will be key factors in the pblic stewardshp component of the WRIS.
Water Quality if Important to Everyone in Montgomery County- Your actions count! The environmental impacts of stormwater runoff are a growing issue in Montgomery County and the Chesapeake Bay. Community involvement is a key component to reversing the trend.
How did you measure impact? Attendance List, Other, Tracking