The Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council (LESHC) today awarded the Coastal Stewards as Best New Heritage Initiative of 2009. During the LESHC Annual Meeting, held at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, MD, representatives of the program gratefully accepted the award in front of an audience of over 100 attendees.
The award recognizes programs, events, or products that represent new initiatives achieved in the last year by an individual or organization that educate the public by expanding understanding of, or access to, the area’s rich heritage.
Coastal Stewards is a Summer Youth Employment Program partnership which, in 2009, was funded by President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the National Park Service, and the Ocean City-Berlin Optimist Club.
During the summer of 2009, 11 local students were hired – for green jobs – and trained to work as interpreters at Assateague and other local parks and museums. Throughout the summer, these 11 Coastal Stewards engaged over 6,000 visitors to and residents of the Eastern Shore, providing powerful connections to local nature and heritage. Jay Parker, Executive Director of the Heritage Council, thanked Maryland Coastal Bays Education Coordinator Carrie Samis and Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences Director Jim Rapp for their efforts to inspire and lead this next generation of stewards.
Throughout the summer of 2009, Coastal Stewards shared information about coastal nature and heritage, and encouraged tourists to visit our parks and museums. Coastal Stewards were educating and involving the community through public outreach and education efforts at parks, local festivals, and official meetings of local and state elected leaders.
Teams were outfitted with mobile exhibits featuring information, literature, games, and live animal displays, designed to highlight efforts that local citizens and tourists can make to conserve and restore our land and water. Coastal Stewards assisted interpretation staff at Assateague with conducting public programs. During programs and events, Coastal Stewards promoted the variety of nature-based and heritage tourism experiences that exist in the region. Public outreach programs were conducted at several locations at Assateague Island National Seashore, Assateague State Park, Berlin, and Ocean City.
Joriee’ Dorman said, “being a Coastal Steward opened my eyes to the diversity of the Lower Eastern Shore, my home. I grasped so much and learned about my own heritage, in a way that no classroom or lecture could teach me.”
Coastal Stewards is managed by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences. Partner organizations include the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance, Assateague Island National Seashore, Assateague State Park, the Maryland Conservation Corps, and Worcester County Tourism.
Thanks to an expanded partnership with the Maryland Park Service’s Civic Justice Corps program, 24 Coastal Stewards will be hired in 2010! Summer job openings will be advertised through the MD Department of Natural Resources.