By Deb Patterson
WARSAW – The annual Kosciusko County Soil and Water District meeting was just as unique as the past year. There was no guest speaker. There were no awards presented and no large gathering of people.
Instead, this year’s annual meeting was virtual and brief with highlights of the unusual year and the election of one supervisor.
The participants totaled 14 people, all board members of the SWCD with the exception of a few people including Cary Groninger and Brad Jackson, county commissioners.
Darci Zolman, program administrator, who has been with the SWCD for more than 33 years presented a short PowerPoint highlighting programs and services in 2020. “This was by far the most unusual year,” she stated, adding programs and services were offered in unique ways. “We used out-of-the-box thinking,” she stated adding the local SWCD had success in a most unusual year.
She highlighted grant projects through the Lake & River Enhancement program and Clean Water Indiana. Both projects included the Tippecanoe River and Walnut Creek watersheds. A project in the Eel River Watershed was also completed through the CWI grant.
Zolman noted the partnerships with other agencies throughout the state on such services as Rule 5 (erosion control plans on construction sites), landfill inspection, collecting data through a tillage transects and field inspections for the conservation reserve program assistance. “Even through social distancing and masking we were still able to engage with the community through a variety of programs,” Zolman stated. She highlighted the food plot seed program where 1,400 pounds of seed was dispersed for wildlife food plots. A new program — Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area Group — was initiated to address water and woodland invasive species.
Adult programs included the annual farmers breakfast and contractors workshop, which were held early in the year. The Riverwatch Training and Project Wet & Wild programs were held outside. Education for youth continued with outside learning experiences in the area of field, stream and wetlands.
Zolman also highlighted two SWCD members who received awards during the past year. J and M Roberts Farms was the recipient of the River Friendly Farmer award and Jamie Scott was recipient of the Indiana Association Soil Water Conservation District President’s Award. Additionally, she highlighted the local SWCD’s participation in award-winning programs receiving the Friend of Conservation Award from the Arrow Head Country RC&D and recipient of the Indiana Master Naturalist Host of the Year award from the DNR after revamping the program for master naturalist to complete the course.
Stan Moore, supervisor, noted prior to Zolman’s presentation the “past year presented a lot of challenges … if 2020 taught us anything it is to be resilient … creative and to adapt services.” He noted while the district was unable to provide some services such as the tree sale program, they were able to deliver many services to the community.
It was noted the tree sales will be back for 2021 and people were encouraged to visit the SWCD’s website to order or contact the office to have information mailed.
During the business portion of the meeting, Jamie Scott was re-elected to another three years as a supervisor. He has spent 18 years on the SWCD board and is the current vice-chairman.
The financial report was presented by Ryan Martin, secretary/treasurer.