xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

‘Making a difference at the local level’: Young people work to protect Carroll County’s environment

A group of Westminster High School students wearing shirts that read “Environmental Action Club. We are the change” trudged through Wakefield Valley Park toward the top of the stream near the Durbin House and explained their plans for restoration. It included addressing erosion and restoring organisms.

“We’ll know the stream is fully restored when the macrobiology is fully diverse,” Nicki James, a junior at Westminster High School said.

Advertisement

In other words, when various species can be seen enjoying the stream in the park.

Members of Westminster High's Environmental Action Club, from left, Alex Robinson, Nicki James, Sarah Hawley, and Elsa Schoberg, discuss some of the work the group has done to improve Copps Branch at Wakefield Valley Park on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
Members of Westminster High's Environmental Action Club, from left, Alex Robinson, Nicki James, Sarah Hawley, and Elsa Schoberg, discuss some of the work the group has done to improve Copps Branch at Wakefield Valley Park on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Two groups of young people are working to protect Carroll County’s environment and each were recognized by the county for their efforts. Carroll County’s Environmental Advisory Council announced in late March the winners of its 2021 Environmental Action Awards, given to individuals or groups who have projects that benefit the environment.

Advertisement
Advertisement

The winner of the council’s Student Engagement Award was Elsa Schoberg, a Westminster High School senior, who helped start the Environmental Action Club. And an honorable mention recipient was Caring For Our Climate, a club started by Winters Mills junior Lucinda Diehl.

Schoberg and members of the Environmental Action Club, or EAC, completed a survey of the Copps Branch stream in Westminster, developed a plan to restore the stream and had their plan approved by the city’s council. Schoberg was awarded a $500 scholarship by Atlantic Blue Water Services of Westminster and a $25 gift card donated by Olive Garden.

Caring For Our Climate members hosted webinars with county government officials who spoke about environmental policy, they create educational environmental posts on Instagram twice a week and they are working to create a countywide composting site.

Schoberg and fellow Westminster High School senior Alex Robinson realized during their sophomore year the school did not have any type of environmental group.

Advertisement

“From the very start, we knew how important it was to make a difference at the local level,” Schoberg said.

The EAC grew to about 30 people, most from Westminster High, some from Winters Mill and others from the community. Initially, they only picked up trash in Wakefield Valley Park, but were later introduced to a specialist who taught them how to assess the health of a stream.

From there, they created a plan that would help Copps Branch recover. Part of the plan was to plant some trees by the stream to nourish the land around it. Schoberg and James explained the idea to the Westminster City Council. However, the pandemic slowed their efforts.

Members of Westminster High's Environmental Action Club look out over Copps Branch as it winds its way thru Wakefield Valley Park on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
Members of Westminster High's Environmental Action Club look out over Copps Branch as it winds its way thru Wakefield Valley Park on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

The focus has shifted a bit to spreading awareness.

“I find that a lot of people, they don’t really understand the importance of making a difference at the local level,” Schoberg said.

For example, the Chesapeake Bay watershed starts in Carroll County.

“People don’t even realize, whatever we do to that stream goes directly to the Chesapeake Bay,” Schoberg said.

But progress has been made.

“This pond used to be just algae,” Robinson said as he looked at the water. “Just in the past year, I would say it improved drastically.”

Copps Branch at Wakefield Valley Park covered in algae back in June 2019.
Copps Branch at Wakefield Valley Park covered in algae back in June 2019. (Elsa Schoberg)

A few fish could be seen in the water and a turtle was spotted dipping its head above the surface. James said planting trees to could help it even more. However, Sara Howley, the club’s president, said there’s a lot of red tape to go through in order to plant.

Howley said the plan for the group is to continue with the clean-ups and start looking at new locations to improve, like Morgan Run.

Members of Westminster High's Environmental Action Club, from left, Alex Robinson, Nicki James, Sarah Hawley, and Elsa Schoberg, discuss some of the work the group has done to improve Copps Branch at Wakefield Valley Park on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
Members of Westminster High's Environmental Action Club, from left, Alex Robinson, Nicki James, Sarah Hawley, and Elsa Schoberg, discuss some of the work the group has done to improve Copps Branch at Wakefield Valley Park on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Caring for our climate

Since the pandemic, Diehl, the junior from Winters Mill, said she’s been more exposed to social justice topics like Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights and climate change, and she wanted to get involved. She noticed how the climate crisis has a direct impact on the local community and “really wanted to educate and advocate.”

“One thing that specifically drew my attention is how much focus there is on Carroll County water and how it goes into the Chesapeake Bay,” she said. “And eventually the ocean.”

Diehl started a social media page and began working with other students to recruit more members. The club now has close to 40 members after starting in December. Diehl said she enjoys working with her team and all the hard work they have accomplished. The goal is to have people as young as middle schoolers and as old as college students.

“Young people are affected by irreversible climate change and what happens in local environment,” Diehl said.

Nicholas Cain Jr., one of the group’s members, said he learned about the group on Instagram. And although the Georgia Southern University student does not have direct ties to Carroll County, other than his two cousins who live there, he wanted to be part of it.

“It’s absolutely amazing, especially for the area that they’re in,” he said.

The Mississippi native said he’s part of several environmental groups and often lends his expertise to Caring For Our Climate.

Also part of the team is Cooper Unkle, a junior at Manchester Valley High School. He also found out about the club on social media and appreciates the opportunity to put his passion into action.

“I think locally there are kids who don’t get heard enough, who share similar passions that we do,” he said.

Since its inception, Diehl said they learned from county leaders about how flawed the American recycling system is because of the amount of trash that gets in it. And they hope to speak to farmers about a composting plan. They also started a fundraiser to donate to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement