Wednesday, September 17, 2014
After 26 years, Richard Harris, director of Earthplace’s Harbor Watch program, will retire at the end of 2014, Earthplace officials announced today.
But Harris, when reached, said he is not walking away all together.
“I will probably stay on as both a consultant and a volunteer,” he said. “I like working with and training kids very much.
“But basically I need some more free time,” he added. “I have kids on the West Coast, and I’m 75 years old, and it’s time to not keep pushing my luck.”
Founded in the mid-1980s as a citizens’ water quality monitoring group of three local estuaries, Harbor Watch under Harris’ leadership grew to become the leading, volunteer-assisted Long Island Sound watershed monitoring program, Earthplace officials said.
The division, supported by two state-certified laboratories, now monitors hundreds of sites between Stamford and Trumbull.
“Possibly the greatest accomplishment was working with the towns and the City of Norwalk and their specific departments to reach common goals,” Harris recalled about clean-up efforts.
“It’s mainly infrastructure that’s old, and we have found through our own techniques to isolate some of these soft points, these leaks.
“The good part of it is we will work with these departments, and we will get things done,” he added.
“We have never taken a combative role. We’ve taken the role of working with these groups for a common objective which is cleaning up the Sound and the rivers.”
Earthplace officials also credit Harris’s leadership for the education of hundreds of high school interns who have taken part in Harbor Watch programs.
Through internships, volunteer projects and guest lecturing to wide audiences, officials say, Harbor Watch has trained more than 1,000 high school students and adult volunteers.
Harris explained that through the high school program, “we’ve set them up on scientific teams to do their own lab work.”
“They learned how to how research and refine their data and then to present it to the public,” he said.
According to Sarah S. Ferrante, development and marketing manager, “Mr. Harris’ lasting legacy will be the generations of environmental stewards he has inspired,”
She added that the search for a new Harbor Watch program director will begin later this month.
“Dick has built a very solid foundation with expansion plans well on the way. We are very thankful to Dick for his tremendous leadership for so many years,” said Tony McDowell, Earthplace executive director.
“We look forward to working with him in the months ahead to ensure a smooth transition for the program and the continuation of his mission to restore the biological integrity of Long Island Sound and its watershed,” he added.
Posted 09/17/14 at 05:42 PM
Welome to the 2 feet out the door category! I know you will stay involved and continue to offer so much to so many. Thanks for all you have done to preserve and improve our precious environment and to educate our children. I want you to know that the more time off you have the more you will need. I know because Iv’e been there.
Dick Harris has been as precious a resource to Westport as the water quality he has sought to protect through his years of effort with Harborwatch and Riverwatch. People don’t realize that most of the rest of the state lacks the continous, data-driven testing program from which Westport has benefitted, thanks to Dick and his colleagues.
Dick—you better stay involved!
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