By Joe Kuhn
It was a beautiful day in Kennedy Dells County Park on Wednesday as local leaders and members of the Division of Environmental Resources gathered to present the annual County Executive’s Outstanding Environmental Award. This year’s recipient was Tim Sanders, the Project Coordinator for the Division of Youth and Family Services at the Haverstraw Center. A dedicated volunteer, Sanders was recognized for his efforts to protect the ecosystem of the Minisceongo Creek in West Haverstraw. He has spent years contributing to the American Eel project, an effort to catch and relocate the vulnerable fish to safer waters.
Volunteers like Tim are trained to count, weigh, and relocate the eels that are caught as part of this project, releasing them to nearby barriers to help the fish in their long journey upstream. Tim was recognized not only for his own efforts, but for his ability to inspire young people from all over Haverstraw to get involved in protecting their environment.
“That is where Tim truly excels,” said Executive Day as he proudly presented this year’s award. “Tim leads by example. If you have seen him, as I have, dressed in waders – in the middle of the Minisceongo Creek- then you know what I’m talking about. It’s a powerful example for youth in Haverstraw and North Rockland.
“While we have faced many challenges this year, one of the unexpected benefits of our situation is that many more residents are exploring our county parks and other natural environments that they may not have taken the time to visit in the past,” Day continued. “They are getting the chance to see and appreciate the hard work of volunteers like Tim Sanders.”
In addition to adding his name to an honorary plaque that sits in the Rockland County Government offices, the county also planted a pink dogwood tree in Tim’s honor at Kennedy Dells County Park.
Sanders humbly accepted his award after thanking all of his fellow volunteers for making the project a reality. “This (award) is not just for me, this is for all of us, especially those kids that were out there with me countless hours” said Tim. “I feel that I’m not too old to learn, and they’re not too young to teach and I try to keep that spirit with me every day. I plan to bring these kids back here to see our tree.”
Legislator Harriet Cornell, Chairwoman of the Environmental Committee of the Rockland County Legislature, also spoke during the ceremony. “This is the first public meeting I’ve attended in person in months” admitted the legislator, before beginning her prepared remarks. A longtime advocate for environmental protection in Rockland, Legislator Cornell was pleased to honor Sanders’ efforts in preserving the Minisceongo Creek and his ability to inspire similar dedication in the children he works with. “To really understand why Tim Sanders has been selected as this year’s Outstanding Environmental Volunteer, treat yourself to the sight of young children in waders counting and releasing young eels in the Hudson. Their happy faces reveal what their time with Tim means to them. He has involved children from the Haverstraw Center in this DEC project for many years, as well as getting them involved in park clean-ups and Rockland’s Planning Land Use program.”