Thursday, January 23, 2014
The Waccamaw River has a new BFF.
Paula Reidhaar, an Indiana transplant by way of Wilmington, N.C., has taken the reins of the river as its newest Riverkeeper.
Just two days into her tenure, she was raring to go.
“I always knew that I was going to go into something to do with the environment,” she said, settling into her office at Coastal Carolina University.
She had just finished her Master’s degree in Marine Science at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington when she saw the posting for the riverkeeper position.
“It was perfect,” she said. “I wanted to stay in the area, I got the information and decided to apply.”
While the location and the opportunity coincided, so too did the other facets of the riverkeeper job.
One of the first items on her agenda is to get to know the river. She said she intends to visit the water monitoring sites. “But the best way, is to jump right in.”
The riverkeeper has kayaks and a boat, she said, that are used for paddling days and on cleanup days, so there are a couple of options in that respect.
It doesn’t hurt that the outgoing Riverkeeper, Christine Ellis, has offered to help her get her feet wet, both literally and figuratively.
Ellis, who served as Riverkeeper since August 2006, has taken the position as River Advocate with the Winyah Rivers Foundation, so she will remain in the Grand Strand area, concentrating on specific projects within the watershed.
“One of the hardest things is to focus on the ongoing projects, to learn those, and then to focus on the future,” Reidhaar said.
She said she is thankful that Kelly Davis, the assistant Riverkeeper, has been working on projects for about a year now, and the board of the Winyah Rivers Foundation also has ongoing projects and funding while she learns her way around the area.
But grant writing is part of the job, and she’s looking forward to that too — along with working with the public and volunteers — to help people take care of their own watershed.
She’s enthusiastic about the opportunity for growth, both for the organization and for the health of the river.
Education is another prime goal.
“That’s why the water monitoring program is so important,” she said. “People can get information firsthand about what’s going on. They then pass the information on to their mothers, their children, their neighbors. Hopefully we’ll build those relationships.”
While Reidhaar says she loves being active, she is also realistic.
“At first, they may not see as much of me as they saw of Christine, but I think that will change as I become more familiar with the area.”
She said she was excited about having the coastal ecosystem, the marsh ecosystem and the coastal forest all within a short distance, and she said she can indulge her love of being outdoors and hiking.
And when her tenure is done, she wants to be remembered as having done positive things for the organization.
“Or at least having people remember that I was out there, to be the face for the organization.”