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The Elizabeth Thorndike Environmental Leadership Award may be given each year to:

• Individual(s) or organization(s) whose work has been influential in mobilizing stakeholders to restore the water quality of the Genesee River Basin, improve access, increase use or encourage economic development that benefits from and contributes to the water quality of our region.

• Significant project(s) or event(s) that have contributed to restoration of the water quality of the Genesee River Basin, improved access, increased use or encouraged economic development that benefits from and contributes to the water quality of our region.

• Individual(s) whose volunteer work on behalf of CEI and its Genesee RiverWatch Initiative has significantly aided Genesee RiverWatch in its Mission.


Allen Kerkeslager received the Award for the significant contributions he has made in the founding and development of Genesee River Wilds, an Allegany County-based organization whose mission is to “Restore and protect the upper Genesee River.”

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William Hart, President of Genesee River Wilds, receiving the Elizabeth Thorndike Award on behalf of Allen Kerkeslager from William Hallahan.

Working through the Genesee River Wilds Project, the organization provides a holistic watershed management plan for the Upper Genesee River. “Its primary strategy is to transform the Genesee River corridor into an economically productive eco-tourism resource that will simultaneously improve the water quality of the river while addressing the economic needs of surrounding communities.”

These efforts have resulted in public-private partnerships that established four boat launch sites on the upper River. Efforts are underway to partner with two campgrounds and provide additional access. Allen has linked Genesee River Wilds with the Triple Divide Greenway and Trail System, the Rochester Remedial Action Plan, the Water Education Collaborative, the Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plan, and Genesee RiverWatch to promote collaboration amongst like-minded organizations.

Allen brought the river as a recreational resource to the forefront of national paddling attention with his article “Paddling as Conservation Strategy: the Genesee River Wilds Project”, which highlighted the upper river in the Fall-Winter 2012 issue of Canoe News, the official publication of the United States Canoe Association. As a regional leader in this field, Allen was included in the Greater Rochester Active Transportation Symposium in 2011 and was a valued participant at Genesee RiverWatch’s inaugural Genesee River Basin Summit in 2014.


The City of Rochester received the Award for the significant contributions it has made to provide public access to, and improve the water quality of, the Genesee River in 2014 and 2015 including building neighborhood trail connections to the Genesee Riverway Trail and improvements to Turning Point Park Trailhead.
The City of Rochester constructed five neighborhood trail connections to the Genesee Riverway Trail, including:

• Harding Road/Brewster Park to Turning Point Park
• St. Paul Street Trailhead
• Vincent Street Open Space
• Plymouth Avenue Greenway Connector
• Genesee Valley Park Connector

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Norman H. Jones, City of Rochester Commissioner of Environmental Services, receiving the Elizabeth Thorndike Award from Michael Storonsky.

The various trail connections close gaps in the city-wide trail system; link adjacent neighborhoods to recreation, historic and cultural destinations; enhance the scenic and recreational opportunities associated with the river; and provide important non-motorized travel opportunities.
The City also renovated the Turning Point Park Trailhead which increased the amount of parking and protected the adjacent mature wooded area. Green stormwater management techniques were used to infiltrate runoff from the parking lot and trails including rain gardens, biofiltration and porous pavers. The trailhead is now a demonstration and interpretation center for sustainable/green design elements.


The Genesee Headwaters Watershed Association received the 2015 Elizabeth Thorndike Environmental Leadership Award for its significant contributions to improving the water quality of the Genesee River.

20151001 CEI Community Salute 79 1

Darrell Davis, Vice President, Genesee Headwaters Watershed Association, receiving the Elizabeth Thorndike Award from William Hallahan.

Based in Genesee, Pennsylvania, the GHWA actively monitors both the chemistry and aquatic life of the Genesee River headwaters and its tributaries. In addition, its members have been active in recording accelerated stream bank erosion, then planting riparian buffers and undertaking stream restoration projects to address the erosion. Some of their accomplishments include:

• East Branch of the Genesee River, upstream of Hickox, Pa., Potter County. Two projects were untaken to stabilize over 800 ft. of river bank which are estimated to save more than 130 tons of sediment from being washed away each year.

• West Branch of the Genesee River. Three projects were completed that stabilized over 400 ft. of river bank saving many tons of sediment from being eroded away annually.

• Since 2005, GHWA has used grants totaling $265,000 to complete 26 stream projects within the 82 square mile drainage basin from Potter County, PA north into New York State.

• GHWA also seeks to promote new, innovative ways to protect and enhance the high quality water resource found in the area by providing educational programs to area youth and adults.

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