Bear Tavern educator receives award from the Watershed

The Watershed Institute celebrated its 2023 Annual Meeting Monday, April 24 at the Watershed Center, the organization’s LEED-Platinum headquarters on its 950-acre nature reserve. The meeting featured the election and reelection of trustees, presentation of awards to two exceptional environmental leaders, and the official opening of the Hickory Loop boardwalk trail.  

The Richard Rotter Award for Excellence in Environmental Education was presented to Tina Overman, STEM Facilitator at Bear Tavern Elementary School in Hopewell Township. This award is given annually to an outstanding local teacher in recognition of their commitment to environmental education. Overman is pictured above with some of the students who testified on her behalf at the meeting, as well as Jim Waltman, executive director of the Watershed Institute.

In her 25 years at Bear Tavern School, Overman has brought many innovative environmental programs to her kindergarten through fifth grade students.  She has raised trout and diamondback terrapins; installed wildlife habitat enhancements; established a nature trail; developed a pollinator meadow and garden; and managed vegetable gardens at the school. In addition, Overman and her students are working with The Watershed Institute as part of the pilot class of our StreamWatch Schools, a program where community members contribute to the collection of water quality data from around the watershed.

The Edmund W. Stiles Award for Environmental Leadership was presented to Daniel J. Van Abs, Ph.D., FAICP/PP, professor of professional practice for water, society, and the environment at Rutgers University. The annual award recognizes a community leader who demonstrates outstanding leadership, dedication, and passion in advancing the cause of environmental protection and stewardship. The award is presented in honor of the late Edmund W. (Ted) Stiles, Professor of Ecology at Rutgers University. 

Van Abs has spent his career addressing the challenges of water resources management, including water supply, water quality, watershed protection, water infrastructure and regional environmental planning and management. He served as a Trustee to the Watershed Insititute from 2014-2020 and has been a member of the organization’s Advisory Board since 2020. As a professor at Rutgers, he mixes teaching, research and public service responsibilities. 

Hopewell Township Mayor Michael Ruger looks on as Jim Waltman and Bear Tavern students cut the ribbon for the Hickory Loop Boardwalk trail

“For more than seven decades, The Watershed Institute has been working to protect and restore clean water and healthy watersheds,” Waltman said. “The annual meeting is a great time to celebrate and thank our staff, members, volunteers and partners for their commitment to this mission and the many successes that we’ve enjoyed together.” He highlighted the work that the Watershed Institute’s scientists, advocates and educators are doing to help municipalities manage polluted stormwater runoff to improve water quality. 

The trustees elected this year are Marc Brahaney of Princeton, NJ; Anna Catena Ed.D. of Lawrence Township, NJ; Paula Figueroa-Vega of Lawrence Township, NJ; and Carolyn Powell Sanderson of Pennington, NJ. The trustees reelected to a second term are Rob Connor, Ph.D. of Trenton, NJ; Kurt Schulte of Lawrenceville, NJ; and Dr. Susannah Wise of Princeton, NJ.  

After the formal meeting, guests were invited to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Hickory Loop Boardwalk trail. The fully-accessible, raised walkway spans 0.7 miles and provides ADA-compliant access to the forest, meadows, and stream. Hickory Loop is a model of accessibility, conservation, and research that benefits both visitors and the environment; the Watershed’s more than ten miles of trails are open from dawn to dusk, seven days per week.   

The Watershed Institute is dedicated to keeping central New Jersey’s water clean, safe and healthy. Founded in 1949, The Watershed Institute protects and restores water and the environment through conservation, advocacy, science and education.  Learn more about the Watershed, www.thewatershed.org 

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