Winners of Environmental Champion Awards Announced

The Rockfall Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of our 2019 Environmental Champion Awards. The award winners were selected from nominations submitted by members of the community across the Lower Connecticut River Valley. Essex Land Trust and Pat Young have been chosen to receive Tom ODell Distinguished Service Awards, honoring their long-term accomplishments in environmental conservation and preservation. Certificates of Appreciation will be presented to Katie Hughes-Nelson of Perk on Main, and Bill Hesbach of the Connecticut Beekeepers Association and Connecticut Queen Breeders Cooperative. The awards will be presented at the Foundation’s Annual Meeting, Grants & Awards Celebration on October 3rd.

Tom ODell Distinguished Service Award Recipients:

Essex Land Trust

The Essex Land Trust is a model organization amongst land trusts. Founded in 1968, it is entirely supported by volunteers and 380 donating members. It actively manages over 900 acres of town open space, including its 23 preserves with over 55 trails maintained with 2000 volunteer hours annually. ELT has been a leader in the area for eradication of invasive plants, and supporting fish populations. They have a tradition of partnering with other organizations to achieve conservation and preservation goals, and generously share their expertise with other land trusts and conservation organizations. Amongst other accomplishments, ELT has collaborated to install fishways on two dams on Falls River, expanded open space corridors such as the 1000 Acre Preserve, and protected the Essex Great Meadow, which holds the largest stand of native, non-invasive phragmites in Connecticut. The land trust has long been raising awareness of ospreys and their gradual recovery, and since installment of an OspreyCam in 2010, offers live streaming of its nest on Thatchbed Island. ELT also hosts or co-sponsors a variety of events throughout the year: hikes, canoe and kayak paddles, educational programs and property clean-ups.


Pat Young

Pat Young has a professional career spanning over thirty years working to protect natural resources in the state of Connecticut. For the last ten years, Pat has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Eightmile and Salmon River Watershed groups, coordinating with local municipalities and other state and federal organizations to manage resources on a watershed basis; balancing growth with river protection. Pat currently also serves on the CT Sea Grant Extension Advisory Board, the CT River Coastal Conservation District Board, and CT Conservation Advisory Council to Senator Murphy’s Office. She has held previous positions with both Eastern and North Central Conservation Districts, has also worked in municipal land-use and environmental health with the towns of Waterford, Madison, Coventry and Old Lyme, and has served as Secretary for Envirothon, and Treasurer for CT Association of Conservation and Inland Wetland Commissions. Amongst the numerous projects she leads, she trains and coordinates crews of volunteers to monitor local streams, conduct river-clean-ups and collect data on amphibian populations.  In addition, each year she works to educate the next generation of environmental stewards by overseeing summer interns and mentoring high school students as a community partner in the UConn Natural Resources Conservation Academy Program and with local high schools and scout groups.


Certificate of Appreciation Recipients:

Katie Hughes-Nelson

Katie Hughes-Nelson opened the first Perk on Main location in 2002. Now located on Main Street in Middletown, her goal is to help bring forth an environmentally sustainable and socially just human presence on earth. Perk on Main buys fairly traded, organic and/or local products whenever possible, purchases 100% wind energy, generates no more garbage than an average single family home by turning food waste into mulch, provides filtered water to decrease the need for bottled water, encourages using a coffee travel mug, and donates coffee grounds to local gardens and farms. Katie is also currently pursuing an MBA from the Yale School of Management with a focus on Sustainability.


Bill Hesbach

Bill Hesbach is a Certified Master Beekeeper who teaches bee biology and basic beekeeping in Connecticut and throughout the United States. Bill is president of the Connecticut Queen Breeders Cooperative, serves on the board of the Connecticut Beekeepers Association, and works with the Eastern Apicultural Society as an educator and evaluator of aspiring Master Beekeepers. Bill also holds monthly “Bee Talks” at deKoven House where beekeepers from all over the state gather to share beekeeping knowledge. Bee Talks gained national acclaim when Bill participated in a podcast interview by Bee Culture Magazine, which has since adopted the format in print form.  Bill is a published author in multiple bee journals and owns and operates Wing Dance Apiary in Cheshire.  Because of Bill’s efforts, beekeepers are able to understand the critical link between bees and our ecosystem, impacts of invasive species and pesticides, and is expanding native queen bees in Connecticut, reducing the need to import southern bees with their non-native pests, potential for Africanized genes, and genetics that are incompatible with our climate.



The public is invited to attend and join in honoring the awardees at our Annual Meeting, Grants & Awards Celebration on Thursday, October 3rd at 6 p.m.   More information about the event is here.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _


Founded in 1935 by Middletown philanthropist Clarence S. Wadsworth, The Rockfall Foundation is one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations. The Foundation supports environmental education, conservation and planning initiatives in the Lower Connecticut River Valley through public programs and grants.  In addition, The Rockfall Foundation operates the historic deKoven House Community Center, which offers meeting rooms and office space for non-profit organizations.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search

Sunset at Hammonasset BeachAmanda and Tony