SHIRLEY — The Girl Scout Silver Award recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through sustainable and measurable Take Action projects that address important community needs. The highest award at the Cadette level, it requires each awardee to engage in 50-plus hours of work as they take on a leadership role in designing and implementing a project that will benefit the community at large.
Girl Scout Troop 73497 members Katherine Brauckmiller, Sophia Brown, Savannah Caldbeck and Lydia Flagg were each awarded a Girl Scout Silver Award for their efforts to restore river-crossing signs in Shirley, marking places where waterways intersect roadways. Each sign has the name of the river or brook printed on it, with a reminder to “Please Keep it Clean!”
In addition, they created a public education video to teach community members about the river system in their area, with simple suggestions describing ways that community members can all help keep local waterways clean and beautiful.
The Cadettes began the project a year ago. While looking for an Earth Day project, they were approached by town historian and retired schoolteacher Meredith Marcinkewicz. Two decades ago, a group of Marcinkewicz’ students placed signs where rivers intersected roadways. Only a few remained, however, and most of the remaining signs were in a state of disrepair. Marcinkewicz suggested restoring the signs and the Cadettes seized on the opportunity.
Marcinkewicz got the team started by helping lay out the steps that would be needed to replace the signs. She discussed possible materials for making the signs, mapping location sites, and the types of approvals and support from the town they might need.
As the Cadettes mapped location sites, they visited each site and picked up trash where they saw it. They prioritized each site according to how much trash was near it, and by the level of visibility and traffic at each site. They ultimately worked on obtaining permission for sign placement at 20 sites.
Mike Gibbons from the Town Assessor’s office helped the Cadettes determine property owners, and they sent letters to each owner seeking permission to add or replace the signs.
The Cadettes presented their project to the Conservation Commission, who approved the project and provided them with information about by-laws concerning sign placement near wetlands.
The Cadettes also met with educator Gaynor Bigelbach and Nashua River Watershed Association founder Marion Stoddart at the NRWA River Classroom.
Bigelbach taught them about river ecology and pollutants. Stoddart, who has been profiled by National Geographic and recognized by the United Nations for her environmental work, spoke to them about environmental advocacy and shared stories about her legendary effort to restore the Nashua River, documented in the video, “The Work of 1000.”
The Cadettes raised money through a bake sale and through donations from community members and local businesses to purchase sturdy, metal signs sealed with a reflective 3M coating for durability. Community members Donald Farrar, Paul Farrar, and Rebecca Boucher, along with current Department of Public Works foreman Arthur Flynn, donated time and equipment to install the first 10 signs, and will install the remaining 10 as the ground thaws over the coming weeks.
The Cadettes documented their project, and took photos and videos of the rivers and brooks in town. They created a video to share their project, and to inspire and educate community members about simple ways they can all help keep local rivers and brooks clean and beautiful. Clean rivers and brooks benefit wildlife, overall water quality, recreational activities like fishing and kayaking, and property values. The video has been shared on community social media sites will be aired on local public access television.
A link to the video will be placed on the Shirley Conservation Commission’s webpage.