“Branching out” in Montgomery County: Meet Susan Kornacki, Outreach Specialist at DEP!
Hello! My name is Susan Kornacki, and I’m a new Montgomery County resident who just joined the team at the Department of Environmental Protection!
I’m really excited to work at an agency that exists to protect our environment, and I’m looking forward to getting to know Montgomery County!
I am motivated by the belief that we all have a responsibility to take care of our world, because humans have had a tremendous impact on it. There’s a lot of work to do, I am so grateful that this job will allow me to be a part of incredible green things happening in Maryland!
At DEP I will be sharing stories and resources through our social media channels and our website. I will also help plan our annual GreenFest event, and organize tree education and outreach programs through our awesome tree planting program, Tree Montgomery.
I’ll be traveling throughout the county to tell people about our exciting environmental programs, so you will probably see me at an event in your community at some point soon!
Here’s a bit about me:
Where I come from: I grew up in a small town called Elma, south of Buffalo, New York. My favorite activity was climbing trees and playing in my treehouse, where my love of trees began! As you can see here, I’m still a big fan (the image at the top of the page is a giant tree in Van Cortlandt Park, which takes up over 1,000 acres in the Bronx – it is NYC’s third largest park!).
In college I studied visual art and new media, and English literature. My plan was to be a journalist and an artist, and maybe an art therapist and an anthropologist too – but in college I realized that what I really wanted to do was change the world through sustainability and environmental programs. So I chased those dreams to New York City!
Planting trees in the Big Apple: Through a national service program called AmeriCorps,
I worked on the MillionTreesNYC campaign, a public private partnership between the New York City Parks Department and the New York Restoration Project. With the help of thousands of New Yorkers, we planted one million new trees in the city – to date, the nation’s most ambitious municipal tree planting program!
My job was to organize tree planting programs and teach tree stewardship workshops, so New Yorkers could learn how to keep the trees alive, so they could thrive and provide health benefits in the community. As I watered, weeded and planted my way throughout the five boroughs, I got to know community organizers and activists all over the city who were working to make their neighborhoods safer and more beautiful. I learned that consensus always begins with listening, and that we can achieve incredible things if we all work together toward the same goal!
Protecting Rivers in Buffalo, New York: After MillionTreesNYC I worked at Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, where I planned public forums, workshops and special events to create opportunities for people to get involved with watershed restoration. The Niagara River (pictured here) is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s national list of areas of concern, a term they use for highly impaired waterway.
The river is not safe to swim in, due to stormwater run-off issues and historical pollution from industrial work along the water’s edge. Our work was to educate the community about these problems and to work with partners to address issues impacting water quality throughout the watershed.
I am inspired by: Rachel Carson, author of the book “Silent Spring;” Jane Jacobs, an author and activist who believed in walkable safe cities; and Wangari Maathai, a tree planting leader and women’s rights activist in Kenya. But most of all I am inspired by my grandmother, Joan Kornacki (pictured here). An avid environmentalist, she regularly writes to her local paper about the importance of trees, and she taught me how to love and care for plants from the very start.
Thank you for reading my story today. I look forward to getting to know my fellow Montgomery County residents as I “branch out” throughout the county! In the meantime, if you have ideas or suggestions for our social media platforms and outreach efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact me – feedback and ideas are always welcome!