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From left, former Conservation Commission chair Fran Brady, Daniel Hand High School students Marina Dixon and Elizabeth Ozimek, and Domingo Millan of Madison Public Works pose in front of a sign the two students helped research and install. (Photo by Jesse Williams/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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The work of two Daniel Hand High School (DHHS) Conservation Commission interns has borne further fruit, as the town last week installed a handful of street signs designed and based on the two students’ research to better inform residents on the locations and sensitivities of Madison’s watersheds.
Marina Dixon and Elizabeth Ozimek, currently juniors at DHHS, spent last summer working with the commission to identify invasive species and add information to the commission’s website, among other things.
But one of their biggest projects was visiting Madison’s many watershed areas—places where any runoff flows to larger bodies of water such as rivers, oceans, or lakes—and designing signs that will inform residents or visitors of activities to be careful about.
Former Conservation Commission chair Fran Brady said that having the signs up around town is a concrete, tangible improvement that came out of the internship program.
“I was floored- it’s really nice to see just any plan come to fruition...They just look perfect,” he said.
Originally targeting college-age students, the internship program eventually reached out to the DHHS environmental club. Three students participated in the program last summer, with the third, Sarah Caso, having since graduated and gone away to college.
Brady said last fall that much of the information that the interns gathered has been used by the commission, and will continue to serve the town and residents long into the future. The interns were paid, Brady said, working both independently and alongside the commission to accomplish their projects.
The purpose of the signs is to identify watershed areas at six key locations around Madison, Brady said, along with reminding people of the kinds of activities that can result in harmful runoff.
Dixon and Ozimek said that they learned a lot during their time interning specifically about local geography, which they said helps them further spread awareness of the kinds of issues that arise in a complex ecosystem like Madison’s.
“I didn’t know that just because you’re polluting your local river, it runs into this big body of water that affects everyone,” Ozimek said.
“You think you’re far away from a body of water, and you don’t think you’re polluting anything but you actually are,” Dixon said.
The six total signs mark four different watershed locations, according to Brady—three for the Neck River watershed on Copse Road, Bradley Corners Road, and Greenhill Road; one for the Hammonasset watershed on Warpas Road; one marking the South Central watershed also on Copse Road; and another on Bradley Corners Road marking the East River watershed.
Ozimek and Dixon said that they did a lot of research concerning the consequences of watershed pollution and how to mitigate it. That research, including informative videos filmed at the watershed locations, are available on the Conservation Commission’s website, which Ozimek said she hopes people go and look up after seeing the signs.
“You don’t really know, ‘Oh, how do I use care with fertilizer [in a watershed].’ We have to hope that they will see it, and look into [it] for more information,” she said.
Essentially all runoff in Madison can make its way to the Long Island Sound, requiring special care in almost all areas of the town, the interns said.
Having become involved in a government project and seen their work and advocacy pay off, Dixon and Ozimek said they are proud of having made an impact on the conservation efforts going on in Madison. Both said they hoped to find other ways to contribute to the awareness of environmental issues in the town.
“I didn’t really know how bad pesticides could be on your lawn, you just have to be more careful with that,” Ozimek said.
Dixon said that it was nice to have a reminder of her and the other intern’s work around town.
“If I’m in the car and I see the sign, I feel a little bit better about myself if I’m having a bad day or something,” she said.
For more information about Madison’s watersheds, as well as other environmental issues and initiatives, visit www.madisonct.org/174/Conservation-Commission.
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