Boots on the Ground: AmeriCorps Farewell

RiverLink’s work to advance a healthy French Broad River would be severely hobbled without the efforts of our talented AmeriCorp staff. Fortunately, two of these staffers, Ben Duerr and Hannah Coats, will be with us for another year of projects in Education & Outreach (Ben), and Stewardship (Hannah). We are deeply grateful for their dedication to environmentalism, equity and diversity, and the French Broad.

Meantime, RiverLink bids a fond farewell to our third AmeriCorp staffer, Maya Balassa, who is starting a full-time job as a planner with the City of Portland, Maine!  Maya supported our Watershed Resources program, leading the way across a key milestone for our Adopt-A-Storm Drain program, with the 100th storm drain adopted this spring. Asheville’s storm drains empty directly into the French Broad.

“That was a cool experience–facilitating work for a cleaner river that’s done by local residents–people who have that drain on their daily walk, or wanted to teach their kids about stormwater near their home,” Maya says. “Being environmentally friendly can be really convenient–it just takes someone showing how. Adopting a storm drain is a simple thing folks can do to help the river that I found very affirming.”

Another rewarding (if more demanding) part of the job involved removing invasive plants from local streambanks. It’s hard work, “but that’s when you get to see a transformation,” Maya says. “That streambank covered in porcelain vine looks impossible at first. But you work for two hours on your little piece, alongside a group of volunteers–and suddenly the entire bank is clear and looks amazing, and you just stand back and admire what the collective can accomplish. The end result makes you feel so much better about the world.”

“RiverLink volunteers are everything,” Maya adds. “RiverLink is the coolest, smartest, most thoughtful group of people I’ve ever worked with–every single one. It’s so rare!” Congratulations, Maya–and enjoy your new job!