Four longtime champions of the Narrow River have received accolades for their work and dedication to preserving the river and educating others about one of South County’s key natural resources.
The Narrow River Preservation Association honored Sally Sutherland of Narragansett, Barry Devine of Slocum, and Rosemary and David Smith, also of Narragansett.
The four received their awards during NRPA’s 51st annual meeting, held Oct. 5 via Zoom.
The hour-long meeting also included a review the past year of stewardship, outreach and educational activities in the Narrow River, volunteer recognition, endorsement of the board of directors and treasurer’s report, and watershed and a wildlife video featuring year of action highlights from the first osprey family to be recorded by NRPA’s osprey webcam.
Sutherland received the 2021 W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award. It goes to an individual or organization whose work in protecting the Narrow River reflects the spirit of W.E.R. La Farge, a founding member of NRPA.
“It represents somebody who is very passionate about the river, very passionate about conservation for it, and has worked very hard to protect the river in this spirit,” NRPA Vice President Veronica Berounsky said.
Sutherland was recognized for her work and dedication over many years to NRPA’s community outreach programs, particularly the Lesa Meng College Scholarship Program and the Town of Narragansett’s Environmental Awareness Day at the beach, and overall service to the Narrow River Preservation Association.
Sutherland, an ocean engineer, has served on the board of directors of the association for 16 years and has been involved in many of NRPA’s efforts. Her most visible work for NRPA has been running the Meng scholarship program since 2009, covering 13 high school graduations.
She has also volunteered at the Narrow River Turnaround Swim, What Lives in the River family exploration event, the Narrow River Road Race, and the installation of the osprey nest platform overlooking the river.
At the awards ceremony Sutherland was modest, saying she felt not worthy to get it.
“You listen to all the other awards, just some wonderful people doing great things,” she said.
Devine received a 2021 Environmental Appreciation Award for his efforts editing, writing and publishing “The Pettaquamscutt Estuary: The Narrow River Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” a literary and educational resource that also generated significant funds for NRPA within its first year of publication.
“It focuses on the critical link between landscapes and seascapes, emphasizing the importance of the ecosystem, the impact of human beings and our responsibility as global stewards of the Earth,” NRPA board member Nathan Vinhateiro said.
In addition to a trove of historical documents and articles, the book includes 15 detailed maps of the watershed, which highlight different environmental and natural history aspects. Through the development of the maps, Devine also compiled a comprehensive GIS database of the watershed.
Profits from Devine’s book have gone to NRPA to support conservation and educational efforts.
Rosemary and David Smith also received an Environmental Appreciation Award for their efforts creating and hosting the winter speaker series “On Pettaquamscutt: Presentations on the Environment and the History of the Narrow River Watershed.”
In 2012 the Smiths, a couple from Narragansett, created the speaker series and developed partnerships with Friends of Canonchet Farm, Narrow River Preservation Association, South County Museum and the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library.
They garnered sponsorship from Trio Restaurant, which supported the series. The couple organized and hosted the speaker series for 10 years, retiring it in March.
The free talks were an opportunity for educational programming during a time of year when field programs in the watershed typically wind down. The lectures concentrated on the environmental and local history of the Narrow River watershed and have spanned a range of topics over the years including historic farms in the watershed, salt marsh habitat restoration, common amphibians and reptiles in the Narrow River, the impacts of sea level rise, and this year, a virtual tour of coastal defenses in Narragansett presented by David Smith.
The On Pettaquamscutt website, onpettaquamscutt.org, remains available and offers video recordings of recent presentations as well as resources from many of the programs throughout the series.