William Penn Mott Jr. Environmental Awards for 2019, 2022, 2023

(Andrea Madison, Photographer)
The William Penn Mott, Jr. Environmental Awards, held at the Wilder Art and Garden Center on June 4, honored 2023 recipient, the Friends of the Orinda Nature Area (FONA). Recipients of the 2019 and 2022 awards, Barbara Leitner with Friends of Orinda Creeks and the Orinda Eagle and Gold Scouts, respectively, were also presented with awards. (L-R) Jane Voll, FONA board member, materials; Latika Malkani, city council member; City Mayor Inga Miller; Reg Barrett, FONA wildlife; Toris Jaeger, FONA naturalist; Brad McCullough, FONA treasurer; Erica Bains, FONA president; Kathy Barrett, FONA secretary; Ellie Gkatzimas, student board member; Rebecca Dahlberg, FONA vice president.

    The 2019, 2022 and 2023 William Penn Mott, Jr. Environmental Awards were presented June 4 at the Wilder Art and Garden Center. The prior years’ in-person ceremonies were delayed due to the pandemic.
    The award is named after Mott, the 12th National Park Service Director who lived in Orinda. It is given by The Orinda Association to a citizen or group with outstanding contributions to environmental preservation and/or education.
    Friends of the Orinda Nature Area (FONA) was honored for this year, presented to President Erica Bains and committee member and naturalist Toris Jaeger.
    Since 2004, as a grassroots organization, FONA supports environmental education programs and works toward the conservation of its natural and historical resources.
    Projects range from the removal of invasive species, to cleaning in and around area creeks, to holding nature camps for youth.
    “I hope you will join us and become part of the nature conservation solution and start, even in your own backyards, to reverse various and critical biodiversity loss right here in Orinda,” Bains said.
    “A group like ours does not happen without dedication,” said Jaeger. “They come in and just put things together and make things community-friendly.”
    The Orinda Eagle and Gold Scouts earned the 2022 recognition and was accepted by Eagle Scouts coach and Briones District Advancement Chair Bruce McGurk and Jan Cushman, Northern California Girls Scouts Gold Award Coordinator.
“Wherever you walk in Orinda, you’re basically tripping over scout projects,” said McGurk.
    Improvements contributed by Eagle and Girl Scouts include a decorative tile bench located at the Nature Area entrance and a monarch butterfly garden bed.
    Botanist Barbara Leitner, recipient for 2019, served as president of the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and is now a board member for Friends of Orinda Creeks.
    Leitner rallied for environmental causes in the community, compiled a list of suitable landscaping plants, which the city distributes to residents and worked with Caltrans to eradicate invasive stinkwort plants along Highway 24.
    Mott spent decades devoted to California’s state and local parks. He held various roles, including Oakland’s parks superintendent, general manager for both the East Bay Regional Park District and East Bay Zoological Society and as director of the State Department of Parks and Recreation.
    He was a founding member of The Orinda Association, serving as its first president.
    “It’s just an honor and a privilege to live in a city that cares so much about the environment and it gives an environmental award every year,” said Leitner. “And there are so many deserving people and organizations here, that it is really a great tradition.”

Andrea Madison can be reached at drea.madison.05@gmail.com.

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