SUTHERLAND

Sally Sutherland, winner of the Narrow River Preservation Association's (NRPA) 2021 W.E.R. La Farge Friend of the River Award, pictured with her award with Narrow River behind her. Also honored by NRPA were Barry Devine of North Kingstown and Rosemary and David Smith of Narragansett.  

NARRAGANSETT – Four local residents who volunteer to protect and preserve Narrow River and its watershed were honored for their work recently at the Narrow River Preservation Association’s (NRPA) Annual Meeting. Sally Sutherland, Rosemary and David Smith and Barry Devine all received recognition from the nonprofit organization at the virtual event, distinction bestowed upon those who go above and beyond to assist NRPA’s effort to protect the water body. 

Both the Smiths and Devine were recipients of NRPA’s Environmental Appreciation Award, while Sutherland received the organization’s 2021 W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award. 

“I feel very humbled and honored to be recognized,” said Sutherland, who lives in Narragansett. “There are a lot of dedicated and hard working people who volunteer for NRPA.”

Sutherland, an ocean engineer, has served on the NRPA Board of Directors for 16 years and has been involved in many of the organization’s efforts. Her most visible work for NRPA has been running its Lesa Meng College Scholarship Program since 2009, which provides local high school seniors with funds to continue their education at higher learning institutions. Since 1993, the program has awarded over $50,000 to students who live in the Narrow River Watershed. 

For her hard work and dedication over many years to NRPA’s community outreach efforts, including its scholarship program, Sutherland was recognized with the distinction. She has also been a dedicated volunteer 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 Narrow River. 

“Sally has quietly put in a long-term effort to help NRPA and the Narrow River, particular in our outreach to local communities, and our area is much the better for her efforts,” said Alison Kates, NRPA Advisory Board Member. 

Sutherland thanked her husband, Ken, and son, Jake, a 10th grader at Narragansett High School, stating volunteer efforts with NRPA are a family affair. She extended her gratitude to NRPA members Veronica Berounsky and Ken McShane for nominating her for the Friend of the River Award this year. Finally, for Sutherland, who participates in many of NRPA’s events as well as helping organizing and run them, the beauty of the river drives her volunteer efforts with the organization that makes the protection and preservation of the watershed its mission. 

“I actually love driving across Lacy Bridge (between Narragansett and South Kingstown), looking north and seeing the beautiful and unexpected view of the Narrow River,” she said. 

Rosemary and David Smith were celebrated for their efforts creating and hosting ten years of the informative speaker series, On Pettaquamscutt: Presentations on the Environment and the History of the Narrow River Watershed.

In 2012, David and Rosemary, a married couple from Narragansett, created the On Pettaquamscutt winter speaker series. In doing this, they developed a partnership with Friends of Canonchet Farm, Narrow River Preservation Association, South County Museum, and the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library. They garnered sponsorship from Trio Restaurant, who generously supported the series. The Smiths facilitated and hosted the speaker series for ten years, retiring it in March 2021.

“By working together we told the stories of this beautiful place in South County for ten years,” said Rosemary. 

“It gives us a sense of pride knowing that our efforts have been recognized by a group of very dedicated NRPA volunteers who are celebrating 51 years of protecting the watershed,” David added. 

Free and open to the public, the presentations were held during the winter months (January, February and March), so the forums have provided a new 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 himself. 

“We had so much fun learning about the history and the environmental significance of this beautiful area,” said Rosemary in reflection of the speaker series. “More than 30 speakers from a variety of fields shared their expertise and experiences with the large audiences that we were able to attract.” 

“I was amazed at the connections that were made within the community,” said David. “An audience member would have a memory of Casey Farm and share it, another would volunteer to plant salt marsh grasses along the river, a speaker would gain insight into his own area of expertise from a comment from the audience.” 

When asked about their appreciation for Narrow River itself, the Smiths noted their recreational kayaking on Narrow River early in the morning. 

“NRPA attracts great people who are willing to give their time and energy to preserve the river,” David concluded. “It is all about collaboration.” 

Devine was celebrated for his efforts editing, writing, and publishing The Pettaquamscutt Estuary: The Narrow River Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, which is not only a literary and educational resource, but has also generated significant funds for NRPA within the first year of publication, as Devine dedicated all proceeds from the book’s sale back to the organization. The Pettaquamscutt Estuary: The Narrow River Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 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.

In addition to a trove of historical documents and articles, the book includes fifteen detailed maps of the watershed, each of which highlight different environmental and natural history aspects of the watershed. Through the development of these maps, Devine also compiled a comprehensive GIS database of the Narrow River watershed. 

“For an organization like NRPA, volunteers are fundamental to the success of our programs and community events,” said Kates. “NRPA Environmental Appreciation Awards recognize individuals who’s volunteer efforts have gone above and beyond.” 

Narrow River Preservation Association (NRPA) presents the W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award to an individual or organization whose work in protecting the Narrow River (Pettaquamscutt Estuary) reflects the spirit of W.E.R. La Farge, a founding member of the organization. 

More about the W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award, including a list of past recipients, is available at narrowriver.org/friend-of-the-river-award/.

Although the Smith’s speaker series is now retired, the On Pettaquamscutt website, onpettaquamscutt.org, remains available and offers video recordings of recent presentations as well as resources from many of the informative and interesting programs throughout the ten-year series.

The Pettaquamscutt Estuary: The Narrow River Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is available for sale at narrowriver.org/nrbook.

The awards were presented at NRPA’s 51st Annual meeting. Held online via Zoom on Tuesday, Oct. 5, the meeting was recorded and can be viewed at narrowriver.org/annual-meeting.

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