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The South Platte Natural Resources District presented its 2012 Conservation Awards at its monthly board meeting Tuesday, honoring local superintendents from the city of Sidney.
Tom Von Seggern and Bill Taylor were honored with the District’s 2012 Urban Environmental Impact Award. “Both Tom and Bill are very good at what they do,” said Don Ogle, the District’s information and education coordinator as he outlined the information behind the pair’s award. “Like many of those who work for the area’s various public entities, Tom and Bill excel at their jobs. They perform their required duties as well as they possibly can, because simply put, that’s the type of people they are.”Ogle went on to say just being good isn’t enough when nominations are reviewed. “The nomination committee looks at the ‘above and beyond’ when it comes to making a difference with stewardship practices.”
Von Seggern, head of the parks and cemetery department, directs care for about 51 acres of area that is watered, plus additional acreage that isn’t. His award was based on a number of longstanding practices, as well as more recent improvements.
Von Seggern manages the Sidney Arboretum and in conjunction with the tree board, and is often responsible for introducing new tree species which thrive in the local climate. One of the steps Tom has initiated in recent years is to mulch around trees. By forming the “tree islands,” he prevents damage from mowers, and maintains healthy moisture levels and soil around the trees.
He also works to encourage tree planting by landowners throughout the city. He has been Chair of the City of Sidney Tree Board since 1999 and each year the tree board has been distributing nearly 100 trees per year for the last several years in Sidney during an annual Arbor Day Celebration. He coordinates the distribution of bare root trees, providing instruction and assistance for residents.Soil testing is done annually throughout Sidney’s parks. Upon lab recommendations, Von Seggern follows the proper fertilizing procedures. Also, during the last several years only certain areas of the parks are fertilized each year – the areas are then rotated so as to prevent unnecessary contamination and expense. Another key element pointed out is that the city uses organic fertilizer to further environmental protection.
Rain sensor timers were installed on several of the existing automatic sprinkler systems this year. The rain sensors will automatically shut-off the sprinkler system if a rain event occurs to help conserve water. Von Seggern hopes to add such sensors to all areas of the parks and cemetery possible.Rain barrels were installed on the old bath house near Legion Park to provide a source of water for the volunteers who help take care of Living Memorial Gardens. Rain barrels allow rain fall on roof tops to be captured and used at a later day for watering flowers and garden plants. This helps prevent unwanted runoff and conserves water.
This past winter, working with the Sidney Groundwater Guardian Team, which Bill chairs, all of the steps taken in the care of the Sidney Legion were documented in a Groundwater Guardian Green Site Application. Ogle announced for the first time publicly that because of the work Tom and his team perform as part of their duties, Legion Park easily scored high enough to earn status as a Groundwater Guardian Green Site, the third such designation in the district.
Like his counterpart, Taylor, in charge of the water and sewer department, does a lot extra to maintain the natural resources he deals with most – water. He has a large number of locations within Sidney’s wellhead protection areas of concern.
As part of his stewardship effort, Taylor worked with the Rural Water Association to restructure Sidney water rates. Sidney has a reverse water rate structure (the more you use the higher the charge you pay per 1,000 gallons) which encourages the citizens to implement water conservation practices. This is a very unique and creative system that few if any other communities implement.
He works with other City of Sidney Departments to notify residents of water concerns, and to install best management practices, like Legion Park Groundwater Guardian Green Site application. One of his local activities with water education is to volunteer during the Western Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival. He also chairs the Sidney Groundwater Guardian Team, which has kept the city’s status as a Groundwater Guardian Community since 2000.
But his work doesn’t stop there. He implemented the first Wellhead Protection Plan in the South Platte NRD in 2010. During the process, Taylor and SPNRD’s Ryan Reisdorff identified hundreds of potential contaminants within the wellhead protection area. Taylor uses his experience to assist other communities and water operators in the area – with regard from simple questions to encouraging them to develop wellhead protection plans.
This year Bill initiated a portion of the city’s wellhead protection plan by starting a conservation windbreak and grass planting near the old landfill and grass compost site. This projected included the planting of 201 trees and will convert 12.5 acres of existing crop land into native grass, helping to protect the wellhead site.
In recent years, Bill has had crews painting all City of Sidney storm drains with the message “Dumps to Stream” in an effort to reduce pollution going out of Sidney’s storm drain system. All storm water from the city drains into Lodgepole Creek and Bill has educated students and others about the importance of not dumping or polluting through the drains.
“We are proud to recognize two men who are truly making a difference in protecting the lives and future of those in the city of Sidney,” Ogle says. “They join a list of stewards who have protected natural resources in the southern Panhandle with distinction and provide an example for all of us to follow.”