From Beaver Dams to Bike Lanes

January 22, 2014

Recognizing local sustainability champions

Julie Beddingfield, co-chair, Sustainable Haddonfield, building a rain barrel.

“As co-chair of Sustainable Haddonfield, I like to think of myself as the air-traffic controller of the programs,” said Julie Beddingfield. “I am not the landscape architect or the energy audit specialist.  Rather, I’m in charge of the big picture, directing and connecting all of the players to get amazing things done in our community.”

It takes the emergence of a local leader like Julie Beddingfield to inspire and prod a community Green Team to make progress. Julie, in her position as co-chair of Sustainable Haddonfield, is a great example.  To capture the inspiring stories of our local leaders, Sustainable Jersey is launching a monthly Sustainability Champion Recognition Program.  Look for these profiles monthly on our Website, weekly e-news and through our Facebook and Twitter.

Julie Beddingfield: Sustainable Jersey Champion, January 2014

Julie is a mother of nine-year old twins and a working environmental lawyer.  Needless to say her plate is already full.  This resourceful woman is also a founding member and chair of Sustainable Haddonfield, chair of the Haddonfield Environmental Commission and is a member of the Haddonfield Civic Association Board of Governors.

Born in Florida, Julie is the daughter of a citrus farmer.  She moved to New Jersey from Raleigh, North Carolina due to a job change. Her family sends her regular packages of Florida Honeybell oranges to remind her of her roots and in hopes of luring her back to the south.

Since she grew up in a small town, she immediately felt at home in Haddonfield.  She enrolled her sons in the Haddonfield Friends School where she met a fellow parent who asked her to join the Haddonfield Environmental Commission. In 2010, Julie helped to establish the Haddonfield Green Team and supported the Borough as it achieved bronze, the first level of Sustainable Jersey certification. She then stepped up to co-chair the group with Commissioner Neal Rochford, as momentum grew.  In 2013, Haddonfield was awarded the prestigious silver-level of certification and a $10,000 Sustainable Jersey small grant to help develop a Green Building and Sustainability Element (GBSE) for its Master Plan.

You can read the Haddonfield Borough Certification Report to see all of the important work they have accomplished with over 30 sustainability projects, including planning and development of the Borough’s first green infrastructure project, implementation of energy benchmarking and auditing programs and launching a food waste composting program in all of the Borough schools.

Building a Community Movement

To ensure community buy-in for its efforts, the Haddonfield Green Team focused on broadening representation and support as they worked toward the more difficult silver-level Sustainable Jersey certification.  But the capacity-building process was not easy. It took the group a year and a half to see results.  After a lot of meetings, support from nearby Green Teams like Sustainable Cherry Hill, and a small $1,000 Sustainable Jersey capacity building grant, progress was made.

Julie Beddingfield with her two sons in Crows Woods.

Promoting the Movement

With the Sustainable Jersey grant, the Haddonfield Green Team worked with a professional to develop a logo and brand identity for the group, and held its first public event – a sold-out rain barrel building workshop. The Green Team changed its name to Sustainable Haddonfield and started sending out media releases about each project or event that was completed.  The group added a Facebook page, and sent out newsletters, all while gathering names from each event to add to a  growing mailing list.

The stories started getting picked up in the local paper, and eventually community members and elected officials were reading about and familiar with the work of Sustainable Haddonfield.  It was then, Julie said, that Sustainable Haddonfield became a recognizable entity.  People were returning their phone calls and Sustainable Haddonfield experienced a nice surge in community participation.

Finding Partners

To strengthen the organization, Sustainable Haddonfield decided to approach two key stakeholder groups they had not yet engaged: the Haddonfield School District and the Haddonfield Planning Board.  Julie and Diane Schrauth, another founding Green Team member, requested time on the formal agenda at a Planning Board public meeting.  They showed up, explained what they were working on and asked for two members of the Planning Board to serve on a committee to develop sustainability initiatives in the areas of green design, land use, and sustainability planning.  Their presentation was well received and two Planning Board members agreed to work with Sustainable Haddonfield on a committee that also includes members of the Shade Tree Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Zoning Board, Environmental Commission, local developers and citizen stakeholders.

Julie also met with Ron Smith, an environmental science teacher at Haddonfield Memorial High School.  He was instrumental in integrating the Sustainable Jersey actions into his work with the students.  Julie said that over 100 certification points from the Haddonfield Sustainable Jersey silver-certification achievement were due to the collaboration with the environmental science students.

The AP environmental science classes at the high-school are required to do a hands-on project every spring.  Before the students picked their projects, Julie made a presentation to the students to let them know what Sustainable Haddonfield was working on to encourage the students to partner on projects.  Projects that have been completed in partnership with the students include food waste composting, planting innovative curb-cut rain gardens, and completion of the Sustainable Jersey Animals in the Community action.  In addition, one or two students are designated each year to serve on Sustainable Haddonfield for the duration of the school year.

Beaver Problem

One Haddonfield Memorial High School student decided to tackle the beaver problem at Crows Woods.  Beavers were building dams that were flooding a local bridge and the nearby Tavistock Country Club. The initial response to the problem was to destroy the beavers.  Since this was the second time in five years that beavers had found a home in Crows Woods, the student researched beavers and developed a report that is being used by Sustainable Haddonfield to develop a Wildlife Management Plan to provide less drastic measures to work with the beavers in their habitat and guide future decision-making.

In addition, the student and the Environmental Commission have just secured an Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions $1,500 Open Space Stewardship Grant to rebuild the bridge in Crows Woods that was flooded out from beaver dams.  Using the student’s research, the project will include an informational sign to educate visitors about beaver habitat, behavior and environmental benefits.

Collaborative Approach

Julie says her personal leadership style is not to push people to be sustainable or to insist that they take on projects.  Rather, she likes to meet with individuals or groups and collectively find projects and initiatives that fit their interests and experience, or motivate them to try something new.  She is proud that Sustainable Haddonfield has gained the trust of the Borough departments like the police and public works staff. She said she is careful to advocate for sustainability without being too adversarial.  Now that Sustainable Haddonfield is gaining strength, she hopes decision-makers will incorporate sustainability concepts willingly and that they will continue to develop a collaborative working relationship.

Stepping Up to Lead

Julie doesn’t see herself as a natural leader.  She is more comfortable as a strong, competent second-in-command.  Propelled by the importance of the work, she stepped out of her comfort level to be the co-chair. She talks openly about the anxiety that kept her up at night after a big meeting.  Now, she is comfortable and confident orchestrating the work of Sustainable Haddonfield, especially since the committee has so many quality volunteers.

Bike Lanes Added

A recent success of Sustainable Haddonfield is the addition of bike lanes to a county road repaving project. Camden County was planning to repave Grove Street from the Kings Highway intersection to the Haddonfield Borough line near Coles Mill Road based on engineering plans developed by the Borough.  A Sustainable Haddonfield member who is passionate about and has expertise in transportation planning brought the issue to the attention of Sustainable Haddonfield.  Sustainable Haddonfield is working on a Complete Streets program and the bike lanes are an element in the plan.  Using the support of their growing network, Sustainable Haddonfield asked the County and Borough to consider adding bike lanes as part of the project.  The bike lanes were successfully added to a portion of the road, thanks to a new awareness and the educational force of Sustainable Haddonfield.

Green Drinks at Flying Fish Brewery on February 4

Julie’s favorite part of regional workshops and meetings are when she gets to meet other green team members to trade stories and ideas for sustainable projects.  She will be at the Sustainable Green Drinks at Flying Fish Brewery on February 4, 2014 with her idea notebook in hand. Join Sustainable Cherry Hill, Sustainable Jersey, and Flying Fish Brewery for a special Green Drinks networking event.  Register for the event.

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Images courtesy Sustainable Jersey