“I’m not an expert by any means,” said Burgis, executive director of Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed (FOMCW). “But I can hold down a conversation. I’m very passionate about protecting our local water resources.”
Burgis’ commitment to protecting the environment has been gaining statewide attention – she was recently named State Assembly District 15 Woman of the Year by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. She also received the Watershed Champion Award from the Contra Costa County Watershed Forum, which hands out the honor only every four years, and her hometown of Oakley presented her with a proclamation on Tuesday celebrating her accomplishments.
A single mother with three sons, Burgis has served as executive director of FOMCW for nearly five years, and despite the awards and honors she’s received for her dedication to preservation, she’s shy about taking the spotlight.
“I don’t do things in consideration of awards, so it’s always kind of surprising when organizations single me out,” Burgis said. “It’s very flattering, but I hope these acknowledgements will bring more attention to the Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed and the thousands of volunteers that make our mission a success.”
The Marsh Creek Watershed is the second largest watershed in Contra Costa County, spanning 30 miles from the eastern slopes of Mt. Diablo through to the Delta, passing through Brentwood, Oakley and Antioch. FOMCW volunteers host creek cleanups, beautification projects and conduct wildlife monitoring and trash assessments to improve the quality of the creek and its surrounding areas. Even Congressman Jerry McNerney came out to volunteer with the group this year during a cleanup in January.
The group has removed more than 40 tons of trash from Marsh Creek, trails and local parks, planted hundreds of plants and trees throughout the community and raised more than $1.25 million in funding toward restoration projects including the Marsh Creek Fish Ladder and the upcoming Creekside Park Restoration Project in Oakley. Members also host outreach programs to educate the community about the creek that peacefully winds its way through East County.
Since joining FOMCW, which was created in 2004, Burgis has helped the group incorporate and become a nationally recognized nonprofit agency. While she spends some days cranking out grant proposals and meeting with local officials to discuss environmental protection legislation, other days are spent at the creek getting her hands dirty.
“One day I’m meeting with our elected officials, and the next day I’ve got a pitchfork and I’m clearing debris from the fish ladder,” Burgis said. “Every day is different. I’m so lucky to work for a great board of directors, and our volunteers are amazing. It’s so nice to work with people who care so much about the environment.”
Burgis’ current focus is promoting FOMCW’s quest to secure a $25,000 grant in the MillerCoors River Network Watershed Protection Grant Competition. FOMCW was one of six organizations chosen to vie for the grant. It is the only group from the West Coast up for consideration.
“This is such an exciting opportunity,” Burgis said. “The grant awards are determined by votes from the public. Right now, we’re in fifth place, which awards $2,000. If we can at least get to third place, we’d receive $10,000.”
Voting ends Monday, March 19 at 5 p.m., so Burgis is working to rally the troops to surge ahead in the competition. Participants are asked to visit www.rivernetwork.org/millercoors-river-network-grant-contest-2012 and click “vote now.” Simply enter your name and city, and cast your vote. The process takes only a minute.
For more information about FOMCW and the MillerCoors River Network Watershed Protection Grant Competition, visit www.fomcw.org.
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