Websites have come a long way since the inception of the Internet. While the Internet can be traced back to the 1960s, 1991 is considered the year the World Wide Web went live. In 1995 the last usage restrictions were lifted, clearing the path for the internet to become what we now know it to be today. (history of the internet)
This year marks 15 years CLEAR has been in existence, it became an official UConn center in 2002. However, there are a few programs within CLEAR that predate it, most notably the CT NEMO Program. CT NEMO has been a part of UConn Extension since 1991. And for much of that time, CLEAR and its related programs have been using the power of the internet to help engage and educate its target audience, Connecticut citizens, its towns, municipalities and community leaders.
Chet Arnold, CT NEMO and CLEAR founder and director, likes to point out, NEMO had a website before our University had a website. I’ve done some research into this, and as far as I can tell, he may be right. Using the Way Back Machine, an online archiving website, the first time it created a screen capture of the NEMO website (see image below, left) was in 2000. However, that screen capture shows a text line on the web page noting the site had been visited 20,770 times since July 18, 1997, AND a screen capture a year later adds to this line, “September 02, 1996 if viewing from the older address”. The first screen capture for the University I found (also below, center) was from December of 1996. Either way, an impressive feat, considering I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what the world wide web was in 1996. CLEAR had its own website soon after its official debut in 2002 (first CLEAR homepage shown below, right).
CLEAR’s venerable, award-winning NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) Program is embarking on a five-year program to assist Connecticut communities in complying with the state’s revised “General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems,” or the MS4 permit. Stormwater runoff is a major source of flooding, erosion and water pollution in Connecticut’s waterways, and is expected to become even more of a problem as climate change progresses.
After much negotiation between CT DEEP, Connecticut municipalities and the environmental community, the MS4 underwent a significant expansion and enhancement this July. Eight new towns have been brought into the program, making a total of 121 (almost ¾ of all the municipalities in the state), and for the first time most state and federal institutions are also included. And, while the program remains organized according to its six “Minimum Control Measures,” there are important new aspects and requirements involving monitoring, maintenance of town properties, and “disconnecting” impervious areas through Low Impact Development (LID).
In the current economic environment Connecticut communities are struggling with a host of needs, and navigating the various aspects of the MS4 will be a challenge. In recognition of this, CT DEEP is funding NEMO to develop and implement a multifaceted support program that includes outreach, technical assistance, web tools and other resources. To list just a few:
MS4 “Circuit Rider”: a NEMO Extension Educator dedicated to the MS4 support program will conduct workshops, trainings and consultations with towns.
MS4 website: a website far above and beyond the typical regulation website is being developed, as an authoritative and detailed (but not wordy!) guide to MS4 implementation and home for special technical and mapping tools.
Webinar series: CLEAR’s webinar series will spin off a special NEMO/MS4 series highlighting different requirements of the regulation and approaches to meet them.
Mapping training: CLEAR’s Geospatial Training Program will provide training and tools to help communities meet the new mapping requirements of the permit.
Impervious Cover data: NEMO is working with an outside contractor to obtain high resolution impervious cover data, which will be an enormous asset to conducting the drainage area and impervious area analyses required in the permit.
The CLEAR Water Team (aka NEMO Team) is looking forward to this challenge, and in the process developing a whole new generation of stormwater outreach tools and resources. NEMO will be working with DEEP, regional Councils of Government, and both public and private sector organizations to tackle this issue so important to the health and welfare of the citizens of Connecticut.
CLEAR’s Land Use Academy has won the 2014 Education Award from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association. The Academy, created in 2007, provides basic training for municipal land use commissioners on roles and responsibilities, legal requirements and site plan reading, as well as advanced training on emerging topics. As we all know, land use in the Nutmeg State is determined almost exclusively at the municipal level, by volunteer commissioners who are not necessarily up to speed on what they’re really supposed to be doing, or how. The LUA is the principal organization in the state addressing this critical need for education. The Academy is founded on a strong partnership between UConn, the Connecticut Bar Association, the state’s Regional Planning Organizations, and the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management (CT OPM).
The lion’s share of the kudos go to CLEAR Land Use Planning Educator Bruce Hyde, who oversees the Academy and does everything from agenda planning to lecturing to ordering the lunch and taking registration. Bruce is a veteran of over 30 years of professional planning work in both Vermont and Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean that the LUA is “old school.” Most Academy lectures, for instance, include audience response interludes using “clickers,” allowing Bruce and our incredible stable of Bar Association lecturers to get the pulse of the audience on certain topics and/or quiz them on various points.
The CCAPA award letter states: “The Chapter has benefited from this program for years on end and we are delighted to recognize its efforts.” From our enormously self-serving but nonetheless observant perspective, we agree that the Land Use Academy serves an important role in helping Connecticut towns approach their land use decision-making in a defensible, thorough and conscientious manner. And with very modest resources, the LUA has had a broad reach: since 2007 the Academy has trained over 1300 people from commissions in 156 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. So, CONGRATS to Bruce to and to our barrister co-conspirators, most especially Rich Roberts, Ken Slater, and Mark Branse.
On May 3, CLEAR’s Geospatial Training Program (GTP) and the Connecticut Land Conservation Council held its second session of a training course called “Using GPS for Monitoring and Mapping Land Trust Holdings.”
The one-day course is designed to teach participants how to use a handheld GPS receiver to map property boundaries and specific locations that can be monitored annually to determine and record compliance with easement restrictions. The course is also useful for land trusts members and others looking to map trails on their properties.
The hands-on field portion of the training took place on the Haddam Land Trust’s Bamforth Wildlife Preserve, located just a mile from CLEAR’s headquarters. While walking the property, the 18 participants learned how to map property boundaries, trails, and points of interest including hypothetical violations, survey markers, invasive species, and scenic viewpoints. They also spotted a boxed turtle and garter snake. Field photographs were collected to be used in monitoring reports and mapping products. Later, back in the classroom, participants downloaded their GPS data and created interactive, online maps using free software can be shared within their organization or published on their land trust website.
For more information and to learn about future trainings, visit http://clear.uconn.edu/geospatial/training.htm. In addition, CLEAR hopes to partner with the Connecticut Land Conservation Council again in the future to offer a series of workshops for Connecticut’s land trust members focused on best practices in land stewardship.