ELP Fellows, Jaclyn Rhoads, Geoff Richter, and John Volpa, proposed the creation of a Pinelands Ambassador program (Ambassador program) with innovation grant funding through ELP. The purpose of the Ambassador Program is to merge existing programs within Pinelands Preservation Alliance under an umbrella framework that utilizes trained volunteers either through a student or adult track to assist in various projects throughout the Pinelands. Pinelands Preservation Alliance and its subsidiary, Pinelands Adventures, will oversee the Ambassador Program.
As noted in our proposal, volunteers provide a critical service to the community on many fronts, but identifying, training, and coordinating volunteers can be time-consuming and difficult. Many organizations and state agencies have existing volunteer programs, but all the programs differ in their capacity. Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) coordinates with volunteers regularly but in a loose fashion and under the guidance of several individuals. Our Pinelands Watch program is advocacy based, and the volunteer coordinator works with individuals for outreach events and in-house projects. The state of New Jersey runs a watershed ambassador program which is a year-long work training program on watershed education, and Rutgers University hosts a year-long certification program for adults as environmental stewards. The Rutgers program is not site specific, and the watershed program only trains a limited number of individuals that may not stay in the region for future volunteer work.
The short-term goals for the Pinelands Ambassador program included:
Writing a plan for structuring and implementing the program,
Piloting the program in one place - the Black Run Preserve, and
Creating social media sites and a website to share the case study.