Published first on the Progress News, May 23, 2022

Last week I shared the great news that we have been awarded another EPA grant to continue the important foundational work of assessing and planning for future reuse of our region’s brownfields. This is one of those times where, yes, absolutely, the funding is fantastic and necessary and oh so appreciated on so many levels, but what is almost as valuable is the trust and non-tangible support received from an agency partner. So, I wanted to take a moment this week to give a shout-out to our partners at the state and federal level who make all of this possible.

The ORA as a whole works with multiple agencies to carry out its mission of preserving and promoting the Oil Heritage Region. These partners include the National Park Service (NPS), which oversees all National Heritage Areas, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), especially within the Rural Development (RD) office, the federal departments of Labor (DOL), Transportation (DOT), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Small Business Administration (SBA), as well as the state departments of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Community and Economic Development (DCED), and the federal-state cooperative Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Here in the redevelopment program, our main program partners are the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At any one time, my colleagues and I at the ORA are managing dozens of grant-funded programs.

What makes all that alphabet soup bearable is the people behind the acronyms and the paperwork, especially the folks in our regional offices who know, understand, and support our mission, our vision, and our ongoing work. I work most often with the fantastic team at Region 3 of the EPA and the northwestern field office of the DEP. And while I know that mention of the EPA and DEP doesn’t always elicit cheers of excitement, I’ve come to know the individuals within our regional offices as just that – individual human beings who are authentically invested in their communities but still often viewed as outsiders, which is not always an easy place to be! Yep, there are still tons of paperwork and bureaucratic hoops to jump through when dealing with an agency, but if you have people you respect and admire helping you scale that mountain of technicality, it somehow becomes a lot less cumbersome, and a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling! For me, it becomes a quest to see how we can work most efficiently and effectively together, bringing maximum impact for our efforts. 

So, to all our teammates at EPA region 3 and DEP – thank you for helping in this most important quest for resilience. And to ALL of our agency, institutional, and organizational partners – thank You for being part of this exciting journey with us. We truly could not do it without you!

Cover Photo by Headway on Unsplash