Chamber of Commerce Award Acceptance Speech

Chamber of Commerce Award Acceptance Speech

DRA Community Service Award from Chamber of CommerceOn May 22, 2014, DRA was awarded the Damariscotta Region Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Organization Community Service Award “for enhancing the community by adding to the well-being and quality of life in the region.” DRA Executive Director Steven Hufnagel accepted the award and his remarks follow.

Many thanks to the Chamber Board of Directors and members for this meaningful recognition, for this wonderful event and for the work you do throughout the year to highlight the Damariscotta Region as an exceptional place to live, work and play.

I’ve never seen the Chamber stronger and I think that is due to great leadership and support from all the members, and the Damariscotta River Association is proud to be a longtime Chamber member.

Last year 72 businesses supported our work in conservation and education, and more than half of them are Chamber members. And many, many more of our local businesspeople support DRA directly as members, donors, and volunteers as well. So thanks to all of you!

Speaking of great leadership, I would like to ask the DRA board members and staff here tonight to please stand – because this recognition is the result of your efforts, ideas and many contributions.

Bruce Lutsk, our tireless Board President, whose wisdom and hard work set a high bar and example; Normand Saucier, our gracious and insightful Treasurer, who applies his incredible background in domestic and international for and non-profit organizations to take our financials to a new level; Susan Dale, generous co-chair of our Personnel Committee, who has brought her incredible human resources skills to DRA’s aid; Tom Arter, chair of our Education Committee and skilled instructor, who was a principal architect of, as well as a regular volunteer for, our many education programs that involve 1,000 kids each year; and Sarah Gladu, DRA’s beloved Education Director, a superb naturalist and mentor who has inspired so many of the future stewards of the Damariscotta River region.

We are truly honored to receive this award, in particular because it really does reflect the approach we have tried to take in our work as a land trust.

We seek not just to conserve land, but to connect our community to the land. We don’t just monitor water quality, but we also take school kids out on the water – sometimes for their first trips ever to a wild island. We do more than maintain historic buildings – we make them a center of community celebration, with our own events like last year’s sold out Midcoast Music Fest here at our Round Top Farm and with dozens of local organizations using the facilities as well – like tonight!

We don’t lock up properties and throw away the key – instead we maintain 35 miles of hiking trails, host the Damariscotta Farmers’ Market, hold 10 sessions of summer day camp, and offer a community ice rink at no cost. Our properties are available free of charge year-round.

This all gets back to Damariscotta being a great place to live, work and play. That’s really our region’s competitive advantage, and our natural resources are at the heart of it – not just for industries like aquaculture that directly depend on clean water. With things to do and learn for adults and kids, volunteer opportunities, events, and incredible chances to get outdoors right in our backyard, the Damariscotta region is more attractive to tourists (who will stay longer as we offer more), to retirees, and to talented potential employees. We’re so pleased to add to the community fabric in all of these ways.

My hope is that my two children will one day not only want to come back to Damariscotta but will be able to as well. If we continue to invest in our local businesses and talent while conserving our natural resources and thus protecting our competitive advantage, there’s a good chance that they might be able to return home and stay. Thank you again!