A key audience for the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve is municipal officials. At the Jacques Cousteau Reserve this designation refers to elected officials (i.e. mayors and committee persons), appointed officials (i.e. environmental commissions and planning board members), and municipal staff (i.e. public works staff, municipal engineers and construction code officials). The training needs of each of these audiences have been evaluated through respective needs surveys. Responding to the needs of the various municipal representatives required the Reserve's CTP to adopt a multifaceted training approach.
Online Training Courses
Through a September 2006 needs assessment of municipal construction code officials the following key management issues were identified:
- Hazards (Floods, Fires and Storms)
- Land Use Regulations
- Wetlands Protection
- Septic System Issues
Construction code officials indicated that they were very time-limited, but required continuing education through the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to maintain their certifications. In partnership with the DCA and the NJ Division of Land Use Regulations, the Reserve's CTP developed web-based, online courses entitled “Understanding Land Use Regulations” and “Understanding Floodplain and Flood hazards”. By providing this information online, the Reserve's CTP gained the opportunity to work with a new municipal audience.
One-on-One Technical Assistance
Environmental commissioners and planning board members indicated the need for one-on-one technical assistance based on their specific municipal land use planning efforts. One such example is the Reserve’s CTP effort with members of Little Egg Harbor’s planning board and environmental commission. These municipal officials needed a way to prioritize hundreds of open space parcels to be considered for purchase through a new municipal open space tax. Instead of doing onsite inspections of each parcel, the Reserve CTP worked with the officials to develop a GIS-based ranking system using municipal-specific criteria.
Additionally, the Reserve's CTP identified a land use planning grant opportunity offered through the NJ Association for Environmental Commissioners (ANJEC). As a result of working so closely with Little Egg Harbor, the Reserve's CTP was able to assist the township in applying for a grant to assist them in updating their natural resource inventory (NRI). Subsequently, the township was awarded the grant and will be revising the “water resources” section of their NRI.
This type of outreach allows for training to be provided in much greater depth and increases the likelihood that the resources provided are useful and will be implemented. Although technical assistance does not reach a large number of participants, it is a highly effective way to work with local officials and provide comprehensive and relevant information hence, leading to changes in behavior.
CTP Workshops with Field Based Opportunities
Within a municipality, it is the public works staff that assumes a majority of the responsibility for implementing stormwater management regulations. This municipal audience indicated that half-day workshops and field-based demonstrations were most desired. As with construction code officials, time and earning professional development credits were factors in their decisions to attend trainings. Based on their needs, a number of half-day workshops, coupled with on- site demonstrations of field techniques and best management technologies were offered. Topics focused on stormwater basin soil testing, low impact design strategies, stormwater technologies, and the use of GIS to map drain inlets. By offering shorter classroom programs and more hands-on training opportunities, public work staff were able to learn ways to improve stormwater management treatment and earned education credits towards maintaining their professional certifications.
A post workshop series evaluation indicated that the most valuable part of the stormwater workshop series was the ability to network and share common experiences and lessons learned with other stormwater professionals. This was an unplanned benefit, but these evaluation results will lead to the development of additional networking opportunities for this municipal audience.
|Scene at the Jacques Cousteau Reserve, New Jersey, courtesy of the Jacques Cousteau Reserve