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The Blue & Gray Press | March 24, 2019

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UMW collaborates with community on environment


A collaborative group of local businesses, non-profit organizations, regional public agencies and the University of Mary Washington is organizing a Climate Environment Action Readiness (CLEAR) Plan, which will promote sustainability throughout Planning District 16. The area includes Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George and Caroline counties.

The idea of the plan began as a suggestion made by Rebecca Rubin, president and CEO of Marstel-Day, an environmental consulting company in Fredericksburg, after attending one of UMW President Rick Hurley’s forums about his vision for the university to become an assembler of ideas.

CLEAR came together when Marstel-Day and UMW brainstormed together about the importance of a resilient region, according to Rubin.

“‘Resilience’ is a word often used to describe communities that are able to respond to and rebound from the various effects of climate change in ways that are also supportive of a local and regional economy,” Rubin said.

Some of CLEAR’s Plan goals are to diversify the regional economy with green jobs, identify sustainable activities that save homeowners and businesses money, protect private property by creating and coordinating plans for floods and severe-weather emergencies, sustain resources and open spaces and build resilience through prevention and planning, according to an article in the Free Lance-Star.

“I think CLEAR is one of the most significant efforts this region can make to promote the health of area businesses-including both for profit and nonprofit-and citizens in general,” said Rubin.

The University supports the idea of the plan and the opportunities it will provide.

“We jointly recognized that the development of a plan would build a positive environment in the Fredericksburg region while also providing students with opportunities for internships and service learning,” said Richard Finkelstein, dean of arts and science.

CLEAR is not fully established yet; however, the University and its partners, such as Friends of Rappahannock, Tree Fredericksburg, Luck Development and Stafford Printing, created a series of actions needed in order to execute the plan executed.

The first step in the process requires a survey of Fredericksburg residents, asking about the qualities they most value about living and working in the area.

After the completion of the survey, the university and its partners will invite members of the community to a planning session, which will allow people to provide more input for the plan. They hope to hold the session on Nov. 13, according to Rubin.

The outcome of the planning conference will be the finalized CLEAR Plan, which “will inform and guide [the community] on the relationship between the choices individuals and our community make, and the maintenance of our regional strengths,” according to the CLEAR Mission and Goals.

“I think [CLEAR] is really important because people don’t realize they’re being unsustainable. By raising awareness on campus, we have the ability to spread awareness in other communities,” said UMW senior and environmental sustainability minor, Christian Wiedow.