Years of dedicationPublished 12:45pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013
After more than two decades at the helm of Lake Watch, Dick Bronson is passing the torch.
“Dick is my hero,” said Dr. Kathryn Braund, current president of Lake Watch. “He really is an inspiration. The way he led Lake Watch with grace and humor – he just can’t be replaced.”
Bronson said the organization, which he formed in 1991 to protect and enhance the water quality of Lake Martin, was in need of a change after his more than 22 years as president.
“The day-to-day operations of Lake Watch needed to go to someone else, someone with new ideas,” Bronson said. “It was time to bring in some new leadership, new blood.”
Braund has taken over the reins as president, but Bronson will continue to be active in the organization, moving to the board of directors as environmental education chair.
“I’m very involved in environmental education – that’s where I see my wife and I spending our time,” Bronson said. “We’ve sort of found our niche and that’s where we want to be.”
Since beginning Lake Watch in 1991, Bronson, now 79, has been a crusader of water quality, public awareness and emphasizing educational initiatives.
Bronson said one accomplishment he is most proud of is his participation in environmental education projects.
Bronson and his wife, Mary Ann, have served as monthly volunteers for the Lake Watch partnership with the gifted-student program at Radney Elementary School since 2010.
“Dick is wonderful,” said Laurie Barrett, gifted teacher at Radney Elementary. “I can’t say enough about him. He’s like an extended grandparent to the 100 kids I teach. The kids love to see him coming.”
Barrett said Bronson has expanded her curriculum by bringing in scientists from local universities and assisting in field trips to places such as water treatment plants and on nature hikes.
“He’s added so much to the program,” Barrett said. “He’s filled a big gap I felt like I had.
“He helped fulfill my vision as a teacher – it’s meant so much for me and the kids.”
Bronson said he is no stranger to children with eight children, 23 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren of his own, but he never planned to be a teacher.
“I was an instructor during my 30 years in the Army,” Bronson said. “But I never envisioned working with kids like this.”
Bronson said the focus of the environmental education program is to teach young people the connection among clean water, quality of life and economic development, and the goal is to get them in touch with nature.
The Lake Watch T-shirt is emblazoned with the motto, ‘Environmental Education: No child left inside’ – a cause that is near and dear to Bronson’s heart.
“We need to get kids outside” Bronson said. “We need to get them away from their electronics to realize there’s a real world out there. ”
Bronson said he is also proud of the long-lasting impacts Lake Watch has made on Lake Martin through water testing and working with governmental and non-governmental agencies across the state.
He said requesting and obtaining special state recognition of the clean waters of Lake Martin is among the accomplishments of which he is most proud.
“In 2011 Gov. Bob Riley announced that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management had developed a designation called ‘Treasured Alabama Lake,’” Bronson said. “Lake Martin was the first to be designated and is still the only one. This action took nearly six years of effort and resulted in a designation that raises the bar for state protection of water quality in Lake Martin for future generations.”
Although Bronson has and continues to make positive strides for the water quality of Lake Martin, becoming an environmental activist was not on the agenda.
“(Mary Ann and I) moved to the lake in 1984 after retiring from 30 years of service in Army,” Bronson said. “I didn’t intend to do this. I didn’t plan to be an environmentalist – I never even thought about it.”
Bronson said he formed Lake Watch after being made aware of various pollution sites on Lake Martin.
“You come to a crossroads – you can either do something or do nothing,” Bronson said. It’s not my nature to do nothing.”