Growing Up in a Pond Community Fosters Lifelong Environmental Interest
Without a doubt, Martins Pond-area resident Janet Nicosia lives close to the land ... and water.
You may have seen one of Janet Nicosia's well-written letters to the editor in the North Reading Transcript, expressing sincere thanks to volunteers, sponsors and attendees following a successful Martins Pond Fishing Derby, or Halloween Haunted Playground, or Winter Festival, but you may not have realized that this engaging, multi-tasking woman is extremely busy throughout the whole year, typically working behind the scenes on behalf of the community.
In fact, Nicosia is involved in some serious business, along with the fun and games of periodically co-chairing a fundraiser, more specifically, a lively Martins Pond fun family event.
As a young child growing up in the Dudley Pond area of her native Wayland, Nicosia felt close to both nature and her community. A North Reading resident since 1991, she still maintains that affinity to the Earth and its creatures and feels responsibility for their compassionate oversight.
A 1985 graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in finance, Nicosia later returned to school at Salem State College to earn a master's degree in geo-information science (GIS) in 2010. She was urged to study GIS mapping by mentor and Merrimack College professor Dr. Jon Lyon, who works in collaboration with the Martins Pond Reclamation Study Committee and the town of North Reading regarding watershed stormwater pollution and water-quality issues.
In fact, Nicosia noted, Lyon's students actively conduct water-sample retrieval and testing and perform other valuable environmental services for North Reading.
Lyon, Nicosia said, "opened her eyes on how to scientifically assess environmental problems." Another mentor, Mike Soraghan, North Reading's town engineer, "has educated me about the engineering and regulatory requirements of putting the shovel to the ground. He has had great faith in our group and welcomed us into the public process, co-authoring grants and projects, most notably the achievement of the coming replacement of the Route 62 bridge, a major cause of flooding at Martins Pond. I talk or meet with Jon or Mike almost every week."
In the same vein, Nicosia mentioned that several years ago the Martins Pond Association recognized four "Martins Pond Mentors" with certificates of appreciation. They were Lyon, Soraghan, State Rep. Brad Jones and retired Parks Director Brian Wood.
"Each were extremely critical in our success, our learning, and our understanding of how to navigate the public process," Nicosia said.
While busy at work and in the community, Nicosia added that a happy and healthy family gives her the most satisfaction in life. She and husband Edward are the parents of two active children -- a daughter at North Reading High School and a son at the middle school.
Self-described as "happy," but a "control freak," Nicosia's days are filled with family interaction, as well as work for the town of Andover as an accounts clerk in the Plant & Facilities Department. Her evenings are busy shuttling back and forth to committee meetings. In addition, she runs a consulting business from home that focuses on GIS mapping and grants.
As a member of Martins Pond Association since 1992, and a co-chair of both the Association and Martins Pond Reclamation Study Committee since 2001, Nicosia is quick to point out that "if we become more environmentally conscious and take a little more responsibility for what we do privately, it will have public impact." For example, non-point source (NPS) pollution has been identified as the largest source of water quality problems in the nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- and the source of 75 percent of the water quality issues in Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Resource Protection.
Nicosia notes there are steps, however, that each of us can take in our daily lives to positively impact that issue and help ensure a quality water supply for generations to come. She points to specific tips from the EPA that everyone can follow.
Martins Pond Association, according to its website, received the 2009 Environmental Leadership Award from the Ipswich River Watershed Association. According to Nicosia, the group of many committed volunteers is active in three areas of concentration: area flooding, environmental matters in the locale, and social endeavors for the Martins Pond Park community. To date, it has raised more than $30,000 for park improvements and received $700,000 in environmental grants.
This energized, involved woman believes that North Reading has "a lot of quiet people doing a lot of quiet things." For example, she mentioned that Lida Jenney, her fellow co-chair of Martins Pond Association and the Reclamation Study Committee, has been persevering quietly for decades -- long prior to the present-day "go green" initiatives -- to raise awareness of the wide world of environmental responsibility. She deeply respects Jenney's quiet, but persistent way of doing business.
When asked, "What drives you?" Nicosia thoughtfully, but enthusiastically responded that she really feels we can make changes, and she is hopeful, if we can just keep "the machine going" for more responsibility for the Earth and its resources.
Correction: This article was updated to reflect the correct spelling of Martins Pond.