Melissa Reckner, who has worked for years to preserve the creeks and rivers of the Laurel Highlands region, is one of 11 women set to be honored by the environmental group PennFuture Oct. 8 for their conservation work in southwestern Pennsylvania.
“The award was a genuine surprise – and I like surprises, at least good ones, that is!” she told The Tribune-Democrat in an email Tuesday. “I’m still flabbergasted that I was selected for this award, given the amazing and talented women working in this field.”
Reckner has worked for the past two years as the program manager at Penguin Court, a 1,000-acre preserve of Brandywine Conservancy near Laughlintown that was formerly the estate of Pittsburgh billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.
“I was hired to begin doing programs at the property and in the community,” she said, “which I really enjoy because the grounds are gorgeous and I get to work with many of the same people I had, albeit in a slightly different capacity, and I’m making new connections in the Ligonier Valley.”
Reckner was previously the director of Conemaugh Valley Conservancy’s Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team and has served since 2006 as secretary of the Stonycreek-Conemaugh River Improvement Project (SCRIP), which seeks to restore and promote the waterways of the Conemaugh River basin.
Other groups she’s involved in include Paint Creek Regional Watershed Association, Stonycreek-Quemahoning Initiative and the Johnstown-based Mountain Laurel Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
In November, she’ll become a certified Pennsylvania Master Naturalist, she said.
“I’m blessed to love what I do and to have made it a career,” she said. “It’s gratifying to see the improvements made in our waterways since I was a little girl, and I’m continually inspired to fight for Mother Nature. I hope more girls are inspired to pull on their muck boots and get dirty!”
Other women set to be honored by PennFuture during an online-only ceremony Oct. 8 are Caren Glotfelty, executive director of Allegheny Parks Foundation; Beverly Braverman, executive director of Mountain Watershed Association; Patricia DeMarco, author and documentary film producer; Maren Cook, environmental science educator; Sharon Pillar, executive director of Pennsylvania Solar Center; Ann Rosenthal, environmental artist and educator; Kirsi Jansa, documentary filmmaker and journalist; Camila Rivera Tinsley, director of education at Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy; Raina Rippel, director of Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project; and Leandra Mira, organizer of Pittsburgh’s FridaysForFuture and Climate Youth Strike.
“I wholly appreciate the powerful women who are driving forward environmental protection, helping to clean up our water and protecting residents from the devastating effects of air pollution and fracking,” said Jacquelyn Bonomo, president and CEO of PennFuture. “We know that there are so many out there who deserve recognition.”