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Farewell, Brent Alspach!

The year was 1999. Brett Alspach – 20-something, new to California, and fresh out of Cornell University with a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering – was milling about an environmental fair near his home in Carlsbad. He happened upon a volunteer at The Escondido Creek Conservancy’s table.

“I had always been active in environmental work,” Alspach said. “She invited me to a few of their meetings.”

The meetings were held at Eagle Creek’s offices, at the Elfin Forest Fire Station, at board members’ houses, or anywhere else that was expedient or available, he said.

At the time, volunteer board members did most of the Conservancy’s work. The scrappy little group operated on a shoestring budget with a single staff member to handle administrative duties. Determined to protect habitat and promote responsible development, the Conservancy at that point owned no land of its own.

Alspach, who is leaving the Board of Directors after 20 years of service, recently reflected upon just how far The Escondido Creek Conservancy has come.

He recalled when an organizational infrastructure began to take shape, the quantum leap of hiring an executive director, the setting of policies, and the cobbling together of grants that resulted in the Conservancy’s first land acquisition.

Campaigns to purchase habitat advanced upstream and downstream from sleepy Elfin Forest. The Conservancy’s land holdings multiplied.

“The amount of land we now have protected is something we can all be very proud of,” Alspach said.

Protected land translates into a healthy watershed, and from his early days on the board, Alspach gravitated toward the health of the creek. He led the water quality committee and was a driving force behind the deployment of temperature and dissolved oxygen probes up and down the waterway. At the time, the organization had considered hatching and repopulating the creek with steelhead trout. While not impossible, that plan would be very challenging, he said.

By now, the Conservancy has accumulated 15 years’ worth of data to track pollution and show how the chemistry of the creek changes with the seasons.

Water quality gets right to Alspach’s experience and interests.

He is director of applied research for Arcadis, an international civil engineering firm. Much of his work is for the company’s business line in water quality, supply, and treatment.

What’s next for Brent Alspach?

Hiking with his wife, Berniece, and their 3-year-old daughter, Olivia. And trail running. Alspach says he has a masochist’s love for hardcore trail running.

A native of Dunwoody, Ga., Alspach has set goals to visit every state in the Union as well as every Major League Baseball park.

He will continue to volunteer with the American Water Works Association trade group and make himself available to the Conservancy, perhaps as a committee member.

That’s good news for us.

“I really enjoy the volunteer work I do,” he said.