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A "doer" with a lengthy list of contributions
New Brunswick's Shelia Washburn receives Art Longard Award
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By Lori Valigra

SHEILA WASHBURN describes herself as a doer, someone who can take on a project and get the necessary people involved to get things done. Add that to her love of the New Brunswick coast and Passamaquoddy Bay, and her husband being an environmentalist, and you get a strong advocate for the environment and for its preservation.

She has participated actively in preserving special lands in New Brunswick, including coastal areas along the Bay of Fundy. She and her family have donated land earmarked for preservation so that New Brunswick residents and visitors can enjoy the special ecology of areas like Caughey-Taylor Preserve in Charlotte County.

Washburn, who recently received the Gulf of Maine Council's Art Longard Award, is a professional engineer who once had her own renovation company. She is a consummate volunteer who has made substantial contributions to teaching people of all ages how to care for and safeguard the natural environment. She served two, three-year terms as president of the Nature Trust of New Brunswick Inc., a charitable land trust dedicated to preserving nature. She and her husband, a chemical engineer, have been active participants, and have made one donation of land to the Trust; she and her brother have made another. She is planning to make a third donation.

Some of the donated land is part of the Caughey-Taylor Nature Preserve, notably at Sam Orr's Pond. Sam Orr's, located below Highway 127 in Bocabec, is unique in that it has volcanic, brackish water that is a combination of salt and fresh water. It is home to the only quahog, Mercenaria mercenaria, in the Bay of Fundy. Washburn says there is only a small sign to the pond's nature trail. She calls the pond "secretive," because of its special ecological nature. "When people found out there were quahogs there, they came in to dig them up," she says. Half of the property for Sam Orr's was given in memory of her father, and the other half by their neighbor.

As of now, the Nature Trust has preserved 23 significant landscapes totaling approximately 2,000 acres. In addition, the Trust has helped with two others, including one at Todd's Point, where Washburn served on the Todd's Point Committee and helped to raise funds to purchase a 350-acre site that became the Ganong Nature Park of the St. Croix Estuary Project.

Washburn has contributed to the preservation of the history of the Gulf of Maine as chair of the Charlotte Country Jeanie Johnston Committee. The Jeanie Johnston is a replica of an Irish immigrant tall ship that originally sailed to New Brunswick in 1853. It was one of the few ships on which immigrants did not die, and even a baby was born. Some residents of St. Andrews are descendants of the original passengers on the ship. "It's been rebuilt and has sailed from Florida up the coast to St. Andrews," she says. The boat visited Fredericton in 2003.

Washburn also regularly contributed to student scholarships, including on the Thomas Washburn Memorial Scholarship Committee, named after her son, who was killed by terrorists in Saudi Arabia two years ago. The scholarship recently was given to a Fredericton High School graduate who is studying geological engineering at the University of New Brunswick.

Washburn serves on the New Brunswick Women's Institute, the St. Andrews Centre for the Performing Arts, the St. Andrews Arts Council Inc., the St. Andrews Aquaculture Fair Committee, and the Sea Farmers' Market.

She is humble about her con-tributions, saying, "What I've done is the sum of small things. My husband is an environmentalist, he is the visionary. I'm the doer." Washburn adds that her strength is "getting others to work with me." She plans to get involved more in the Nature Trust's newsletter in the future.

Editor's note: Art Longard was one of the seven original founders of the Gulf of Maine Council and he committed countless hours to the conservation of marine life in the Gulf of Maine. He died of cancer in 1997. In his honor, the Council bestows the Art Longard Award each year on an outstanding citizen volunteer living within the Gulf's watershed.

2006 The Gulf of Maine Times