Editor’s Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve Santa Rosa County residents’ quality of life.
MILTON — Three Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council — located on Willing Street in Milton — is a nonprofit organization established to conserve natural resources and improve the general economic condition of residents in the Southeast United States.
Three Rivers works with the mission: “To improve the quality of life for us, to protect the quality of life for our children, and to extend the quality of life for others through conserving our natural resources.”
The organization has been operating in Milton since 1972, with other chapters throughout the southeast in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington D.C. The Milton location employs four people: Steve Duncan, president; John Harper, project manager; Chera Willett, chief financial officer; and Cole Smith, archaeologist.
According to the history of the Three Rivers Milton office provided by the organization, two separate fires destroyed most of Milton in 1885 and 1892.
“An even worse fire came along in 1909 which destroyed most of the remaining surviving buildings,” the report said. “Three Rivers' office was built after this fire. The town rebuilt after that fire, and many of those buildings, including the office of Three Rivers, can still be seen in the downtown section.”
The organization has a staff with more than 100 years of environmental management experience. They administer an annual budget of more than $25 million and completed more than 150 projects in the past five years. Projects are completed to maintain best value and quality to accomplish natural resource, cultural resource and environmental management technical solutions, according to their website.
Three Rivers’ educational partners include the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the National Association of RC&D Councils, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Natural Resources Conservation Services.
Within the past year, Three Rivers in Milton has participated in seven major projects and events in the community.
They continued a 23-year partnership with Eglin Air Force Base, providing ecosystem management and erosion control work. Members of Three Rivers attended the 50th annual Farm Tour providing education on agriculture and its importance to the local economy.
The organization partnered with Blackwater Soil and Water Conservation District for the Land Judging Contest, where local high school students involved in the Future Farmers of America program were tested on their knowledge of soils.
Three Rivers provided funds to support the Special Olympics and partnered with local entertainment provider Gabby the Clown at last year’s YMCA Halloween event.
Three Rivers partnered with the Santa Rosa Creek Indian tribe, spraying Cogon grass and mowing the tribal grounds in preparation for their annual Pow Wow. The company also partnered with Blackwater SWCD and the Florida Department of Agriculture to execute a Cost Share Program, which allows local farmers and producers to purchase equipment they need for a quarter of the cost.
The Milton office’s five-year plan emphasizes land conservation, water management, community outreach and land management.
Three Rivers’ vision for the future is: “Building relationships, creating success, and working together to transform lives and communities.”