Good Life

10 questions with the Penn Valley Conservation Association’s Jim Flanagan

Jim Flanagan is the environmental education coordinator for the Penns Valley Conservation Association.
Jim Flanagan is the environmental education coordinator for the Penns Valley Conservation Association.

You should always make every effort to get along with the boss — and Jim Flanagan has it in good with mother nature.

As the environmental education coordinator with the Penns Valley Conservation Association, Flanagan helps local students to appreciate the beauty of the world around them — sometimes one stream at a time.

The PVCA is a nonprofit with a focus on preserving local farmlands, forests and waterways. For Flanagan, who spent the bulk of his childhood in Pittsburgh playing in the woods and fishing, it’s a natural fit.

Below, he talks more about the PVCA and the April 24 Riversongs 2016 event to benefit PVCA.

Q: What is your very first memory of being in nature?

A: It is more of a series of memories. I remember spending many of my summers on the Allegheny River with my family and friends, boating and exploring a small island. We would play in the water, waves and sand, have campfires, fish and search for toads and other animals in the wooded areas of this island-like area we (and many others) called Flanagan’s Island.

Q: Where is your favorite outdoor spot in Centre County?

A: I live in Boalsburg and try to spend a good bit of time in Rothrock State Forest. I am partial to the Shingletown Gap Hiking Trail because of the flowing water, rocks and the tree coverage; you can hike it any day of the year. Plus it is a place my family takes out-of-town visitors and they all love it. However anyplace with a stream will do — especially Penns Creek and Spring Creek.

Q: What got you interested in conservation?

A: Not sure I decided to become interested in conservation consciously. I love spending time in wooded areas and around streams and enjoy sharing these places. As I learned the importance of our actions on the environment, it was a natural transition. It is less about conscious conservation and more about seeing how our actions impact everything else around us.

Q: If you could give up one modern vice what would it be and why?

A: I am not a big TV watcher, so giving that up would be easy. I guess I will say a car. It would be great to be able to bike and walk to everything that we have decided we need. I think people would have a better chance of slowing down and enjoying their surroundings and each other.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for people to be mindful of how they interact with nature?

A: We are a part of the entire ecosystem and it is the only one we’ve got. We need to learn to best care for the earth so we can reap the benefits nature provides. Most importantly, we need to remember that our children will inherit what we leave behind and we need to teach them that stewardship is not just necessary — it is a privilege.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with the students of Penns Valley?

A: I enjoy fleshing out a student’s creativity and enhancing their engagement with the world that surrounds them. It is wonderful to see the spark in their eyes when they connect with the ideas we present to them. It is especially rewarding when they learn that the natural world is amazing and realize that their own actions impact nature and all of its elements.

Q: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?

A: A professor of mine once suggested that I choose a graduate school in a place that I want to live and explore. This advice made me realize that my education (both in school and beyond) is part of an adventure. I have been exploring ever since, which harkens two of my favorite paraphrased quotes: “Not all who wander are lost” and “It is the journey, not the destination, that matters.”

Q: What should people expect from Riversongs 2016?

A: Great people, great music, great food, great beer (other beverages too) and great fun.

Q: What would your version of a perfect day spent nature look like?

A: Exploring a new creek with my wife, son, daughter and a great dog (the cat stays home), searching for plants and animals — waterfalls (are) a plus!

Q: How can people get involved with PVCA?

A: Check the web — Join. Volunteer for watershed restoration projects. Volunteer for educational programs. (Search) Facebook — Penns Valley Conservation Association — and get on our email lists.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

Riversongs 2016

When: 3-6 p.m. April 24

Where: Elk Creek Cafe, 100 W. Main St., Millheim