Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority

Service awards for volunteers

Norman Eckel, at left of photo, and Mark Lowenstine, at right, are congratulated by Mari Veliz, Healthy Watersheds Supervisor.

Local volunteers win Ontario Volunteer Service Awards

South Huron Trail Mobile volunteer driver Norman Eckel, of Exeter, and Mark Lowenstine, of Denfield area, nominated by Ausable Bayfield Conservation for 2017 Ontario Volunteer Service Awards

Norman Eckel, an Exeter man and volunteer driver of the South Huron Trail Mobile for people with limited mobility, and Mark Lowenstine, a Denfield-area man who helps with many water quality monitoring activities, are recipients of Ontario Volunteer Service Awards. Ausable Bayfield Conservation nominated the two volunteers for more than five years of service. The two men were among a number of volunteers honoured in Ontario in 2017 for their valuable volunteer service. They received their awards at a ceremony on March 17, 2017. Mari Veliz, Healthy Watersheds Supervisor with Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA), attended the ceremony. “Healthy Watersheds programs have benefitted greatly from Mark’s technical expertise and trouble-solving acumen,” she said.

Mark Lowenstine has provided invaluable technical assistance as a volunteer to support and enhance Ausable Bayfield Conservation’s ability to monitor water quality in local watersheds. As a local resident, he became involved in planning and implementation efforts in the Nairn Creek watershed. He later volunteered to install, fix, and maintain water quality monitoring equipment. He applied his technical know-how to reconditioning of automatic water samplers. This valuable help has permitted simultaneous water quality monitoring in several watercourses. He has assisted staff in understanding sub-watershed processes through his in-depth analysis of water quality data sets. An outdoor enthusiast who enjoys fly-fishing, this volunteer has been a Volunteer Rain Gauge Network volunteer and provided local precipitation data online. These are just some of his contributions as a supporter of local work to protect water, soil, and living things.

More than five years ago, Norm Eckel joined Jerry Mathers as local volunteer drivers of the South Huron Trail Mobile, a five-passenger electric cart with seat belts and a hazard light. Thanks to volunteer drivers, this Trail Mobile gives an authentic nature experience to people who could not enjoy the trail otherwise. (Mathers, and former volunteer driver Herman Steffens, have also been recognized with Ontario Volunteer Service Awards for their volunteer service in this regard.) 

Norm Eckel has given hundreds of hours of his time over the years to give hundreds of people this outdoor nature experience. Residents of nursing and retirement homes are among people who have enjoyed the trail, thanks to this service and the volunteers and donors who make it possible. Some people enjoy the experience so much they come back as repeat travellers. “We enjoy the trail, why not let others enjoy the trail too,” Norm said of being a volunteer driver. “Just to see the smile on their faces means a lot.” This former Zurich-area resident said he likes being at the wheel. “I enjoy every bit of it,” he said. “I look forward to it.”

“Norm has brightened the day for hundreds of people by giving them a one-of-a-kind trail experience, making the outdoor nature experience accessible to more people,” said Tim Cumming, ABCA Communications Specialist.

Ontario Volunteer Service Awards recognize volunteers for providing committed and dedicated service to an organization. The awards are presented at ceremonies across Ontario from March to June. The award winners receive a stylized trillium service pin and a personalized certificate to acknowledge their years of service. A nominee is a resident and volunteer in Ontario and an active member in an organization that has existed for at least five years. An organization can nominate up to nine volunteers with a maximum of six adults. The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration reviews all nominees and sends a letter to the organization to confirm if their nomination has been accepted. The deadline to nominate for an Ontario Volunteer Service Award is January 25 each year. For more information on Ontario Volunteer Service Awards visit:

Past Ontario Volunteer Service Award winners nominated by Ausable Bayfield Conservation include:


Ten years of service: George Godbolt, Sharon O’Toole, Raymond Letheren, and Carol Rideout 

Five years of service: Troy Stellingwerff, and George Finch

Youth, 2-4 years of service: Evan Krebs


Ten years of service: Jim O’Toole, and Lorne Rideout

Youth, 2-4 years of service: Luke Pellitteri, Sam Little, Andrew Smallman, Noah Pratt, Barb Alber, Nicole Winters


25 Years of Service: Peter Darbishire, and Fred Dobbs

Youth, 2-4 years of service: Hannah Krebs, Kyrstin Krainz  


25 Years of Service: Ted Jones

Five Years of Service: Herman Steffens, Jerry Matthers, Patti Donnelly, Ed Gole 

Youth, 2-4 Years of Service: Greg Urquhart, Emma Jane Woods

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