Kathleen Harrigan to Head Friends of the Rappahannock

by | Mar 23, 2015 | News

Kathy Harrigan is the new executive director of Friends of the Rappahannock. Photo by Karen Richardson.

By Susan Larson

Kathleen (Kathy) Harrigan wants everyone in Fredericksburg to value the treasure of the Rappahannock River. “Id like locals to enjoy the river and to see more of it that just through a car window over a bridge crossing,” said the new executive director of Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR). “I want people to get in a boat or on the shore and really appreciate the beautiful resource we have.”

Harrigan grew up on Long Island, in East Northport, N.Y. In 1976 she came to Fredericksburg to attend Mary Washington College, where she studied environmental science and earned a B.S. degree in Biology. She began her career working in Fredericksburg at the old wastewater treatment plant.

Her care and concern for the environment were piqued by family travels to National Parks and other wilderness places. “My parents were teachers and we traveled extensively during our vacations,” Harrigan said. “By the time I was 12, we had camped from the Canadian Maritime Provinces to Florida, and through the Midwest to the Northern Plains and the Rockies to California.”

For more than 30 years, Harrigan worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state agencies on water pollution control and water quality protection and restoration programs.

When Friends of the Rappahannock Executive Director John Tippett decided to step down in order to focus on treating his Lyme disease, Harrigan saw the opening as an opportunity.

“I’d worked with people across the country to identify the sources of pollution to the rivers and lakes in their communities and how to protect and restore them,” she said. “I wanted to bring my experience back to protect the Rappahannock River, the watershed I’d chosen as my home more than 35 years ago.”

Harrigan compared the start of her tenure at FOR to jumping onto a moving train. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” she said.

“For the first two months, I’m focusing on the partners who work with Friends of the Rappahannock — the members of the organization, our volunteers, donors, and funders, soil and water conservation districts, and our representatives from the local governments, both staff and elected officials,” she said. “This network of people is vast since Friends of the Rappahannock is concerned with the entire river, from the mountains to the bay.”

“Friends of the Rappahannock has always constructively engaged the stakeholders in the watershed. I want to continue that approach for a cleaner river. I want to expand our educational, restoration and advocacy programs throughout the basin, and build a greater awareness in the upper basin and the lower basin.”

“I believe Friends of the Rappahannock has a great opportunity to help people understand the part they play in the river’s health,” she said. Grass clippings, pet waste, fertilizers, cigarette butts – all of it goes to the river and is harmful.   “People need to understand what they do on the land has an effect on the watershed,” she said. People can change their practices to help improve and protect the river.

The new executive director invites everyone to become a member of Friends of the Rappahannock. “We will keep you informed about river news and issues, and your membership will help support the work throughout the Rappahannock River Watershed.” Visit Friends of the Rappahannock online at http://www.riverfriends.org/.

Editor’s Note: Kathleen Harrigan previously served as president of the board for Empower House, the only accredited domestic violence resource in the greater Fredericksburg area.

This article was first published in the September 2014 issue of Front Porch magazine, which is available in print and online.

Additional stories about FOR:

Rappahannock Riverfest, September 20, 2014

Friends of the Rappahannock Director John Tippett Stepping Down

Photos: Rappahannock River Spring Clean-Up

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