By Jessie Forand/ECHO Participants at the Leahy Center Environmental Summit talk climate change and floodwater Friday morning at ECHO. (...

Leahy Center Environmental Summit in Full Swing

By Jessie Forand/ECHO

Participants at the Leahy Center Environmental Summit talk climate change and floodwater Friday morning at ECHO.
(Jessie Forand/ECHO)

On Friday morning, hours before doors opened to guests, ECHO was buzzing. About 150 environmental leaders from across Vermont convened to talk about climate change and floodwater resiliency. They will spend two full days on campus, planning for the state's future.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said during the event's opening remarks "We are at a moment of change," with opportunity present to address problems affecting waterways in an effective, efficient, and fair way.

Summit participants listen to opening remarks and instructions Friday morning. (Jessie Forand/ECHO)

One of Weinberger's first priorities as mayor was to repair damage to the Burlington bike path following Tropical Storm Irene, he said.

ECHO Executive Director Phelan Fretz also recalled the aftermath of Irene on the waterfront.

"Literally the space where you're standing during that flood was 18 inches above sea level," he told the crowd, gathered in ECHO's Lakeside Pavilion.

During that "peculiar time," Fretz said he once kayaked around Burlington, eventually realizing he was in the middle of the city's ferry doc building.

Everyone present was likely to have a similar story, and he said all are aware of these sort of events and their lasting impact.

Phelan Fretz talks flooding with the crowd gathered. (Jessie Fonrad/ECHO)

The summit, the second of its kind, was organized to bring together experts from all walks of life to meet, talk, and plan following the theme "Climate Change Resilient, Floodwater Smart."

What sets it apart, Fretz said, was the active nature of the get-together.

"This isn't a 'sit back and watch the world go by' day, this is 'all in'," he said.

And participants were all in right away. Facilitators Lindsey Godwin and Prue Sullivan, of the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry, ensured the groups set right to work, first with interview-style brainstorming sessions then group reports to discuss past successes.

Stay tuned here for updates all day, and follow along on Twitter - the summit's official hashtag is #leahysummit.

Prue Sullivan prepares Summit attendees to get to work (Jessie Forand/ECHO)

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