Emilie Cooper can see the forest for the trees

March 28, 2007|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Emilie Cooper

Age: 28.

Occupation: Western Maryland Resource Conservation & Development Watershed Forester.

Hometown: Punxsutawney, Pa.

Where would you see Cooper? Cooper's job takes her all over Washington County, but no two days are the same. One day, she might be cutting down a tree with a chain saw; the next day Cooper might be dressed in a suit, ready for a presentation to the county commissioners.

"I'm definitely on the move a lot," Cooper said. "I can wear a suit or get in the woods and get dirty. I'm comfortable doing both."


Her job is a collaboration of Resource Conservation & Development and the Maryland Forest Service. RCD is a United States Department of Agriculture-based nonprofit, one of more than 370 in the country.

Cooper, who works only in Washington County, has an office at Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area on Blairs Valley Road in Clear Spring, within miles of Whitetail Resort.

She grew up with two older brothers in rural Pennsylvania, with an appreciation for the environment and where playing outdoors was the norm.

"Growing up, our house was surrounded by trees. We played in the stream, picked up crawfish and swam in the pond," Cooper said. "Where I grew up - not having Nintendo - friends were a half mile away and I'd just walk through the woods."

She earned her bachelor's degree in biology from Denison University in Ohio, lived in Scotland for a year, then worked in the greenhouses at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. Cooper decided she wanted to get her master's degree, and chose Penn State for its forest resources program.

Cooper applied for jobs in the Washington, D.C., area, in addition to the one she now has. She said her interview for her current job took place while she was traveling in Australia after earning her master's degree.

The interview, which lasted more than an hour, took place from an Australian pay phone at 2:30 a.m. Cooper felt the interview went well and her instinct was right.

She started her job in January 2006 and said she took it because it offered a lot of experiences and opportunities she wouldn't have working in a city.

Cooper has enjoyed the outreach to schools and community groups, as well as the work she does with two watershed groups - the Beaver Creek Watershed Alliance and the newly formed Antietam Creek Watershed Alliance.

Her job involves not only knowledge of the environment, but also public relations and design. She helps create posters for upcoming events and posts them locally and on the Internet.

Cooper is also working with a Hagerstown Community College graphic design intern who is designing logos for ACWA.

This year, Cooper has written three grants for the Backyard Buffer Program. She works with private landowners to create natural buffers if their properties are adjacent to waterways and is also helping a church who wants to put in a rain garden.

Cooper said the success of her programs depends on the many volunteers and businesses who help her. The next meeting of ACWA is tonight at 7 at the Quality Inn on Dual Highway.

Hobbies: Cooper is doing her first triathlon in July at Marty Snook Memorial Park. She enjoys training runs through City Park, near where she lives.

She said she likes to travel and enjoys doing new things, such as skydiving, kayaking and the wildland firefighter training she took last year. That resulted in a trip to Idaho last summer to help fight wildfires.

Photography is a hobby and she recently enlarged some of her favorite photographs from her trip to Australia and Tasmania.

Cooper said even though she puts a lot of time into her job, including weekend commitments, she's never had so much free time. She takes pride in her latest project, restoring an old family trunk.

What does Cooper like best about Washington County? "It reminds me still of home, the rural landscape," Cooper said of the place she's lived for 15 months. "It gives me the ability to get to Baltimore and D.C.

She adds that there is so much to do and an unlimited number of parks to visit. Cooper also likes to mix of activities, including summer concerts in City Park.

Hagerstown is a good location for Cooper, who said it falls between her parents' home in Punxsutawney and Baltimore, where one of her brothers lives. She said she likes to spend a lot of time with her family.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail

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