Freshwater collaborator and supporter shares her story

Beth Carreño has a personal and professional connection to clean water

Beth CarrenoBeth Carreño joined the Freshwater community in 2016 and has been a valued collaborator, member and donor ever since. She teamed up with Freshwater professionally through her past work at Rice Creek Watershed District – and her personal connection to Freshwater is as significant as her professional one. We had a conversation with her about her journey in environmental advocacy and how it led her to our community, the good she’s doing, and the motivation behind her steadfast support for Freshwater.

Beth’s reverence for nature is clear in her environmentally focused career and volunteer efforts, which she chiefly credits to childhood summers spent in no other place than northern Minnesota. Beth attended Camp Kamaji, a girls camp near Bemidji that her grandmother had attended in the 1920s, bought as an adult, and eventually sold to Beth’s parents. The camp allowed Beth to immerse in the outdoors and learn various skills, including how to portage a canoe by the time she turned 12. This is where she cultivated a bond to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“There is really nothing like the bravery of jumping in a cold lake!” she said.

These experiences influenced her decision to attend the University of Minnesota (Ski-U-Mah!). Recalling her move home to Kansas after graduation, she says she always kept Minnesota in the back of her mind as a place to return to, which she eventually did.

Beth and her husband relocated to Minneapolis in 2016 after their kids went off to college. As for the summer camp, Beth’s parents eventually sold it, but her children followed in the family’s footsteps and spent time working there as fourth generation summer camp staff.

“I care very deeply about Minnesota’s water quality – the quality of our lakes and streams, the quality of the Mississippi River,” Beth said.

Beth first connected with Freshwater upon her return to Minnesota when she met Leslie Yetka, a Freshwater employee who became a mentor and supported her in acclimating to the Twin Cities’ water management space. Leslie encouraged Beth to attend Freshwater’s Moos Lectures, presentations and trainings. She also introduced Beth to other Freshwater staff members. Beth immediately aligned with the organization’s mission and has since been championing it by contributing prized volunteer time and monthly donations.

Beth said, “I’m thrilled to have the privilege to advocate for the organization and do any kind of work with Freshwater, as a watershed district employee or as a volunteer.”

Rice Creek Watershed District organizes various projects and programs on water quality, flood control, public drainage systems, and more. As their former communications and outreach coordinator, Beth developed communications for decision-makers and legislators, relayed key information and resources to managers and administrators, and coordinated the water stewards program.

She often worked in conjunction with Freshwater’s Minnesota Water Stewards program with the goal of providing members of the community with knowledge and skills for local watershed protection through educational trainings and certifications. Beth recently embarked on a new career adventure and is now the senior program manager at Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District, using adaptive management and sequential diagnostic monitoring to target and tackle pollutant reductions and improve water quality.

When asked what work of Freshwater’s she finds the most critical and why she continues her support, she replied that she finds the interconnected nature of Freshwater’s policy, research, climate change resiliency work invaluable, along with the commitment to engaging the public with the natural environment. She also greatly appreciates the community culture, the organization being a perpetual source for learning, and the way the team constantly strives for improvement of projects and programs.

“Freshwater is a conduit for sound science-based information, policy and action to move between the general public, the legislators, the water stewards and the community leaders,” she explained. “It’s really about how they bring it all together with the advocacy work and making sure everyone has the right tools and the understanding of how to use them. I am extremely committed to the work that Freshwater is doing. I’m also a little starstruck by the staff!”

Beth donates monthly to non-profit programs that she values to communicate how essential she believes the work to be and says it is important to her to help build the funds organizations need to sustain their impactful efforts.

“You don’t have to give much. It’s when we give as a collective and when we combine our voices that we’ve got the most influence and power.”

We are grateful for Beth’s expansive contributions to Freshwater and to have her as a long-time member of our community!