It seemed as though even Mother Nature was shedding tears of farewell to Dan “Dirty D” Pascucci at his farewell picnic at Soldotna Creek Park. The rain continued as several dozen of Dan’s most ardent fans and co-workers gathered to give the Kenai Watershed Forums educational specialist a fitting send off to his new adventure in Kentucky. The endearing talent of Dan Pascucci has taught life and environmental lessons to hundreds of kids who went to school in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Whether in rhyme or song kids on the Kenai have learned that a sea star is not a “starfish,” and that you may be ruining the dunes while you think you are enjoying the dunes.
Pascucci first came to Alaska on an internship with the Student Conservation Assoc. working with Fish & Wildlife Service, “It was supposed to be a one year internship but I stuck around for two and left for a couple of years, but then realized that nowhere else in the world is like Soldotna, Alaska so I returned as fast as I could and in 2006 I started with the Watershed Forum and took over the Adopt-A-Stream program and grew that by leaps and bounds, working with thousands of students across the Kenai Peninsula on a yearly basis. It was a great opportunity to open people’s eyes to the amazing place where we live and every year it grew and became more magical,” Dan told the Dispatch. The programs Pascucci brought to the Kenai Peninsula will make a lasting change for the kids who went through them, said Terri Carter at the farewell roast. Carter a teacher at Soldotna Montessori Charter School said many of the kids who have gone through programs with him are learning how to take ownership of their environment, whether they go on to careers in environmental work or not. “He just has this gift. The kids who have gone through his programs have already been doing work and developed winning Caring for the Kenai ideas for improving the environment,” she said. Pascucci tried but couldn’t help becoming chocked up as he concluded his final Alaskan performance. “I’m going to be moving on with my wife and baby girl Elana down to Kentucky and I’ll be working at a arboretum and research forest down there doing environmental and nature based education with school kids. Somewhat similar to what we’ve been doing here with a lot less salmon and moose. But the theme of my teaching here in Alaska has always been not to tell people what to think, but to teach people what to think about. And no matter where you go there’s always a lot to think about and learn about and questions to be asked and answers to be questioned and lots of work to do anywhere you go,” he said. Pascucci feels his work in Alaska evolved as he personally evolved, “There is just so many changes that occur in a person and in a place that if you stay in a place long enough and really pay attention you can’t help getting involved and evolving with that place.”
Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague honored Pascucci with a proclamation that he read to those assembled. He also may have achieved a bit of immortality when water quality specialist Branden Bornemann of KWF came to the microphone and said he used to joke with Pascucci that people probably have to die to have something named for them like an airport of sporting field, “We don’t want Dan to die, so instead, the future attendees to the Kenai Watershed Forum’s summer camp will know the organization’s yurt as the “Dirty D” Yurt,” proclaimed Bornemann with official plaque that will heretofore adorn the KWF summer camp yurt.