Spotlight on a GASP Board Member: Kate St. John

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Hotline, Summer 2002

Kate St. John joined GASP as a dues-paying member in early 1998 during the final days of LTV’s Hazelwood Coke Works and became a board member in 1999. She currently helps keep GASP’s financial I’s dotted and T’s crossed as chair of the Finance Committee.

When LTV wanted to close the plant, Kate remembers, “Even where I live, one mile downwind from the LTV site, the air pollution was horrible.” While this was going on, Kate read in the newspaper that GASP was taking LTV to court. “I was so thankful that someone was addressing the problem that I sent in my membership right away.” The plant finally closed in February 1998.

When the news reported that Sun Coke Company might locate a new coke plant on the former LTV site, Kate became very active in GASP. By then, the air in nearby neighborhoods was noticeably cleaner, and Kate was appalled at the idea of living with another coke plant: “I attended GASP’s public forum about the Sun Coke plan in mid August [1998] and got involved in CHOC (a community spin-off of GASP) to fight the new plant.” Due in part to the efforts of GASP, CHOC, and other concerned local groups, Sun Coke decided to locate elsewhere. Kate says, “My involvement in GASP has taught me it never hurts to write letters and attend public hearings. It can make a difference.”

In her personal life, Kate’s an avid bird watcher and hiker, and feels it’s important that we protect birds and save their natural habitats. During the past year, her main project has been volunteering with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) to provide a nest box for a pair of Peregrine Falcons at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning tower. The peregrines have been matriculating at Pitt for at least two years, but without a good place to nest they had never raised any young. Kate is happy to report that, this spring, she was able to watch the peregrine family successfully raise four chicks and see the chicks learn to fly. “It was gratifying to know that my effort has helped increase the population of peregrines, which are still endangered in Pennsylvania.”

Regular Sunday hikes deepened Kate’s commitment to saving land, so in 1999 she became a volunteer land steward for WPC. Land stewards help monitor land and conservation easements in western Pennsylvania by visiting and reporting on their assigned sites at least four times per year. Kate’s site is on the Clarion River in Elk County, just across from the Allegheny National Forest.

In addition to birding and hiking, Kate occasionally writes articles on birds and nature for The Nature Observer News and the GASP Hotline and discusses hiking once a month with Paul Wiegman on WYEP’s Allegheny Front radio show.

Kate has a B.S. in computer science from Penn State, and in her work-a-day life is WQED’s Director of Information Technology. Or as she modestly puts it, “I am in charge of computers.”

Kate lives happily with her husband and two cats in Greenfield.