Patricia Herold Nielsen, an environmental activist who was a founding member of the Chester River Association, died Feb. 28 at her home in Brooklyn, NY, after a 10-year battle with breast cancer. She was 59.
Nielson, an Emmy Award-winning television writer, director and producer in New York, and her husband Ed Nielson, who also worked in television, split their time between Brooklyn and a farm outside Centreville. MD.
In Maryland, she worked to advance the protection and restoration of the Bay and served for more than two decades on the Chester River Association Board of Directors, and was its president from 1990-1993. The association is regarded as one the most effective river groups in the Bay watershed. She was also the creator and a frequent contributing writer to Currents, the association's annual journal.
"She deeply understood people and their connection to a place, and she used that talent on the Chester to connect the people of the Chester watershed to their place," said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. "She brought a vibrancy to the river and the environmental movement that's unmatched in the watershed."
Nielsen organized festivals, poetry readings and other events to celebrate the river. She also helped bring RiverKeepers to the Chesapeake, including one on the Chester River. "She was always able to merge the art of the river and the inspiration of the river, with the protection of the river, so it wasn't just a fight, it was a pleasure," Swanson said.
Nielsen also served as communications adviser for the Bay Commission, helping to transform the effectiveness of its publications. In 2000, she received the Ellen Fraites Wagner Award, presented by the Chesapeake Bay Trust to a Maryland citizen who has tirelessly worked to preserve and protect the Bay. In 2002, she was honored with the White Sneaker Award, one of the governor of Maryland's most prestigious conservation awards, for her outstanding contributions to water quality and habitat in the Chesapeake and its tributaries.
Her work in television included the "Big Breakdance Contest" for which she won an Emmy Award for producing in 1983.
She is survived by her husband, Edward, and her sons Matthew and Judd, of the Corsica River Farm in Centreville.