Education has always been a passion for Joe Richardson, Sr., the owner of Bar-T summer camps and after-school Kids Clubs that have been operating since 1961.
In 2002, Joe discovered his passion for environmental land stewardship and he quickly began transforming the Bar-T Mountainside farm campus in Urbana, MD into a model for sustainability initiatives and an ideal location for offering hands-on outdoor science and environmental education for students and others. Its net-zero campus produces as much energy as it uses. Mountainside hosts a 10 kW wind turbine, 83 kW of solar photovoltaics with battery backup, an energy efficient green conference/after-school program center heated and cooled with geothermal energy, 10 yurts for overnight retreats, 16 composting toilets, a network of bioswales and rain gardens, a large vegetable garden and high tunnel, and extensive tree plantings. In 2018-19, a major stream restoration project will be implemented on the section of the Upper Branch of Little Bennett Creek traversing the Mountainside campus.
Joe founded Mountainside Education and Enrichment (MEE) in 2008 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit to broaden environmental and scientific educational programs, provide community engagement opportunities, and attract grant funding and donations for sponsoring low-income youth in MEE educational activities and Bar-T summer camps. Since its creation, MEE has offered Earth Day Spring Fests (2010 – 2015) and educational programs and experiments for K-12 students in Montgomery and Frederick Counties. They have grown over time to include Harvest Clubs for after-school centers, In-Classroom and On-Site Field Trips, and Overnight Retreats. Science-focused, interactive lessons and experiments educate youth about watersheds, stream ecology, agriculture, and energy. For example, during the 2017-18 school year, 3,849 students from 25 schools, 35 after-school centers, and scouting programs participated in 7,758 hours of interactive learning on these topics. The 253 teachers and aides as well as 145 parent chaperones also benefitted from these learning experiences.