Monthly Archives

June 2019

Elementary School Leads the Way in Stormwater Management

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By Shannon Taylor
Chesapeake Bay Trust Summer Intern

With large campuses full of green fields for kids to play in, elementary schools such as James Craik Elementary School (JCES), are great places to implement stormwater management. The students there are proud to call themselves a certified Maryland Green School. Along with incorporating environmental subjects into their curriculum, the staff of JCES, with assistance from the Port Tobacco River Conservancy, implemented stormwater management programs on their grounds in order to limit their school’s rainwater, sediment, and nutrient runoff into the downstream Port Tobacco Creek: one of ten major tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay in Charles County.

The project addresses stormwater flowing from the school grounds, including runoff from roofs and parking lots, that ultimately enters Port Tobacco Creek. This project installed a 16,000 square foot bioretention best management practice (BMP) to capture stormwater from these impervious surfaces. It also features 1,000 native plants, including plants that are attractive to pollinators.

During storm events, rainwater flowing off the elementary school’s parking lot once emptied directly into the school playing fields and ultimately into the nearby Port Tobacco Creek. The bio retention BMP, however, diverts water through a descending path of river stones, and native vegetation to create a natural filter for rainwater runoff, allowing the majority of the stormwater to infiltrate at the bioretention feature and to allow clean, filtered water to make its way into the Port Tobacco Creek.

James Craik’s principle Michelle Beckwith is excited for the students to “have the opportunity to learn about and study, hands on, the ecosystem.” This project, she says, “will also help them learn about the importance of water conservation, and the beauty of nature”, as well as “provide a change of scenery” and “fresh air” to the students.. The Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT), Charles County, Michelle Beckwith, and Julie Simpson recently met at the project onsite during the annual kickball game at the school in May.  “This project is an excellent example of how stormwater management can be artistically designed while providing important function and treatment in a highly visible location, perfect for educating young students,” says Sarah T. Koser, Senior Program Officer at CBT.

Thanks to both the Port Tobacco River Conservancy and James Craik Elementary school for their commitment to cleaning up the Chesapeake’s tributaries.

Students Perform Investigations and Implement Projects on Campus to Keep Our Rivers Clean

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Freshwater streams and rivers are a valuable resource to us all, providing drinking water and places to swim, fish, and canoe. Unfortunately, only about 10% of Maryland’s waterways are in good condition. The rest rank in fair or poor condition due to polluted runoff that enters our waterways. When it rains, the water runs off of pavement, roofs, and other impervious surfaces that don’t allow for soaking into the ground. As it flows across these surfaces, it picks up and carries pollutants such as litter, oil, and gasoline into storm drains and directly into our rivers.

An advisory agency of the Potomac Basin states, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB), provides educators with a stormwater education program titled Score Four: Students, Schools, Streams, and the Bay. This program engages students in experiments and projects right on their school grounds to reduce runoff and water pollution. Using indoor and outdoor lessons and investigations, students learn about their local watershed and assess factors that contribute to its polluted runoff. Using their findings, the students then plan and conduct an appropriate stormwater action project on their campus. Action projects include native plantings, rain gardens, and storm drain stenciling. The students demonstrate ownership of their project and have pride in knowing that they are making a difference in their school and community.

In 2015 and 2016, ICPRB received two grant awards to conduct their Score Four program in Prince George’s County public schools. These projects were funded by the Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program. For these two projects, ICPRB collaborated with teachers at four schools in the County to conduct the Score Four program, engaging over 1,100 students.

At Northwestern High School, ICPRB teamed up with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher, Kari Rowe. For their action project, the students installed two conservation landscape gardens at the front entrance of the school. These gardens not only beautify the campus, but also absorb runoff from the adjacent sidewalks. The gardens were such a success that the school’s principal requested that Kari and her students plant more gardens on campus with financial support from the school.  This collaboration with Kari and her ESOL students led to the development of bilingual educational materials for Spanish speakers.

At Parkdale High School, ICPRB worked with science teacher, Malka Ostchega. For their action project, the students designed and planted the beginnings of a food forest. They planted 78 native fruit and nut-bearing trees and shrubs such as low bush blueberry, serviceberry, and paw paw. The food forest is located on a hill next to the school’s parking lot. The trees and shrubs in the food forest will slow down and reduce the volume of runoff and sediment coming from the hill. Watch this video to hear what students at Parkdale High School had to say about their project.

At Accokeek Academy, ICPRB collaborated with six science teachers for the Score Four program. For their action project, the students planted native plants in raised beds that would be transplanted to their conservation landscape garden.

At the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College, ICPRB worked in partnership with social studies teacher, Carmen Wright, and science teacher, Apollo Cordon. For their action project, the students planted a conservation landscape garden next to the building’s parking lot. Students selected native plants such as butterfly milkweed to support monarch butterfly populations.

Thank you ICPRB for engaging students in environmental stewardship to keep our rivers clean and healthy!

Chesapeake Conservation Corps Profile: Connor Liu & The Nature Conservancy

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We’re showcasing the unique experience of participating in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps by sharing profiles of Corps member of the 2018-2019 cohort along with information on their host site and descriptions of the work they have been doing.

Maryland native, Connor Liu grew up a few short miles from the Potomac River. Before joining the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, Connor worked at several environmental organizations in Maryland including the Assateague Island National Seashore. Interestingly, Connor also spent a summer in Mozambique researching flora and fauna of the wild African ecosystem at Gorongosa National Park. His Corps service host site, The Nature Conservancy, fits Connor’s interest in restoration, stating that “restoring habitat is work that strengthens the intimate bond that humans should have with the land. One can observe tangible progress and there is little that seems more fulfilling to me.”

Capstone projects are a graduation requirement for all Corps members at the conclusion of their year of service. A capstone project is an initiative designed by the Corps member that advances both an interest of the member and a priority objective of the member’s host site. Connor’s capstone project is focused on monitoring and restoration of red spruce trees in Maryland.

Since The Nature Conservancy began this work in 1996, they have planted over 65,000 red spruce seedlings in western Maryland. Red spruce trees have numerous benefits to forest ecosystems, including providing habitat for native species (such as mice, voles, bears, deer and hares), keeping headwater streams cool (which allows native trout to stay at their preferred body temperature), and providing a carbon sink. Connor set up 27 monitoring sites over a 30-acre area of Red Spruce trees (planted last year) and proceeded to count new seedlings to determine survival and reproductive rates. Connor organized surveying teams in partnership with the Deep Creek Conservation Corps (See Below) to be as precise and efficient as possible. Thanks to Connor’s work, there are data supporting the efforts to bring back red spruce populations in Maryland.

Connor’s project also involved a restoration technique needed to help the red spruce survive called “release.” This part of the project is necessary to balance red spruce trees’ sunlight needs in older forests with denser canopy that does not ordinarily allow enough sunlight for them to grow efficiently. Connor selectively girdles common hardwoods to allow red spruce to ascend to the canopy centuries faster than they would have naturally. Girdling (also called ringbarking) is the act of removing a strip of bark from an area of a tree, which will limit or halt its growth above the area of the girdle. This process has been successful in West Virginia and through his capstone project, Connor has brought it to Maryland. This process is meant to help the overall diversity of the forests as well.

The Nature Conservancy is providing additional trainings for Connor this year, including native plant identification, invasive species identification and removal, GIS mapping, and prescribed fire skills. Prescribed burns are an important part of forestry management. Connor has been trained on the process and conducts them in many areas of Maryland (such as the Nassawango Preserve, Maryland Forest Service, Department of Natural Resource Heritage, Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge). (See Above).

Chesapeake Conservation Corps members hold “All Hands on Deck” days where all Corps members participate in projects at various host sites. Recently, Connor, along with this year’s cohort of Corps members, helped build a “Nature Discovery Area” at Anita C Leight Estuary Center in Harford County. Connor, along with fellow Corps members Olivia Wisner (Chesapeake Bay National Estuary Research Reserve) and Bradley Simpson (Audubon Naturalist Society), are pictured taking a short break after installing a sunken canoe element in the play space. Next month, the Corps members will have one more “All Hands on Deck” experience on Poplar Island with Maryland Environmental Service to conduct monarch butterfly surveys.

Connor hopes to stay with The Nature Conservancy, or take his experience in the program to the Peace Corps after graduation. Connor loves the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program because it allows him to see many environmental projects all over the state of Maryland and network with other recent college graduates with the same interests as him. The Chesapeake Bay Trust is excited to celebrate this year’s cohort and welcome next year’s cohort of Chesapeake Conservation Corps members at the upcoming orientation and graduation ceremony that will take place at Camp Letts in Edgewater in August. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

Meet the Staff Behind the Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate Program

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate program staff, Bre’Anna Brooks and Janina Jones. This program provides homeowners, businesses, and others, the opportunity to receive a reimbursement for installing practices that reduce polluted runoff and keep our rivers clean. The Chesapeake Bay Trust is proud to partner with Prince George’s County on their program.

Bre’Anna Brooks (right in the picture) is a Program Coordinator with the Chesapeake Bay Trust and manages the Rain Check Rebate program.

Janina Jones (left in the picture) joined the Chesapeake Bay Trust as a summer intern and supports the Rain Check Rebate program. She is a native of Prince George’s County and currently attends Coastal Carolina University.

Can you tell us about yourself?

Bre’Anna: I am originally from Colorado. I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies. After I graduated, I served in the AmeriCorps where I conducted large-scale invasive species removal projects and worked at the accredited Denver Zoo as a camp instructor. In 2016, I moved to Maryland and shortly thereafter, joined the Chesapeake Bay Trust. I was driven to the area due to an interest in making a positive impact on restoring the Chesapeake Bay watershed. At the Trust, I currently manage programs that engage communities in projects to restore our waterways, beautify our communities, and increase awareness about important environmental topics. I also lead the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee and am broadly involved in Diversity, Equity and, Inclusion efforts in the Chesapeake Bay region. I am also certified as a Maryland Master Naturalist.

Janina: I have lived the majority of my life in Prince George’s County. I currently attend Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina and am pursing a B.S. in Marine Science. I plan to attend graduate school and hope to tackle the issue of microplastics found in our waters.

What is your favorite story or project from the Rain Check Rebate program?

Bre’Anna: The stories that stand out are the ones in which residents say, “My project is making a difference!” This difference may be in terms of improving their community through beautification,  in the functionality of a project that improves drainage, or in the larger context of keeping local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay clean.

What do you love most about the Rain Check Rebate program?

Bre’Anna: This program allows us to provide on-site, technical assistance to interested individuals who are unsure which practices make the most sense for their situation. I love that we can provide expertise on the practices (e.g. rain gardens and permeable pavement) to applicants in an understandable way.

Janina: I love that the program helps homeowners not only beautify their property, but also educate them about how their daily lives impact their environment.

Can you tell us a fun or interesting fact about you?

Bre’Anna: During my undergraduate studies, I spent a semester in Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. I swam with the Galápagos penguin and sea lion and hiked the Sierra Negra volcano! It was the experience of a lifetime!

Janina: I am fluent in both English and German.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Bre’Anna: The Rain Check Rebate Program is such a delight to coordinate because of the community interaction. I am fortunate to work with local residents, business owners, and nonprofits to help advance the goals of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment. This includes improving the quality of life for its communities by promoting green solutions to stormwater runoff.

Janina: I am excited to be a part of the Chesapeake Bay Trust team for the summer. I look forward to providing more assistance to the Rain Check Rebate program.

Thank you Bre’Anna and Janina for sharing with us today! 

To learn more about the Rain Check Rebate program and how you can participate, click here.

The Asbury-Broadneck United Methodist Church Restoration Project Keeps Historic Cemetery Safe from Stormwater Runoff

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By Chante Goodger,
Chesapeake Bay Trust Spring Semester Intern

Headstones would float as the stormwater runoff flowed from an uphill park into the historic African American church’s cemetery, where civil war soldiers as well as Harriet Tubman’s descendants are buried.

This has come to an end at the Asbury-Broadneck United Methodist Church (ABUMC) cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay Trust, through the Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant program, awarded ABUMC and project partner the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay funding so that they would be able to finally fix the issue. “The historical and cultural context of this project make it that much more unique and important as it reflects a direct-action response to embracing environmental restoration and diversity and inclusion in natural resource management,” said Randy Rowel, Jr., Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church Stormwater Disciple.

According to Abbi Huntzinger, Maryland Restoration Program Manager for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, “This project was truly transdisciplinary project approach with engineers, landscape architects, and also archeologists in case there were remains found during construction.”

Restorative work began in November 2018 and has been completed; with a unique step pool conveyance system, an imbricated channel, and one more step pool that drains out into a mowed wetland which was originally a grass wetland. “The church members did the planting,” said Ms. Huntzinger. And to do so, church members sought certification through the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy. Additionally, the church funded and built the bridge entrance to the cemetery grounds.

In fact, before the current church was built there was another church which burned down during a fire in the 1900’s. “All of the burial records of who was buried here were lost in the fire,” says Ms. Huntzinger.  Consequently, that made it difficult to pinpoint where the restorative team would site the project without disturbing the “forever residents of the cemetery.”

As a  further preventative, the restoration team upgraded existing stormwater management practices at the Broadneck Park so that the stormwater would filter through the larger stones and the smaller stones, in the swale. The rocks in the swale prevented the water from running off into a nearby house’s backyard which led into the cemetery.

The area is now thriving with thousands of tadpoles, dragon flies, wetland plants and the grave sites are secure as you walk around the historic African American church grounds. “This project is about planting seeds in our community to show them the great positive aspects of connecting with nature, restoring nature, and preserving our communities of colors legacy,” remarked Mr. Rowel.

In 2017, the Capital Gazette newspaper covered the origination of the project and interviewed church members on their incredible efforts to solve the problem. Read the full story here.

Chesapeake Bay Trust Announces $3,941,976 in Grant Awards from May 2019 Board of Trustees Meeting

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Annapolis, MD
–  The Chesapeake Bay Trust approved 129 grants totaling $3,941,976 to enable a wide range of organizations to implement on-the-ground restoration and education projects and programs. Four times each year, the Trust’s board of trustees announce their grant approvals helping local non-profit organizations, schools, community groups, local governments and municipalities through a variety of outreach and restoration techniques. In the fiscal year 2018, the Chesapeake Bay Trust awarded more than $13 million in grants.

“More and more first-time applicants are entering into the environmental grant arena, along with groundbreaking projects and forward-thinking partnerships, that will not only benefit communities of the watershed but catapult environmental mindfulness to new audiences and new locations,” said Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. “We take our role as fiscal manager very seriously and work hands-on with our grantees to get as many valuable projects as possible in the ground and moving forward.”

ABOUT THE AWARDS:

The Community Engagement and Restoration Small Grant program is designed to engage new applicants and organizations from a diverse array of communities in small-scale projects that enhance communities, engage residents, and, ultimately, improve natural resources. This program provides funding to groups that have traditionally been under-engaged with environmental issues and to provide to applicants who may not be experienced in applying for grants.

Nine awards totaling $37,729 were made to:

Church of the Guardian Angel, Town of Emmitsburg, Alleghany County Commissioners, Baltimore Museum of Art, NeighborSpace of Baltimore County, Inc., National Aquarium, Annapolis Maritime Museum and Park, Holy Communion Lutheran Church, and No One Left Unhelped, Inc.

The Pre-k-12 Environmental Education Award Program provides accessible funds of up to $5,000 to schools, organizations, and agencies to support educating students about their local environment and how they can have a positive impact in their community, making them stewards for the environment. Projects involve students investigating a local environment issue, problem, or phenomenon through indoors and outdoor research culminating in developing solutions and taking action in their school or community.

Forty-six awards totaling $177,622 were made to:

Colonial Virginia Council, BSA, The William J. Watkins, Sr. Educational Institute, Inc., Village School, Anacostia Watershed Society, Viers Mills Elementary School, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, John Poole Middle School, Mountainside Education and Enrichment, Inc., Stemmers Run Middle School, Key School, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, The Summit School, YMCA of the Chesapeake, Lacawac Sanctuary, Friends of the Rappahannock, One Montgomery Green, Graham Road E.S. Fairfax County Public School System, Dance Exchange, Boxerwood Education Association, Hollifield Station Elementary School, Susquehanna Heritage, Grasonville Elementary School, Endangered Species Coalition, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Wind Dance Farm & Earth Education Center, St. Joan of Arc School, Wilderness Leadership & Learning, Inc., Northern Garrett High School, Richmond Waldorf School, Prince George’s County Public Schools / William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center, Dunloggin Middle School, St. Martin of Tours, James River Association, Sparrows Point Middle School, Church Hill Elementary School, Potter County Conservation District, Sandusky Middle School, Chesterfield County Public Schools, Capital City Public Charter School, Saint Ignatius Loyola Academy, Penns Valley Area School District, Lacey Spring Elementary School, Baltimore Lab School, Thomas Johnson Elementary School, and Hamilton Elementary Middle School #236.

The Anne Arundel County Community Tree Planting Award Program is designed to increase the number of trees planted in Anne Arundel County, and to engage Anne Arundel County residents in tree planting activities that raise public awareness and participation in the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.

2 awards totaling $5,000 were made to:

Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church and Magothy River Middle School.

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps Mini Award Program provides resources to young adults in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program so that they may learn about how to apply for, and manage grants as they begin their environmental careers.

Twenty-eight awards totaling $33,535 were made to:

Arundel Rivers Federation, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Susquehanna Heritage, ShoreRivers, Howard County Recreation & Parks, Natural & Historic Resources Division, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States, Inc., Town of Edmonston, National Wildlife Federation, C&O Canal Trust, Inc., Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Inc., The Nature conservancy, Living Classrooms Foundation, Adkins Arboretum, Western Maryland Resource Conservation & Development Council, Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc., Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Environmental Concern, Uptown Metro Ministry Group / Presbytery of Baltimore, Audubon Maryland – DC, University System of Maryland Foundation – The Environmental Finance Center, Friends of Otter Point Creek Alliance, and the Central Baltimore Partnership.

The Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Award Program improves communities, water quality in County waterways, and engages County residents in stormwater issues with funding to support on-the-ground restoration activities specific to Prince George’s County.

One award totaling $12,700 was made to:

Center for Watershed Protection.

The Restoration Research Award program’s goal is for scientific teams to answer several key restoration questions that serve as a barrier to watershed restoration  project implementation.

Six awards totaling $903,848 were made to:

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, EA Engineering, Science, and Technology, Inc., University of Maryland College Park, Exponent, Tetra Tech, Inc., and Center for Watershed Protection, Inc.

The Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns Award program helps communities develop and implement plans that reduce stormwater runoff, increase the number and amount of green spaces in urban areas, improve the health of local streams and the Chesapeake Bay, and enhance the quality of life and community livability. This program supports design projects, financing strategies, and/or implementation of green street projects.

Twenty awards totaling $1,015,972 were made to:

James River Association, City of Portsmouth, Cambridge Main Street, City of Hyattsville, Wrightsville Borough, Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States, Inc., Town of Laurel, Baltimore Tree Trust, The 6th Branch, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, City of Martinsburg, WV, City of Ranson, Borough of Marietta, Bon Secours Unity Properties, Rock Creek Conservancy, Center for Watershed Protection, Inc., City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Neighborhood Design Center, Mount Clare Community Council, Sandtown South Neighborhood Alliance, and Conservation Foundation of Lancaster County.

The Outdoor Learning Network Initiative Award pilot program is a capacity building and funding opportunity for high-need school districts within the Chesapeake Bay region to build the partnerships and skills necessary to effectively advance local environmental literacy goals.

Two awards totaling $120,000, over a two-year period, were made to:

Conestoga Valley School District and Cacapon Institute.

The Watershed Assistance Award program was established to support the panning, design, and programmatic development associated with protection and restoration projects that lead to improved water quality in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Maryland portion of the Youghiogheny watershed, and the Maryland Coastal Bays.

Five awards totaling $300,000 were made to:

Prince George’s County, Maryland, Howard County Recreation & Parks, Natural & Historic Resources Division, Town of Betterton, and Center for Watershed Protection, Inc.

The Anne Arundel County Forestry and Forested Land Protection Award program’s goal is to implement cost-effective reforestation and greening projects and increase the number of acres of protected forested land in Anne Arundel County. By increasing tree cover and expanding green areas, erosion can be reduced =, water and soil quality can be improved, airborne pollutants can be filtered, and summer temperatures and resulting ozone pollution and energy can be reduced.

Two awards totaling $218,042 were made to:

Arundel Rivers Federation and Fishing Creek Farm HOA.

The Anne Arundel County Watershed Protection and Restoration Award program was established to support watershed restoration projects and programs that reduce pollutants through the implementation of watershed restoration practices. Projects in this program accomplish on-the-ground restoration that treat rainwater runoff from impervious surfaces and/ or demonstrate the accomplishment of another metric that aids Anne Arundel County in meeting local water quality and runoff reduction improvement goals.

Six awards totaling $1,117,528 were made to:

Arundel Rivers Federation, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Rivers Association, and Annapolis Roads Property Owners Association.

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About the Chesapeake Bay Trust: The Chesapeake Bay Trust (www.cbtrust.org) is a nonprofit grant-making organization established by the Maryland General Assembly dedicated to improving the natural resources of Maryland and the Chesapeake region through environmental education, community engagement, and local watershed restoration. The Trust’s grantees engage hundreds of thousands of individuals annually in projects that have a measurable impact on the waterways and other natural resources of the region. The Trust is supported by the sale of the Chesapeake license plate, donations to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund on the Maryland State income tax form, donations from Maryland’s online boating, fishing, and hunting license system, contributions from individuals and corporations, and partnerships with private foundations and federal, state, and local governments. The Trust has received the highest rating from Charity Navigator for fourteen years: 92 percent of the Trust’s expenditures are directed to its restoration and education programs.