Monthly Archives

August 2019

Alice Ferguson Foundation Implements Practices to Improve Water Quality and Engage Visitors

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Environmental nonprofit organizations play a vital role in connecting people to the natural world. Located in Accokeek, Maryland, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) engages thousands of teachers, students, and visitors in environmental education and action each year.

In 2014, AFF received a grant award to implement a variety of stormwater management practices on their property and to provide stormwater education to teachers, students, and visitors. Stormwater management practices improve water quality by reducing the amount of pollutants that enter local waterways.

One of the practices they installed were two 1,500 gallon cisterns. Cisterns help prevent polluted runoff from entering nearby rivers by collecting rainwater that flows off of the building’s roof. The collected rainwater is reused for irrigation in AFF’s Children’s Garden and other areas on the AFF property. AFF also installed five rain gardens and bioswales, planting over 500 native trees and shrubs and 8,000 native plants. Rain gardens and bioswales slow down runoff and allow it to soak into the ground, helping to filter the runoff before it reaches local waterways. AFF uses these practices as demonstration sites and installed six interpretive signs to educate visitors about the practices.

AFF also developed a curriculum titled “Stormwater Solutions” for teachers to use in their classrooms. The curriculum supports student learning of environmental issues and empowers students to understand and develop solutions. In addition to this curriculum, AFF offers teachers and students a variety of resources to learn more about their environment and how they can make a difference.

This project was funded by the Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program.

Great work, Alice Ferguson Foundation!

Chesapeake Conservation Corps Perspective: Olivia Wisner

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On August 20th, the Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) will graduate 31 members from 28 host sites and welcome the programs 10th class, with 37 new members assigned to 32 host sites. Created by the Maryland General Assembly in 2010, the CCC provides career and leadership training for young people interested in environmental careers. The insights gained from graduating corps members can shape the potential for environmental science and industry in the future. We are pleased to share Olivia’s (pictured left teaching a 5th grade class) experience here:

As a native Marylander, the Chesapeake Bay has always been an iconic natural resource. Growing up I was taught by outstanding environmental educators, and was fortunate enough to spend every summer with my family crabbing, canoeing, and camping at Janes Island State Park. My early experiences in nature shaped my subsequent education and career interests. I graduated from University of Maryland Baltimore County with a B.S. in Environmental Science, where I learned about the natural processes that take place within the watershed. But it’s been my time with the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Maryland (CBNERR-MD) that’s taught me the most about the Chesapeake Bay.

I came to CBNERR-MD in August 2019 as a Chesapeake Conservation Corps Member. The Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) is a professional development program managed by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, providing budding environmental professionals with a year of hands-on full-time experience working with non-profits or organizations that aim to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. I’m glad to have been stationed with CBNERR-MD because of their three unique component sites: Jug Bay, Monie Bay, and Otter Point Creek. I’ve had unforgettable experiences at all three sites, growing my perspective of the Bay as a whole.

Within my first month with CBNERR-MD, I had the opportunity to expand my horizons at Jug Bay. Straddling Prince Georges and Anne Arundel Counties, Jug Bay is a freshwater tidal marsh located along the Patuxent River. I was invited to help Melinda Fegler of the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary with Snakehead monitoring; the infamous invasive fish from Asia. In the early morning we boarded an electrofishing boat and spent hours scanning the edge of the water looking for Snakeheads. We removed five that day, and I scooped the largest one.

My involvement with the Shoring Up Resiliency through Education (SURE) program, allowed me to further explore the realm of environmental education. SURE serves teachers and students surrounding the Monie Bay component of CBNERR-MD. I’ve visited parks, marinas, and schools to help support Somerset County Public School system as they develop an environmental literacy curriculum. This has been an exciting project because I’ve been exposed to the behind the scenes efforts of environmental education.

As my Corps experience is winding down, I’ve had the opportunity to give back to CBNERR-MD through my CCC capstone project at the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center at Otter Point Creek in Harford County. I worked closely with Park Manager Kriste Garman and Park Naturalist Lauren Greoski to design a space, called the Nature Discovery Area, where young visitors can learn about nature through play. It was installed in late June with the help of my fellow Corps Members.

My time as a Corps Member with CBNERR-MD has truly exceeded my expectations. I feel lucky to have worked with an amazing organization, in beautiful locations, doing important work for the Chesapeake Bay all over Maryland.

 

 

Many Hands – Working Together – Transform a Neighborhood

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Community leaders, partners and supporters came together recently to celebrate the completion of a vacant lot restoration in the neighborhood of Druid Heights, Baltimore.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) was awarded $66,451 in May 2018 to revitalize a vacant lot in a priority area of the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability’s (BCOS) Green Network Plan, which identifies significant locations for recreation, greening, and other community amenities. Revitalizing vacant properties with green space not only provides environmental and social benefits, but also signals that the community is reclaiming their neighborhood by creating spaces to exercise, convene, play, and learn.

For the past 6 years, the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation (DHCDC) has attempted to address the lack of open space and connection to nature in this area. The McCulloh Street lot was one of the priority locations identified because of its central location within a highly populated area as well as its large size, both of which will maximize the potential for positive communal gathering, and outdoor appreciation and activity. “You took a lot where people were throwing garbage and dumping and you turned it into a place where children and others can come and feel a little bit of life,” said Congressman Elijah Cummings who spoke at the event.

The NWF partnered with the DHCDC and their “Green Thumb Club” on this project and received an award through the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Green Streets, Green Towns, Green jobs (G3) program. The goal of the Chesapeake Bay G3 Grant Program is to help 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 quality of life and community livability. With funding from the Trust and the BCOS, the work began in Spring 2019.

“85% of Americans live in cities and towns across the country. But so do two-thirds of our wildlife. So, it’s incredibly important that we create green spaces like this; that clean our air and water, that provide habitat for birds and butterflies, and also create spaces for our community to gather and our kids to play,” said Jen Mihill, regional executive director, National Wildlife Federation.

The families on McCulloh Street did not have easy access to green spaces or recreational areas, and the high density of occupied housing units on this street provides a captive audience for engagement around environmental stewardship, with the nature space as a venue and inspiration for environmental action. This project directly engaged over 50 community members, with over 200 residents benefiting from their work. “Creative play outside is the biggest single factor determining whether kids grow up to care about the environment and natural resources,” stated Ms. Mihill.

And as community leaders and supporters repeated during tours of the newly installed gardens and play space, “it’s a positive space. A positive place for positive people doing positive things. You can’t get any better than that.”