Monthly Archives

January 2020

Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate: A Year in Review

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A property owner proudly displays a Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate yard sign on their property to showcase their new permeable pavement walkway and participation in the program.

Residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland, are doing their part for a clean, healthy, and beautiful Prince George’s County. For six years, the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment has partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to administer their Rain Check Rebate Program. This program provides eligible applicants the opportunity to receive a rebate, or reimbursement, for installing stormwater management practices. The seven approved practices include rain barrelscisternsurban tree canopy, rain gardens, pavement removalpermeable pavement, and green roofs. Each of these practices help reduce stormwater runoff and improve the quality of rivers in the County. These practices also have the added benefit of beautifying the property.

We are excited to announce that Fiscal Year 2019 for the Rain Check Rebate Program was another successful year with 91 approved applications, representing 180 projects, totaling $79,035 in rebates. These projects help treat 59,194 square feet of impervious surface, which is slightly larger than the size of a football field! Each of these projects has a hand in keeping our rivers clean and healthy by filtering the polluted runoff before it enters into our rivers.

This program is a no-brainer if you are considering any of the green initiatives they cover, which run the gamut. The process of applying for a rebate was so much easier and more straightforward than we expected. Good stuff by Prince George's County and the Chesapeake Bay Trust!

Val and Daniel
Prince George's County Property Owners

Stormwater runoff is a major issue in urban areas nationwide. It occurs when rainwater flows across impervious surfaces such as roofs, parking lots, and roads, that do not allow the water to soak into the ground. As it flows across these surfaces, it picks up and carries with it many different pollutants such as oil and grease from cars, bacteria from pet waste, and trash from littering or improper disposal. Often, the polluted runoff flows directly into our streams and rivers through storm drains. The practices mentioned above help reduce the amount of runoff and pollution that enters local waterways.

Thank you to all of the residents who have participated in the Rain Check Rebate Program throughout the years! This program would not be a success without your support and participation!

Fiscal Year 2019 By the Numbers

91
Approved Applications
79,035
Rebates Awarded
180
Projects Installed
59,194
Sq. Ft. of Impervious Area Treated

The Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate Program is currently open and accepting applications on a rolling basis.

Learn More and Apply

Plastic Free QAC Has Long Term Plans to Eliminate Single-Use Plastic

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Plastic Free QAC, Inc. let no grass grow under their feet when awarded a Community Engagement Mini-Grant last November through the Chesapeake Bay Trust for a series of informational events regarding the effects of plastic pollution on waterways and reusable bags as better alternatives to plastic.

Plastic Free QAC (PFQAC) is grassroots, non-profit organization committed not only to beautifying Queen Anne’s County but also in changing behavior and empowering residents and businesses to make more environmentally friendly choices day to day. Only in existence for 2 years, they started with a handful of trash cleanups along county roads and waterways and grew to reusable bag distribution events throughout the County and partnerships with environmentally friendly businesses, other local non-profits. PFQAC conducted 16 monthly cleanups, each 1/4 mile in length, adding up to 4 miles. A total of 944 plastic bags were collected and counted from the 8 most recent cleanups.

Their award through the Chesapeake Bay Trust Community Engagement Mini-Grant program (their first-ever grant-supported project) gave PFQAC the chance to build an outreach plan committed to raising awareness of the detrimental impacts of single-use plastics and sustainable options available through supermarket events; tabletop presentations at churches, libraries, and community centers; trash clean-ups; and hands-on art activities to engage children. All of the educational and tabletop materials produced through this grant provide the foundation for the organization’s future efforts throughout the County.

One of the big issues to be addressed when applying for this Trust grant program is the replication or interpretation of a project in other areas of the watershed to enable other groups in other areas to leverage ideas. PFQAC strongly noted already valuable lessons learned including the importance of strong partnerships with local nonprofits, use of powerful visuals such as pictures and videos, sound research on purchasing costs, messaging tailored to specific audiences, methods for recruitment of volunteers, expanded outreach using social media and a variety of other communications tools, as well as effective record keeping and data collection.

PFQAC is experienced in organizing and completing environmental projects and you may have seen them at 2019 Kent Island Day, 2019 Sea Glass Festival at Chesapeake College, Rotary Club presentations, the Kent Island Federation of the Arts, or the Chester Safeway.

PFQAC also participated in the Community Engagement Mentorship Program working with ShoreRivers in defining project goals and capacity, organizing project budgets, and working through the Trust’s online grant portal system.

And they aren’t stopping there! This small but mighty group have outlined 10 initiatives for 2020 which include tackling heavy issues like surveying and researching boat shrink-wrap recycling and marina practices; expanding partnership opportunities with environmental clubs and area schools; working with the Maryland Department of the Environment to encourage businesses to join the Green Registry; and encouraging restaurants to adopt straw-upon-request platforms and install biodegradable product practices.

We are pleased to share their promotional video, created by PFQAC creative videographer Julie Shaeffer, here.

Learn more and to get involved with Plastic Free QAC here.

The Trust Welcomes the New Year with a New Member

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By Kristina Arreza
Chesapeake Bay Trust Communications Intern

After completing an internship with the Trust, Katherine Somoza joins the Program team as Restoration Program Assistant. Katherine shares her story on why she decided to continue pursuing a career at the Trust after her internship working with the Rain Check Rebate Program (RCR) ended.

The Annapolitan graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, a year early with a B.S. degree in Biology. “I intended to pursue Pre-Med after undergrad, but I realized throughout my college career that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to take. I decided to look for any experience that was somewhat related to biology.”

How did you hear about this internship?

“I found out about this position on UMBC’s career database. Since I was already drawn to non-profits, I found the position for a Rain Check Rebate Intern, saw it was close to home and applied right away.”

What did you like most about the Rain Check Rebate Internship?

“I liked that it was local. It’s a program for Prince George’s County and is funded by the Prince George’s County Clean Water Fee. The concept of money being redirected back to the residents is something I am proud to work towards. My supervisor Bre’Anna Brooks was a great leader and mentor for me. A month into training, she gave me the reigns on the application process, pre- and post-site visit protocols, and reaching out to residents.” Somoza interned with the Trust from September 2019-December 2019. “It’s a very unique experience. The site visits were my favorite since I was able to have hands-on experiences bonding with the residents of Prince George’s County, and educating them about environmental practices they can use in their own homes.”

What made you want to pursue a career as Restoration Program Assistant at the Trust?

“I really enjoy the office culture and environment. The tasks I have are very hands-on, whether it be as an intern or a Restoration Program Assistant.” Somoza shares that her current position is a lot different from her internship, but there is always bound to be an overlap when programs and projects come into play. As a former intern that focused on outreach and engagement, Somoza shares that the position carries a lot more responsibility in finance as well as assisting the restoration and education department team members. “Having the internship is a strength because you know the dynamics between departments and can utilize that to work together.” Somoza reports to Sadie Drescher who leads restoration programs that include implementation projects, research efforts, and innovative county watershed and citizen engagement grant programs.

It says in your bio that you intend on pursuing a Master’s degree. Is that still on the table for you?

“Yes, I miss school and I enjoy learning. Although I’m still in the process of deciding what to pursue, I know that I want to involve either the environmental or public health realm or possibly an intersection between the two. A perk about working here is that you get to review a lot of applications for grants and programs. I’m hoping they will guide me towards what to do next.”

Is there any advice that you’d like to give for future interns at the Trust?

“I would advise future interns, specifically those who are working with the Rain Check Rebate program, to stay organized. There are so many transitions and in between all of them, there’s a risk that an applicant can fall through the cracks and you don’t want to deprive them of something like the RCR program. You need to be mindful of those. Also, make the most of the pre- and post-site visits! It’s a great teaching opportunity and a great way to share and educate others about it.” Somoza also advises applicants to “keep an open mind. Sometimes when applying, people have specific goals or positions they want. If I stuck to my specific goals, then I would have missed out on this opportunity. Be flexible! Open minds lead to greater opportunities. And lastly, do your research. If you have a pool of many interests, see if they fit with the culture you are going to be a part of.”

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Katherine!

Chesapeake Bay Trust Celebrates at 2020 Legislative Reception

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The evening’s speakers are pictured from left: Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Department of Natural Resources; Gary Jobson, Chairman of the Board of the Chesapeake Bay Trust; Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr.; Jana Davis, Trust executive director; Senator Pam Beidle; Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo; and Superintendent of the Chesapeake Bay Office for National Parks Service, Wendy O’Sullivan.

The start of January marked the convening of the 441st session of the Maryland General Assembly and with that, the annual Chesapeake Bay Trust Legislative Reception. This year’s event was a special celebration honoring the 10th anniversary of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program.

The evening brought together the 10th cohort of Chesapeake Conservation Corps members, Corps alumni, Maryland State Delegates and Senators, grant program partners, supporters, and friends to network, celebrate, and acknowledge the importance of the work both the Trust and the Corps do.

Guests were reminded by Senate President Bill Ferguson that “The Bay is not political. The Bay is the most important thing that we have in the state of Maryland. It is the commerce hub and is where we have the birth of our future experiences.”

10th cohort Corps members networked with alums, mentors, and host sites as well as Trust leadership and elected officials.

The Trust featured its newly released annual report for FY 2019 highlighting the over $11 million granted out to organizations throughout the watershed to fund almost 400 projects collaboratively supporting natural resource projects through education, restoration, community engagement, science and innovation, and capacity building. Board of Trustee member, Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo spoke about the Trust’s reputation for transparency and operational excellence noting “The Chesapeake Bay tag is the … piece that allows the Trust to leverage so much more. If you think about when you go to the MVA and pay that little extra money for that Bay tag and you encourage all of your friends and you encourage all of your family members to get that bay tag. That equates to about $3.5 million to the Trust. But the great thing about that is that the $3.5 million because the Trust is run so well, is leveraged to more like $12 million dollars. Which is absolutely incredible when it comes to the amount of work that needs to be done to restore the Bay.”

And speaker Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio reminisced about her involvement in protecting the Trust as a member of the Maryland General Assembly. “Before I was Secretary of Department of Natural Resources (DNR), I served in the Maryland House of Delegates and at that time I learned that the Bay plate program was a pilot program that was going to expire. Senator Astle and I got together and made a joint decision to co-sponsor legislation to make it a permanent program. And I’m still really proud of the fact that we were able to accomplish that and have the support of the entire Maryland General Assembly to make that happen because the Chesapeake Bay Trust is so important. At DNR, we firmly believe that cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay takes participation from a variety of stakeholders and it takes every citizen in Maryland to be a part of the process. And I think that is really one of the great and unique things about Chesapeake Bay Trust is that your programs and your grants are getting projects done on the ground in our local communities and really engaging citizens in the process. And we’re really proud to partner with the organization.”

Senate President, Bill Ferguson welcomes the crowd.

One way the Trust continues to engage is through the operation of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program (CCC). Each year, the CCC places young adults (ages 18-25) with nonprofit or government agencies to work full-time in the environmental field for a one-year term of paid service in the Chesapeake Bay region. The Corps Members receive hands-on green job and leadership experience through on-the-ground experience leading and assisting with projects and programs for their host sites, extensive training hosted by the Trust and other service-learning opportunities including grant writing and project management.

Since its inception, the program has partnered with over 117 host sites and graduated 265 corps members, many who were in attendance representing the environmental agency they went on to work for after graduation.

Guests included Delegate Dana Stein, Corps Advisory Board member Delegate Anne Healey, and Maryland Secretary of the Environment, Ben Grumbles.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust partners with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, BGE, and the National Park Service to run each cohort of, on average, 35 members. Founding advocate, Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller told the crowd “it’s very easy for me to support this program… We want to protect the Chesapeake Bay; we want to protect Maryland… it takes young people like this with some enthusiasm to make things happen.”

National Park Service Superintendent of the Chesapeake Bay Office, Wendy O’Sullivan, added “I stumbled into the National Parks Service through a youth corps program, right out of grad school. So all of you that are here … you are on a path and you are part of a family now of the champions of the Chesapeake of Ambassadors for our environment and the Park Service couldn’t be more proud to add and be part of that leveraging of the bay plate money for the corps program.”

 

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program is open for application! Learn more about the program and how to apply to join the 11th cohort here!

Chesapeake Conservation Corps Profile: Aubryn Walters & the Patuxent Research Refuge

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Aubryn Walters stands with her poster at the annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum.

Participating in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps is a unique experience. We’re showcasing the individual Conservation Corps members in the 2019-2020 cohort along with information on their host site and descriptions of the incredible work they are doing. 

One of the biggest challenges in the mission to responsibly manage and protect our environment is engaging people and equipping them with the right tools and knowledge. Oftentimes, there is a shortage of people who have had the chance to study and understand the issues at hand, and develop the skills necessary to implement solutions.

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps (Corps) strives to close the gap by connecting young adults to nonprofit or government agencies for one-year terms of service in the Chesapeake Bay region. The 2019-2020 Cohort consists of 35 young adults working with 29 different organizations.

One of these Corps members, Aubryn Walters, is currently placed with the Patuxent Research Refuge in Prince George’s County. Below is Aubryn’s reflection on her experience thus far.

Aubryn Walters, Chesapeake Conservation Corps member, pictured here with Mr. Hoots from Rodney’s Raptors, at the Patuxent Research Refuge.

How are you enjoying your first few months in the program?

I’ve really enjoyed working with the Patuxent Research Refuge. The staff is committed to educating the public, putting in the extra hours, and creating engaging programs for everyone who visits. I have learned so much, from how refuges function, to how to create an effective program.

What is your favorite part about working with the Patuxent Research Refuge?

My favorite part about working with the refuge is interacting with and educating the public to help them create a better environment for themselves and the wildlife living in their community.

What are you excited to work on this year at the Refuge?

I am most excited about working with Montpelier Elementary School. They are putting on a yearlong watershed project, with funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. They are creating a rain garden and a bio-retention pond to treat runoff from their school. I am supplementing the learning that goes along with that, by working with the fifth grade to teach them about watersheds. We have been working together for five weeks, learning about what watersheds are, how to map their watershed, how land use affects water, and how to measure water quality. The fifth graders then had the chance to come to Patuxent, where they conducted water quality tests and went on a tram tour themed around the water system we have in place. They are enthusiastic and wonderful students, and I am excited to see them learn and grow throughout the year.

Thank you, Aubryn, for helping to educate the next generation of environmental stewards in Prince George’s County!

New Hope Academy and Students Manage Stormwater Beautifully on Their Property

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Prince George’s County Department of the Environment representative Sudhanshu Mishra (left), and principal of New Hope Academy Joy Morrow (right of sign), pose with students in front of one of their rain gardens.

Across Prince George’s County, individuals, business owners, and non-profit organizations are taking action to protect their natural resources and build a greener, healthier environment. The Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program was set up in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to encourage eligible applicants to apply for grants that will improve County neighborhoods while also treating and controlling stormwater.

Stormwater runoff occurs when rainwater lands on impervious surfaces, which are paved areas where rain cannot infiltrate into the ground. Instead, the stormwater flows across the paved surfaces, collecting debris, bacteria from pet waste, and other pollutants along the way. This polluted runoff enters storm drains and flows directly into our rivers. This results in poor water quality for humans and animals that depend on the water source. Impervious surfaces force large quantities of water to flow over paved surfaces rather than being allowed to infiltrate slowly can also cause flooding and erosion.

New Hope Academy (NHA), a K-12 international private school located in Landover Hills, is one such applicant that has used the grant program to implement a project to improve both their stormwater management and their community. Through the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program, NHA was awarded a grant to install two bioretention cells (also known as rain gardens) totaling 250 sq. ft. on their school parking lot, along with educational signage about the rain gardens. The two rain gardens included a total of 22 native trees, some of which were blackgum trees. Blackgum trees are known for being an important source of nectar for honey bees, which play key roles in the environment as pollinators.

Educational signage installed in front of Rain Garden.

The rain gardens help to combat the large amounts of runoff that NHA was experiencing on its parking lot. The runoff caused erosion as it flowed through the parking lot into a nearby creek bed. The University of Maryland, a project partner, brought several college classes to the school property to study the stormwater management project’s implementation. This project will serve as an example of a successful, functioning bioretention project for all of NHA’s students, as well as the many visitors that come through their parking lot. The signage installed will also help students and visitors learn more about native plants, and the benefits they provide for our environment.

Congratulations to New Hope Academy for managing stormwater runoff beautifully!