Monthly Archives

March 2020

For a Healthy Bay – Let Grasses Stay!

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Are you one of the 260,000 recreational boaters chomping at the bit to get on the Chesapeake Bay this year? It is purported that everyone in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is six degrees away from a boat owning friend with the promise of sunset sails, crab house cruises, and weekend raft-ups.

But there’s an economy behind the recreation as well; Maryland fisheries and watermen, all rely on strong fish populations that keep seafood healthy, economies strong, and ecotourism flourishing. At the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s January Legislative Reception kicking off the 2020 Maryland General Assembly, Senate President Bill Ferguson reminded the room that “the (Chesapeake) Bay is the most important thing we have in the state of Maryland. It is the commerce hub and is where we have the birth of our future experiences.” This all takes a toll on the ecosystems working to keep the Bay healthy and habitable for underwater life.

One such ecosystem partner is submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) providing benefits such as carbon sequestration (removing excess carbon from our waterways), erosion prevention through sediment stabilization (keeping sediment in place due to their strong root system), buffering from land-based sources of pollution through runoff filtering, and provision of food and habitat for marine and aquatic species. The Chesapeake Bay is reliant upon flourishing and healthy SAV; however, it is negatively impacted by excessive boat traffic. Propeller scars from traveling in shallow banks, bursts that excavate sediment creating holes, and displaced sediment choking the shores and washing over SAV, are the typical types of damage wreaked underwater.

Since 2016, The Ocean Foundation (TOF); dedicated to restoring, conserving, and financing natural coastal infrastructure by cultivating social entrepreneurs and working with decision-makers to affect systemic change, has partnered with several Chesapeake Bay communities including ShoreRivers to study and implement behavior change campaigns with the boating population. Through the Trust’s Outreach and Restoration and Community Engagement grant programs, they’ve conducted extensive surveying and studying of the attitudes and ideals of boaters to determine the values and social thinking that influence behavior to maximize the outreach messaging to create and affect behavioral change. Through online/phone surveying, intercept studies, and observation operations at high volume recreational boating areas, TOF developed a social marketing campaign, trainings, and messaging collateral to inform and offer solutions to boating practices. Examples of nondestructive behaviors include turning off motors and using poles to navigate shallow seagrass beds and waiting for high tides to enter low areas.

Evaluating pre- and post-campaign SAV health is the best determination of project impact utilizing monitoring program data specific to grasses. The success of this replicable data-driven project has led to further upcoming campaigns in other Chesapeake watershed areas this summer with partners such as Arundel Rivers Federation, Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, Magothy River Association, and Severn River Association all of whom will monitor for the health of SAV near participating marinas and positive attitude and behavior changes. “We hope that this reminder of the importance of grasses to a healthy bay inspires boaters to boat responsibly in shallow waters,” says Ocean Foundation grants and program manager, Alyssa Hildt.

The Chesapeake Bay Program has a target to sustain and increase SAV presence, with the ultimate goal of reaching 130,000 acres, a 40,000-acre improvement from 2017. With continued education, partnership monitoring, and community engagement, utilizing the full boating season with the expansion of signage, and messaging materials, the future looks greener for life under the sea.

Side Effect to a Healthy Bay: Becoming Happier and Healthier People!

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The Trust has a vision that the Chesapeake Bay and local watersheds are healthy and safe, our waters are fishable and swimmable, local communities benefit from healthy resources, and everyone participates in restoring and protecting natural resource treasures.

You may have seen the recent Cornell University article touting the benefits of stress reduction from spending time in nature. Further research shows a positive link between time spent outdoors and human health, as evidenced by such efforts and programs as the ParksRx program in Washington D.C. where doctors prescribe time in parks to patients; by the construction of green spaces and courtyards in hospitals nationwide; and by outdoor time as part of anti-obesity programs for children.  While there are numerous studies (e.g., the Japanese study of shinrin-yoku, or the study of the impacts of greening on crime and mental health in housing projects), sometimes anecdotal evidence is more powerful.  Here are examples of projects the Trust has funded modeling holistic health alongside environmental improvements.

MedStar Harbor Hospital:  Green Infrastructure in Protecting Public and Environmental Health (South Baltimore, MD)
Medstar Harbor Hospital – with the Chesapeake Bay Trust and Trust partners – the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, and Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources – designed nine bioretention facilities identified in a green infrastructure master plan. Bioretention systems are planted depressions that collect, filter, and slow stormwater runoff while enhancing the natural beauty and environmental health of the campus. These systems will collectively treat almost five million gallons of stormwater runoff every year and adding natural green space to improve the physical and mental health of hospital patients, employees, and the community.

Waterfront Partnership: Healthy Bodies and Clean Water: Canoeing and Kayaking with Baltimore’s Premier Environmental Stewards (Baltimore, MD)
Baltimore City’s Recreation and Parks Department partnered with three of Baltimore City’s premier environmental advocacy groups, Blue Water Baltimore, The Parks and People Foundation, and The Waterfront Partnership, to provide a tangible connection to local waterways in a fun, active activity (kayak/canoe) with the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks’ Summer Kayak and Canoe Program. The program increased citizen ownership and responsibility of local waterways by engaging a wide and diverse audience in the effort and conveyed to participants the benefits of personal health, such as exercise, are connected to and inform us about the overall health of the Bay. 

Talisman Therapeutic Riding, Inc:  Talisman TheraBay Trails Program  (Grasonville, MD)
The Talisman TheraBay Trails program supports veteran’s therapeutic programs and an annual Veteran’s Victory Garden.  The Talisman Therapeutic Riding’s “Talisman TheraBay Trails” program has helped to increase stewardship of land and water resources by incorporating watershed education curriculum into year-round programs, summer camp initiative, volunteer training materials, and annual Veteran’s Victory Garden.  The objectives were to increase understanding of Talisman’s Farm location within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and how the agricultural, conservation, human and horse behaviors that occur on the Farm impact the watershed. 

Channel Marker, Inc.:  Rain Garden and Rain Barrels at a Mental Health Wellness Center (Talbot County)
Channel Marker, a mental health services organization, installed a rain garden, rain barrels, and informational signage at their new Regional Wellness Center for youth and adult clients to treat stormwater runoff from the building that flows into the Miles Watershed; engage clients in an environmental action project promoting environmentally conscious behaviors, and create a positive connection between watershed health and human health.

After

Before

University of Maryland Medical System Foundation:  Druid Heights Green Space Project (Baltimore, MD)
The University of Maryland Medical System Foundation, in coordination with the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, renovated a vacant property in the Druid Heights community of Baltimore City.  The renovated space now serves as a public green space helping to improve neighborhood health and well-being while also providing much-needed wildlife habitat.  The objectives of this project were to form meaningful partnerships and engage community residents in a restoration project that will decrease stormwater pollution and educate community members about the connection between environmental and human health.

Global Health and Education Projects, Inc.:  Communities Organized for Health and Environment (Washington, D.C./Metro Area)
Global Health and Education Projects, Inc. established the “Communities Organized for Health and Environment” project which included a tree adoption program, Anacostia Trail cleanup, outdoor physical activity, and a health and environment day workshop. This program provided outreach to minority and underserved residents fostering involvement in environmental solutions and natural resources restoration. This effort connected individuals with how outdoor activities can improve both environmental and personal health.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital Green Team (Baltimore, MD)
The Johns Hopkins Hospital Green Team, in conjunction with The Living Classrooms Foundation and an East Baltimore Community, completed a storm drain stenciling project and a litter reduction effort to beautify the neighborhood and to prevent trash from entering local waterways. This project brought awareness and education to the community about environmental issues, sustainable living, and making better choices to create a healthier lifestyle.

The Trust works with many funding partners to collaboratively support natural resource projects in several key topic areas: education, restoration, community engagement, and science and innovation. One of our key goals is to reach under-engaged audiences: people who might not realize they are connected to healthy natural resources but are.  We want to give these audiences the voice and power to protect and restore what will ultimately care for them. Find out more about all the grant opportunities we offer here and make an excuse to get outdoors!