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Celebrating an Environmental Champion: Walkiria Pool

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Walkiria Pool, President of the non-profit organization Centro de Apoyo Familiar (CAF) located in Riverdale, was recently named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by The Daily Record! The Maryland’s Top 100 Women award recognizes high-achieving women who live or work in Maryland and are actively making a difference in their surrounding neighborhoods and networks. All winners are chosen by a panel of past Top 100 Women business leaders. Walkiria’s dedication to community service and her demonstration of strong leadership skills were no doubt a determining factor in her earning this high recognition!

Walkiria founded CAF in 2006, with the vision of transforming underserved communities through direct involvement and strong partnerships with faith-based organizations. CAF connects communities to a broad range of services, from affordable housing to environmental health. As President of CAF, Walkiria has been passionate about involving Latino communities in the efforts to protect our natural resources and become better stewards of our environment. In 2016 and 2017, CAF was awarded projects through the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program to support and implement their Aguas Sana-Familias Sanas/Healthy Waters: Healthy Families program. This program used a train-the-trainer model to train and equip Latina promotoras (community health educators) as stormwater educators, who then held educational workshops at local faith-based organizations. Over 300 Prince George’s County families were collectively reached through both of the awards to CAF. The families that participated were able to learn about the connections between human and environmental health and were provided resources to improve their natural resources and build healthier communities.

Congratulations on this recognition, Walkiria! We appreciate all you do and look forward to continuing to work with you!

A Brighter Future for the Anacostia River

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The Anacostia Watershed Society recently released the 2020 State of the Anacostia River Report, which tells the story of the health of the Anacostia River from previously-collected 2019 data. This report measures the overall health of the river by assigning a score and letter grade that takes into account several different water quality and remediation indicators. These indicators include dissolved oxygen, fecal bacteria, water clarity, chlorophyll a (measure of algae biomass), underwater grasses, stormwater runoff volume, amount of toxins, and trash.

Click on the 2020 report card to view the full image.

This year the Anacostia River earned a score of 63 (D), which is the highest passing score it has ever achieved! This high score comes after the record rainfall levels we saw in 2018, which increased the flow of stormwater runoff into our waterways. The fact that the measure of the Anacostia River’s health has come back stronger than ever speaks to the great resilience of our natural environment. For the Anacostia in particular, the resurgence of underwater grasses known as Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) combined with the environmental actions taken by local governments were major factors in the progress of its health. SAV provides essential habitat for a host of aquatic life, filters polluted runoff, and provides food for waterfowl. The Anacostia River had 92.6 acres of SAV in 2019, well surpassing the goal of 20 acres!

Monitoring the health of our streams and rivers over an extended period is important for several reasons. It allows us to determine what restoration efforts are working and pinpoint the areas where greater effort or different restoration tactics are needed. The data that is collected and analyzed reflects the environmental actions taken by local governments, organizations, communities, and individuals.

Everyone can play a part in reducing the amount of litter and pollutants that reach our streams and rivers! There are several programs that are designed to support individual initiatives to become better stewards of our environment. The Chesapeake Bay Trust is proud to partner with Prince George’s County Department of the Environment to offer Prince George’s County residents the Rain Check Rebate Program. This program allows eligible applicants to be reimbursed for installing one or more of seven approved stormwater management practices.

Below are several other Maryland programs that offer reimbursements for installing stormwater management practices:

*Please note: while site visits cannot be conducted in person at this time, many of the programs listed above are conducting virtual site visits. Follow the individual page links to learn more.

While we are practicing safe social distancing, we can do our part to better our environment!

Spotlight on an Environmental Champion

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Environmental leaders are all around us, even within our local communities. Tiaa Rutherford of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment (DoE) is one such leader. Tiaa has worked tirelessly to beautify and protect the natural resources of the Prince George’s County communities. Recently, Tiaa was publicly honored for her environmental efforts.

Tiaa was recognized as a Regional Environmental Champion at the 2020 bi-annual Taking Nature Black conference hosted by the Audubon Naturalist Society for her work to reduce the amount of litter in the Anacostia River and the streams throughout the County. Her work also helps the County meet the goals of their stormwater discharge permit under the Clean Water Act. As the DoE’s Litter Reduction Program Manager, Tiaa engages individuals, non-profits, and municipalities on a variety of litter-reduction initiatives. Tiaa, along with other DoE colleagues, were recognized in 2017 for their work in creating the litter-monitoring apps LitterTRAK and PGCLitterTRAK. PGCLitterTRAK allows communities and individuals to document litter data around Prince George’s County.

Tiaa posing with the Anacostia River trash trap signage.

As a partner of Prince George’s County, the Chesapeake Bay Trust has had the chance to work with Tiaa on projects funded by the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program. In 2016, Anacostia Riverkeeper was approved for an award that funded the construction and installation of a “trash-trap” in the Arundel Canal of the Anacostia River. Tiaa was involved throughout the trash-trap installation process and provided outreach support to educate and engage County residents on the new installation. Currently, the Trust is working with Tiaa on a behavior-change litter reduction initiative.

Congratulations Tiaa, we look forward to continuing to work with you!

 

 

Wellness Ambassadors of End Time Harvest Ministries Take Action

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End Time Harvest Ministries Reverend and CEO, Gail Addison, touches on the successes of this tree planting and environmental literacy project, which was funded by the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program.

Empowering residents to take action is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to the protection and restoration of our natural resources. The Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program, in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Trust, awards grants to organizations that engage County residents in the restoration and protection of local rivers, which ultimately boosts the health of their neighborhoods.

End Time Harvest Ministries (ETHM), located in Bladensburg, Maryland is a faith-based organization with a mission that includes empowering youth to become leaders in their neighborhoods. One way that ETHM meets this goal is through their Wellness Ambassadors program, offering youth a variety of activities that promote health and wellness.

ETHM was awarded a grant in 2017 to conduct a Wellness Ambassadors Environmental Health Summer Employment Program. This program aimed to boost environmental literacy by connecting local stormwater management to the health and wellness of students and their families in the Port Towns, Kenilworth, and Riverdale neighborhoods. The Ambassadors participated in tree planting activities that were led by the Central Kenilworth Avenue Revitalization Community Development Corporation (CKAR CDC) and supported by the University of Maryland (UMD) and the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS). A total of 15 native trees were planted at an Edmonston Road site, an area selected by CKAR CDC for revitalization.  Students and their families also participated in a workshop held by AWS on the importance and benefits of trees in managing stormwater runoff.

Do you want to build a healthy neighborhood, too? Plant a tree! Trees help manage stormwater runoff by taking up greater amounts of stormwater through their roots (compared to a grass-only lawn), which filters out pollutants and reduces the amount of pollution that reaches our local waterways. Trees also filter polluted air and have the added benefit of making communities quieter by absorbing sound. Picking native trees to plant is especially important because they provide food and habitat for native wildlife and they require less maintenance.

This tree planting project boosted environmental literacy and gave students and families the opportunity to take part in hands-on learning experiences that positively contributed to their environment and overall health. Congratulations to End Time Harvest Ministries on a successful and engaging project!

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!

Goatscaping: Clearing Invasive Species Never Looked So Cute

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Invasive kudzu engulfs the left side of this picture while the goat cleared area on the right shows the improvement made.

By Kristina Arreza
Chesapeake Bay Trust Communications Intern

Maintaining and enhancing its community areas is one of the primary responsibilities of the Edgewater Beach Citizens Association for the Edgewater Beach Shaded section community. The community is a small neighborhood of 53 homes. In the communal area of several acres a park, picnic area, and an active pier with boat slips are the backdrop for 36 goats from Browsing Green Goats. Why you may ask? In the little nook located on South River from Park Avenue to Edgewater Beach Drive lies tangles of invasive Kudzu vines engulfing and suffocating the existing native trees and plants. Kudzu has destroyed natural riparian vegetation along the banks of Beards Creek and South Park River, causing instability and erosion of sediment which fills the South River. Known as an overpowering vine, Kudzu can suffocate trees at the crown when engulfed which, result in rotting roots.

Mary Bowen, invasive species control specialist and founder of Browsing Green Goats, has mastered the innovative technique of tackling weeds in a sustainable matter. “Goats can graze in hard to reach places that machines usually miss; such as slopes, wetlands, and rough terrain areas.” Goats also eat poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and knotweed to name a few. Additional benefits of goat browsing include the natural fertilizer source of their excrement and their ability to till the soil with their hooves which break down clumps and large mounds of soil for a better surface to plant new trees. They have made significant progress. According to John Greene, project leader for the Edgewater Beach Citizens Association (EBCA), “the goats cleared almost an acre in the first 24 hours!”

This project was funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s (Trust) through the Community Engagement Mini-Grant Program. This grant program is designed to connect residents throughout Maryland in activities that enhance communities, engage residents, and improve natural resources. A few of these activities include tree plantings, rain gardens, stream cleanups, storm drain stenciling, and yep, removal of invasive species. The Trust seeks to reach groups that have traditionally been under-served in tackling environmental issues and new applicants and organizations from a diverse array of communities.

Before the Trust’s approval of the Edgewater Beach Shady Side Community project, Mr. Greene said that the plants were “too powerful for the toxic and environmentally unfriendly herbicides or from removing the vines by hand.” Completion of the invasive removal was slated for Summer 2020, however, the goats have made a significant impact in their short period spent in the area. After this phase of the project, maintenance will include identifying crowns (root systems) and treating those crowns with approved chemicals for removal. Further maintenance of the entire park area is conducted by residents throughout the year. The EBCA was able to accumulate $2,500 towards this project alongside an additional $2,500 in donations to complete the eradication of kudzu.

The Arundel Rivers Federation (ARF) aided in raising awareness and publicity for the rest of the Edgewater Beach Shaded community to be educated and involved in this portion of the project. In the second phase, ARF intends on hosting a kayak trip with area neighbors and the South Riverkeeper – to inform them about native riparian plants and their importance to the river. Additional opportunities for outreach include anticipated services from Annapolis area high schools – including the Annapolis High Key Club. The project intends to educate students about the issue of invasive plants and river health.

Recently, the community and their project was featured in the Edgewater Patch. Read the full story here.

Chesapeake Conservation Corps Profile: Amanda Bland & The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

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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. This month’s featured Corps member is: Amanda Bland

Amanda Bland grew up at the Southern tip of Calvert County, Maryland, at the mouth of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay on Solomons Island. Solomons Island is now a popular tourist destination where visitors can learn about maritime history and taste delicious seafood. Growing up, Amanda recalls fishing, crabbing and boating with her family, which inspired her connection to the Bay. During her sophomore year at Washington College, Amanda spent 5 months in an intense interdisciplinary program called the Chesapeake Semester Program; studying the Chesapeake Bay and learning about the intricate connection shared by humans, community, society, and the environment. In May of 2019, Amanda graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies minoring in both Sociology and Chesapeake Regional Studies. Amanda said that as she neared the end of her undergraduate career “I felt that the Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) would allow me to apply not only my passion, but my degree, and experience in the environmental world to issues that matter, and connect with other young professionals and professionals in the field.” Amanda stated that she was driven to join the CCC after hearing inspiring stories told by alumni and because of the opportunity to work with leaders in the Chesapeake Bay Region.

Amanda was placed at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (The Alliance) for her year-long term of service in August (Read more about the 2019-2020 cohort here). The Alliance works to implement unique strategies to enable humans, waterways, and land to prosper. Amanda is “ecstatic and grateful to be working with an organization whose values align so closely with my own,” and has already gained an entirely new understanding and appreciation of restoration projects around the region. On her first day at the Alliance, Amanda was able to visit a potential spotted turtle restoration site. Amanda has been hard at work planning a habitat forum in Southern Maryland, leading outreach for the Chesapeake Watershed Forum, and producing new content for the Alliance Blog. Amanda says her experience so far has allowed her to explore many different things and has increased her motivation to work in the environmental field. Amanda is learning how to communicate effectively, work through obstacles, and prioritize tasks. The Alliance has received a Corps Member the past 2 years. Last year they hired their Corps Member Lucy Heller as their Communications and Maryland Outreach Coordinator.

Amanda Bland and Alliance Staff on tour of Poplar Island

Amanda’s capstone project will aim to decrease shoreline erosion at Ellen O’Moyer Nature Park in Annapolis, Maryland. The park is managed by the Annapolis Maritime Museum and is used for environmental education programs; however, eroding shoreline is negatively impacting water access and wetland habitat. Amanda said she values the intersection of human activity and the ecosystem, and hopes for both to flourish, which is why her capstone to lead an erosion control planting event is so important to her. Amanda hopes the planting will serve as an educational tool for future generations and will spark a connection with other young adults. Amanda will be presenting on “Community Resilience through living shorelines” at the Chesapeake Watershed Forum from November 15th -19th 2019 in Shepherdstown West Virginia.

The Request for Proposals to be a Corps Host Organization will open next week and close on December 19th, 2019. The Corps Member Application will be opening in late December. To stay up to date on our open grant programs click here.

Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church Reforests Woodlands

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By Kristina Arreza
Chesapeake Bay Trust Communications Intern

On an overcast Thursday morning, volunteers from the Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church (WMPC) in Severna Park, Maryland, prepared for the planting of 176 native trees, shrubs, and plants across the church’s woodlands by digging all of the holes and placing all plants into their properly assigned locations. Located between Sunset Assisted Living and WMPC, this Anne Arundel Watershed Stewardship Capstone Project is led by Steward candidate Frank Goetschius (pictured left with Bob Royer, WMPC Property Management). The volunteers included members of the REHABS (REtired HAndyperson Breakfast Society) as well as the gardener’s group from the church.

On the designated planting day, more than 75 volunteers showed up representing more than 12 community organizations including the Magothy River Association, the Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA), Baywise volunteers, Maryland Master Gardeners, Severna Park High School, Broadneck High School, Boy Scouts Troop 339, Girl Scouts Troop 184, local community gardening clubs, and multiple WMPC church groups. With the help of Watershed Steward Alison Milligan as their advisor, the volunteers were able to reforest the woodlands with native trees, such as Red Oak, Chestnut Oak, Red Maple, American Holly, Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, and Sweet Bay Magnolia alongside the existing Elm, Oak, Sweet Gum, and Black Gum trees. These new plantings will aid in the reforestation process by returning the woodland to when the church was founded 100 years ago. “The goal is to promote vegetation, maximize diversity of forestry, and create a lush area that will be a resource for wildlife,” said Mr. Goetschius. The tree planting project is intended to prevent stormwater runoff from entering onto roadways and into storm drains the directly flow into Cypress Creek on the Magothy.

“Earlier this year, Woods Church launched its “Woods has Gone Native “ initiative, planting hundreds of native, pollinator-friendly plants in the church grounds bringing about a remarkable transformation with the return of numerous butterflies and bees,” said Mr. Bob Royer. “You have to care for the creation around you by planting the native trees and plants that support the populations of birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.”  The members of the church gardening group made labels to help the public who visit become familiar with the diversity of native plants available so they can plant these in their own gardens.

This project was funded by the Trust’s Anne Arundel County Community Planting Mini-Grant Program. In partnership with the Anne Arundel County Forest Conservancy District Board, the program funds tree planting and tree canopies in communities, neighborhoods, and parks throughout Anne Arundel County. The goal of this grant fits perfectly with the WMPC’s project; to raise awareness of the health of our region, tree canopy, watersheds, air quality, streams, rivers, and the Bay. Additional organizations such as Unity Gardens and WSA have also provided grants to make this project possible. WMPC was certified by the University of Maryland Extension Baywise Program in 2018, a program that teaches simple, bay-friendly lawn and gardening practices so homeowners can help preserve the land and waterways within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  The project will be completed by mid-October.

Watch this fantastic video coverage by Chesapeake Bay Magazine in a recent Bay Bulletin story here.

Blogging About Plogging

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We’re showcasing the unique experience of participating in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps by sharing profiles of Corps members of the 2019-2020 cohort along with information on their host site and descriptions of the work they have been doing.

Karlis Grauze (right in picture) is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in Philosophy. He has previous experience working with Howard EcoWorks, Anacostia Watershed Society, and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Karlis joins the 10th-anniversary Chesapeake Conservation Corps cohort position with Patapsco Heritage Greenway (PHG). PHG aims to preserve, protect, and restore the environment history, and culture of the Patapsco River Valley. Karlis will lead GIS work about the Patapsco River Valley to help engage the Spanish-speaking community who use Patapsco Valley State Park, help with environmental stewardship events, and educational outreach to local schools.

In support of his host site’s outreach mission, Karlis helped introduce plogging to the popular Patapsco Trail Fest which took place mid-September.  The concept of plogging is still relatively new to the United States. It evolved from the European #plogga or #plogging and derives from the Swedish “Plocka upp” and jogging. Plogging combines the recreational act of jogging/running (or even hiking) with environmental stewardship (i.e. picking up trash) along the way. The weekend combines many different events including mountain biking, climbing, paddling, hiking, and trail runs, as well as many other recreational and stewardship activities for adults and families alike, making it the perfect test “plog” for the concept.

PHG is the ideal organizing partner focusing on the overall participation and enjoyment of all partakers representing all the user groups of Patapsco Valley State Park. Advanced planning for the event included mapping a wooded trail route with signage to enable participants to go at their own pace while still completing a full loop around the park. The Fest awarded prizes for the (1) fastest time, (2) greatest amount of trash, and the (3) weirdest item found.

Expectations were guarded as this was the first time plogging was introduced at the Fest. However, plogging drew a dedicated crowd who set the standard for future growth and has inspired planning and marketing for more plogging events in the spring. “We hope that combining recreation and environmental stewardship in different ways will help us reach a larger audience and give participants new and fun experiences,” stated Karlis. Participants collected several full bags of trash around the river along with 3 tires. The weirdest item found ended up being what is thought to be a large piece of an old motorcycle of some sort. One of the participants hauled this heavy piece back to the finish line, dog in hand!

For future events, organizers will increase marketing efforts to engage a wider audience and increase the number of participants. Trail Fest was a pilot for the planned X-Treme Cleanup series which will feature kayak and bar crawl clean-ups. Thank you to Karlis Grauze for an innovative addition to a popular event keeping it fresh and fun for all who attended!

Interested in finding out more about plogging? Check out this great video from the PBS News Hour here.