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Chesapeake Conservation Corps Profile: Kelly Peaks & Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland

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This year we’re showcasing the unique experience of participating in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps by sharing profiles of each member of the 2018-2019 cohort along with information on their host site and descriptions of the work they’ll be doing. Corps members met their host site mentors and began their year of service in August 2018.

Kelly Peaks graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, in May 2018, with a B.S. in Environmental Science with a concentration in Policy and a minor in music.

As a member of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, Kelly is working with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland, which is one of ten University-based centers across the country providing communities with the tools and information necessary to manage change for a healthy environment and an enhanced quality of life.

Kelly is assisting with the Center’s Sustainable Maryland Program; a certification program for municipalities in Maryland that want to go green, save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term.

In addition to assisting in the Sustainable Maryland certification process of select municipalities, Kelly will also assist with the pet waste program, developing new actions in the certification process, preparing small water systems resilience workshops, and preparing and hosting program events.

In 2019, Kelly hopes to build on her experience in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps by attending graduate school to study international issues related to climate change.

Chesapeake Conservation Corps Profile: Syler Merski & Friends of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum

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This year we’re showcasing the unique experience of participating in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps by sharing profiles of each member of the 2018-2019 cohort, along with information on their host site and descriptions of the work they’ll be doing. Corps members met their host site mentors and began their year of service in August 2018.

Syler Merski is a recent graduate from Huntingtown High School, in Huntingtown, Maryland, where she specialized in Environmental Science.  Through her coursework, she recognized the need for quality environmental education opportunities for young students.

Through the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, Syler is working with the Friends of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM) to educate and promote the natural and cultural history of the southern Maryland region.

With her American Indian heritage, Syler hopes to bring a new and creative touch to the children’s events and educational programs on the park as well as with outreach programs in the community.  She aims to use her gardening experience to assist in maintaining gardens, and developing planted areas in an effort to help prevent areas of the park from eroding.

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum is a 560-acre property along the Patuxent River which was donated to the State of Maryland in 1983 as a way to preserve the rich cultural and natural resources present on the land.  The mission of the organization is to connect people to the past through history and archeology, and support the preservation of Maryland’s cultural resources.

Syler is excited to assist with educational programs on such a diverse park along the scenic beaches of the Patuxent River. She is eager to gain first-hand teaching experience by supporting the park’s established programs for 4th and 6th graders in Calvert County Public Schools.  Syler will also gain field experience with biodiversity surveys and habitat monitoring projects on the park. However, Syler is most excited to spend her time in a place where she feels at home, and more importantly, where she’ll never truly have to “work” a day in her life.

Tips to Prepare Your Rain Check Yard for Winter

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Follow these five tips to winterize your stormwater management practices to ensure that they function properly for years to come.

Residents in Prince George’s County are dedicated to improving their communities and the environment by participating in the County’s Rain Check Rebate program. This program offers rebates to property owners in the County to install approved stormwater management practices. These practices reduce stormwater runoff and pollution to local rivers and can also beautify the property, reduce water costs, and reduce erosion, pooling, and flooding. After the installation of these practices and as winter approaches, it is important to inspect and maintain them periodically to ensure they will continue to function properly.

What is a Rain Check Yard?

A Rain Check Yard is a property that has installed one or more of the seven eligible practices. These practices include rain barrels, cisterns, urban tree canopy, rain gardens, pavement removal, permeable pavement, and green roofs. Rain Check Rebate participants can receive a yard sign (pictured above) to proudly display their commitment to keeping our waterways healthy and clean!

Five Tips to Prepare Your Rain Check Yard for Winter

In addition to the tips listed below, view the fact sheets and guidelines for each practice linked above for additional maintenance tips and suggested maintenance schedules.

1

Drain and disconnect rain barrels.

Water that is left in the rain barrel may freeze and cause damage to the barrel or downspout.
2

Remove leaves and debris.

Check your rain gardens and permeable pavement for leaves and other debris that may prevent runoff from flowing properly through the practice. Remove and dispose of the debris appropriately.
3

Apply a new layer of mulch.

Replenish mulch in your rain garden and trees with double shredded hardwood mulch for 2 to 3 inches of cover. Mulch helps maintain the temperature of the soil, encourages retention of moisture, and suppresses grass and weeds.
4

Use salt in moderation to melt ice.

Salt can be used in moderation to melt ice, but never use sand unless you have paving stones. Sand can cause clogging and reduce infiltration.
5

Water young trees.

Trees that have been in the ground less than three years require 25 gallons of water, or about 1.5 inches of rainfall, per week.
How Can I Participate?

Interested applicants must be the property owner and submit an online application. Once we receive your application, the Rain Check Coordinator, Bre’Anna Brooks, will contact you to set up a site visit. The project must be approved prior to installation, with the exception of rain barrel projects. After approval, the practice should be installed within 12 months. Once the project is complete, Bre’Anna will conduct a second site visit to ensure that the project followed the guidelines and criteria specified for the project type. The County will then review the project and provide a rebate (a partial or full refund) to the property owner. The refund amount is dependent on the type of practice installed, the property type, and final receipts/invoices. Learn about the projects and amount of rebates available by clicking on the “Learn More and Apply” button below.

To date, over 300 property owners in Prince George’s County have participated in the Rain Check Rebate program and are making a difference in keeping the County’s waterways healthy and clean!

The Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate program is a partnership between the County and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The program is currently open and accepting applications on a rolling basis. 

Kent Island Beach Cleanups Unveils Educational Environmental Sculpture

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Images courtesy of Kent Island Beach Cleanups.

“Many Hands of the Chesapeake” project illuminates the detrimental effects of single-use plastics; Mentorship program advances nonprofit’s mission

Last month, the Trust was honored to help Kent Island Beach Cleanups (KIBCU) celebrate the culmination of their “Many Hands of the Chesapeake” project, an environmental art sculpture commissioned by KIBCU and created by local artist Lucy Kruse from trash and debris collected during KIBCU’s beach cleanup events.

The project was funded by a grant from the Trust’s Community Engagement Mini Grant program, which funds activities that enhance communities and engage residents in activities that improve natural resources.

KIBCU also participated in this grant program’s unique Mentorship Program, established by the Trust in recent years to expand the circle of viable grant applicants. Through this program, KIBCU was paired with the National Aquarium, which served as a mentor to the small nonprofit throughout the project development and grant application process. In turn, the National Aquarium, an established grantee with a track record of successful applications, is eligible to apply for funding through the mini grant program.

“As a grassroots organization, we were very lucky and thankful to have had the opportunity to be mentored by the National Aquarium for the Community Engagement Mini Grant program. The growing issue of marine debris, specifically single-use plastics is a major concern for both KIBCU and the Aquarium,” said KIBCU President and Founder Kristin Weed. “Everything seemed to fall into place perfectly when, unbeknownst to us, the Aquarium joined the Aquarium Conservation Partnership where they started a campaign titled ‘In Our Hands’ where participating aquariums are beginning to shift away from single-use plastics at their facilities. In the meantime, we named our grant project ‘Many Hands of the Chesapeake’ focusing on educating our community on the detriment of single-use plastics. This joint partnership allows us to tackle this problem on both a small and large scale, all with a common goal to reduce pollution in our waterways. We believe this mentorship program allowed us to gain a better understanding of the grant application process, along with opening doors for additional partnerships with other like-minded organizations in our area.”

Kent Island Beach Cleanups was established in 2012 and now organizes a season’s worth of beach cleanups each year throughout Kent Island from March through November. The amount of trash required for the “Many Hands” sculpture was collected during a single cleanup in the spring of 2018. The sculpture is currently on display at the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education and will travel to 14 schools throughout the county along with educational materials on the detriments of single-use plastics and the importance of protecting the environment.

The Community Engagement Mini Grant Program is currently open and accepting applications on a rolling basis.

To read more about Kent Island Beach Cleanups, visit their website. To read more about the “Many Hands” project, check out these articles.

Project Highlight: Narragansett Parkway’s Micro-bioretention Areas in the City of College Park

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City of College Park, Maryland, installs two micro-bioretention areas to treat stormwater runoff along Narragansett Parkway.

Impervious surfaces, such as driveways and parking lots, prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground. Instead, the water runs off these surfaces and carries pollutants that it has picked up along the way. This untreated stormwater runoff flows into storm drains and into our waterways, resulting in polluted streams and rivers that negatively affect aquatic wildlife and human health and safety.

Currently, the stormwater runoff from the neighborhoods and surrounding streets along Narragansett Parkway and Muskogee Street in the City of College Park are collected in inlets along the curbs and at intersections. The stormwater runoff flows directly into the rock-lined channel in the middle of Narragansett Parkway until it reaches Indian Creek.

In order to treat the stormwater runoff and remove pollutants, the City installed two micro-bioretention areas totaling 316 square feet at Narragansett Parkway and Muskogee Street, next to a local park.

This project was funded in part by the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program, a partnership between the Trust and the County, which aims to improve water quality in the County’s waterways, improve communities, and engage County residents in the issues associated with stormwater runoff pollution.

Micro-bioretention areas, also referred to as rain gardens, capture stormwater runoff and allow it to pond temporarily. The plants in the micro-bioretention are native species that are adapted to the site’s soil and light conditions and help filter the runoff. Treated water that is not absorbed or taken up by the plants is released to the storm drain system by an underdrain. This location was selected due to its high visibility and educational value to the community. In addition, this location was ranked as one of the top five priority restoration areas in the Indian Creek Subwatershed Restoration Plan.

The City installed educational signage at the site that provides information about the micro-bioretention area. One of the signs includes a QR code that links to the Prince George’s County Clean Water Partnership. The use of signage that provides smartphone links to the County’s website and stormwater restoration programs provides a highly effective method of communication and education to residents.

This project provides an opportunity for local residents to learn about stormwater benefits and shows how stormwater controls can be integrated into the landscape at the neighborhood level.

The Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program is currently open and accepting applications. 


Educational signage installed at the site provides information about the micro-bioretention areas. Click on the image to get a closer look.

Project Highlight: Borough of Chambersburg’s Rhodes Drive Reconstruction and Bioretention Basin

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These little projects matter.

Richard L. Alloway IIPennsylvania State Senator

“Green Streets” grant helps Borough upgrade central emergency route while improving water quality

This week the Trust joined the Borough of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in celebrating the dedication of their Rhodes Drive Reconstruction and Bioretention Basin project, which was funded in part through a Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant.

Rhodes Drive is centrally located within the Borough, adjacent to the local library, a senior living facility, and a municipal parking lot. Although it is a one-way street, the Chambersburg Emergency Services Department uses the road to respond to calls on the south side of the Borough, with emergency vehicles traveling the street 15-20 times a day. Therefore, it is crucial that Rhodes Drive remains safe and accessible. It is also an important community asset; when it is not being used as an emergency route, it serves as a staging area for several charity run/walk events, Borough parades, and other events.

Prior to initiating this project, Rhodes Drive was in extremely poor condition—inspections revealed significant heaving (a serious issue for an emergency route) and multiple stormwater inlets that discharged directly into Falling Spring Creek (a noted trout stream), which flows into Conococheague Creek, then on to the Potomac River, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

Under the direction of the Borough’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Department, the Borough undertook a comprehensive green and gray infrastructure project to address both the structural and environmental issues associated with Rhodes Drive’s poor condition. The reconstructed roadway was funded with grants through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Franklin County Conservation District.

Funding from the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant program, a partnership between the Trust, U.S. EPA Mid-Atlantic Region, City of Baltimore Office of Sustainability, with support from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, enabled the Borough to enhance the project with a bioretention basin, a stormwater best management practice (BMP) designed to catch and treat the first flush of polluted stormwater, running the full length of the street. The basin is planted with native, pollinator-friendly plants that will help to absorb nutrients before the water runs into the adjacent stream. The Green Streets funding also enabled the Borough to replace the sidewalk with a winding park path of permeable pavers, which removes impervious surface, enhances the adjacent park, and improves access to the green space for the residents of the nearby senior living facility.

Rhodes Drive is now the first official “Green Street” in the Borough, which has plans to continue incorporating green infrastructure into future projects.

According to Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill, “the Borough is hoping to set a positive trend and important precedent with the Rhodes Drive infrastructure improvements, as the project was the first MS4 Department storm sewer project to incorporate “green” BMPs. We want to demonstrate how public works projects can be effective and good for the environment.”

Learn more about the Borough of Chambersburg and the Rhodes Drive project here and here.

Learn about the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant program here.

Project Highlight: Greenbelt Homes, Inc.’s Rain Garden at 20 Court Ridge

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A stone diaphragm intercepts, captures, and directs stormwater runoff from the hillside and parking lot to a rain garden that slows, filters, and absorbs the runoff.

Community installs new stormwater best management practice that reduces stormwater runoff, erosion, and flooding.

Communities all across the Chesapeake Bay watershed face stormwater-related issues that range from poor drainage to flooding. The Greenbelt Homes, Inc. (GHI) community in Prince George’s County, Maryland, is no exception. GHI is a housing cooperative comprising of 1,600 homes built in the 1930s and 1940s. In the last 70 years, the surrounding area’s topography has significantly changed, with a dramatic increase in the amount of impervious surfaces created due to urban development. Impervious surfaces, such as pavement and roofs, do not allow water to infiltrate into the ground, resulting in large volumes of stormwater runoff that carry increased amounts of pollutants into local streams and rivers.

To help reduce stormwater runoff and pollution to our waterways, communities can implement a variety of stormwater best management practices on their property. In 2016, GHI applied for and received a grant award through the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program to install a stormwater best management practice comprised of a stone diaphragm, stone swale, and rain garden at 20 Court Ridge Road. The 20 Court Ridge housing units are located at the bottom of a hill adjacent to a large parking lot. Previously during rain events, stormwater runoff would flow freely down the hill, often causing flooding in the homes’ crawlspaces, walkways, and common areas. After the installation of the new system, completed earlier this year, the GHI community has noticed significant improvements. Now, the stone diaphragm prevents stormwater runoff from flowing directly to the housing units by intercepting and capturing the runoff. The stone diaphragm carries the runoff downhill, then through underground pipes across the parking lot, and finally into a stone swale and rain garden. The rain garden slows, captures, and filters stormwater runoff using plants and soil mixes that mimic natural filtering processes that remove pollutants. The rain garden features a variety of native plants, such as butterfly milkweed and beardtongue, that are adapted to local site conditions, and therefore require less maintenance, watering, and fertilizer. In addition, native plants attract pollinators and other wildlife, such as butterflies and birds, to the rain garden, resulting in a beautiful outdoor space for residents to enjoy.

Congrats to GHI for the successful implementation of their first major stormwater best management practice and for their commitment to improving our waterways!

This project was funded by the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program, a partnership between the Trust and the County, which aims to improve water quality in the County’s waterways, improve communities, and engage County residents in the issues associated with stormwater runoff pollution.

The Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program is currently open and accepting applications. 

Project Highlight: Prince George’s County and Maryland’s First Bandalong Litter Trap

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The Trust had the opportunity to join Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, Anacostia Riverkeeper, the City of Mount Rainier, and other community members in celebrating the installation of the first major litter trap in Maryland in Arundel Canal, a tributary of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River in Mount Rainier.

The innovative litter trap, a type widely used throughout Australia and Asia, is designed to capture litter and debris that has been discarded onto roadways and transported by rain and wind into storm drains.

Litter left on roadways, in parks, and in other parts of Prince George’s County communities is unsightly and can cause human health issues. During big rain events, the litter makes its way to Prince George’s County waterways over land and through the sewer system. When the litter enters our waterways, the water can become polluted, harming the creatures who live in an around the waterways, contaminating the fish we consume, and creating potential hazards for swimmers and other recreational users.

In an effort to safeguard community members and help remove some of the in-stream litter, the Anacostia Riverkeeper and the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment teamed up to install the County and Maryland’s first in-stream litter trap in the City of Mount Rainier, located at the corner of Arundel Road and 30th Street in the Arundel Canal.

The litter trap system chosen for the site is known as the Bandalong Litter Trap. The trap’s unique design requires no mechanical assistance, relying only on the water’s natural current, offering an economical way to capture floating litter before it reaches the Anacostia River, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean where it becomes marine debris.

The Anacostia Riverkeeper will subcontract the litter trap collection to Joe’s Movement Emporium who will remove the litter from the trap, which can then be sorted and weighed by litter type so that the litter reduction statistics can be recorded and shared with the community members and County partners. The trap is safe for fish, waterfowl, and other aquatic life. In addition to the litter removal, the litter trap site in Mount Rainier will serve as an important education site, informing community members and visitors about the importance of properly disposing litter.

The installation of the litter trap was funded by the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program, a partnership between the Trust and the County, which aims to improve water quality in the County’s waterways, improve communities, and engage County residents in the issues associated with stormwater runoff pollution. The Anacostia Riverkeeper has received another grant award to install a second litter trap of this type in another tributary of the Anacostia River in Prince George’s County later this year.

The Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program is currently open and accepting applications. To learn more and to apply, click here.

Contact the Anacostia Riverkeeper to learn more about this project or to learn about volunteer opportunities.

Project Highlight: Twin Harbors Living Shoreline

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Community replaces failing bulkhead with natural living shoreline to improve water quality and create wildlife habitat

The Trust recently had the opportunity to celebrate the completion of South River Federation’s Twin Harbors Living Shoreline & BMP project at a ribbon cutting ceremony and barbeque with the residents of Twin Harbors, a waterfront community located in Arnold, MD.

This project, initiated by the Twin Harbors community and South River Federation, was funded in part by a grant from the Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant Program, a partnership between the Trust and Anne Arundel County Government.

Faced with a failing bulkhead, the community worked with South River Federation to replace approximately 390 linear feet of existing bulkhead with a living shoreline along Mill Creek of the Magothy River.  The project complements the community’s nearby 187 linear foot shoreline installed two years ago with funding from a Chesapeake Bay Trust Community Engagement Mini Grant.  Additionally, this project includes a 4,200 square foot bioretention facility located between a parking lot and the shoreline to capture runoff, as well as 0.25 acres of voluntary reforestation. (Note: The cost of reforestation was not included in the grant award.)

This restoration will create a stable shoreline that will work to improve water quality, reduce erosion, and create habitat where there has not been any for decades.  Through a dense native planting and use of woody debris, South River Federation will work to achieve new habitat zones to support a variety of Bay flora and fauna.

The above photos, provided by shoreline contractor Maguire Marine, show the stunning before and after.

Congrats to the Twin Harbors community for their continued commitment to the health of Mill Creek and Dividing Creek! And Congrats to South River Federation and their partners Maguire Marine, Ciminelli’s Landscape Service, and Restoration Resource Group for a job well done!

Read more about this project and the South River Federation’s work here.

Learn more about the Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant Program here.

Project Highlight: Rock Creek Conservancy’s Crabbs Branch Conservation Landscaping

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Innovative Stormwater Solution Demonstration Site for HOAs in Montgomery County

The Trust spent a fantastic morning celebrating the completion of Rock Creek Conservancy’s Crabbs Branch Conservation Landscaping project in the Derwood Station 2 neighborhood of Derwood, Maryland. This project was funded through the Montgomery County Watershed Restoration & Outreach Grant Program, which is a partnership between the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and the Trust.

Planning for this project, which will prevent thousands of gallons of stormwater from flowing directly into Crabbs Branch, was originally initiated by the Derwood Station 2 Homeowner’s Association in 2015, but remained in the planning stage because of lack of funding. The HOA’s partnership with Rock Creek Conservancy and the support from Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and the Trust enabled them to move forward.

As a nonprofit, grant-making organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of the natural resources of the Chesapeake region, it is our mission to engage as many people as possible in natural resources issues through environmental education, community engagement, and local watershed restoration projects. Projects like this one, one of the largest ever funded through the Montgomery County Watershed Restoration & Outreach Grant Program, exemplify this mission.

Not only is the Crabbs Branch Conservation Landscaping project a great example of nature-based solutions to stormwater pollution, but it demonstrates the power of community-based, green infrastructure projects.

The conservation landscaping project will not only help clean and reduce stormwater runoff into Crabbs Branch, which is a tributary of Rock Creek, but it will educate the community, provide a beautiful, useable community space, and will help rally and engage others in clean water issues as it serves as a demonstration site and model for other HOAs throughout Montgomery County.

While on the surface this project may seem narrowly focused on solving a problem for one community, its implications and impact for the wider watershed are vast.

We are proud to partner with Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection to support projects like this. We commend Rock Creek Conservancy, Darlene Robbins, the landscape designer, and the construction team from J & G Landscape Design for a job well done! It was a pleasure to help you celebrate!

Read more about the Crabbs Branch Conservation Landscaping project (be sure to check out images of the design plan and stunning “before” photos) here.

Read more about the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection here.

Learn  about the Montgomery County Watershed Restoration & Outreach Grant Program and how it could help your organization here.