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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.

Town of Forest Heights Keeps Street Trees Healthy and Thriving

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Tree Keepers project funded by Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program

Trees are essential—they clean the air, lower the temperature of cities during warm weather, and reduce heating bills in cold weather. They also act as filters to clean stormwater and slow the flow of water during heavy rains to reduce flooding, which is why even urban areas need plenty of trees. Trees along sidewalks and roads in urban areas are known as “street trees.” Street trees require regular care and maintenance to keep them healthy and thriving.

The Town of Forest Heights received a Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant to fund their unique Tree Keepers project, a summer program which combined a maintenance plan for existing street trees with job training and mentorship for high school students and a community outreach plan to engage citizens in the care and maintenance of street trees.

Using grant funds, the Town hired six high school students from Oxon Hill and Potomac High Schools, one college graduate student, and one community elder for the summer program. These new hires for the project were known as the “Tree Keepers.”

At the start of the project, the Tree Keepers learned about trees from two certified arborists. Then they examined, watered, mulched, and pruned 150 street trees. The group also conducted research to identify and catalogue trees. The Town will use this data to create an environmental asset inventory.

ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY

The Tree Keepers engaged Town residents using an educational campaign that focused on sharing the benefits of trees, including improved property value, stormwater collection, air quality, and energy conservation. In addition, the Tree Keepers talked with people who lived near the street trees to share the value of the tree, along with a few easy tips to help the tree continue to grow and thrive. They also shared a brochure with residents that they developed as part of the program.

PROJECT SUCCESS!

This project was a success for the Town of Forest Heights. The high school students gained job experience, some for the first time, and the guidance of the community elder and the graduate student was a successful model for mentoring and learning in the program. Building capacity within the community and building job skills was important goal of the project. The Town even hired one of the students at the end of the summer to provide maintenance and upkeep for plants at the Town Hall property.

Most importantly, the Tree Keepers forged connections with homeowners about the care and maintenance of the trees in their neighborhood. Now Town residents are interested and excited about their street trees!

PRINCE GEORGE’S STORMWATER STEWARDSHIP GRANT PROGRAM

The Prince George’s County Department of the Environment (DoE) partners with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to offer the Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program to support clean water projects and engage citizens throughout Prince George’s County. Applications for this program are currently closed, but will reopen in June/July 2018. Learn more about previous grant awards here.

GET INVOLVED

Are you interested in planting a tree?

The following organizations have received funding through the Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program to plant trees on private individual residential property in Prince George’s County in 2018:

Contact them to inquire about planting opportunities on your property or in your neighborhood!

Snapshot of Life in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps

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Corps Members Collaborate on Jug Bay Wetlands Nature Discovery Play Space

Check out this great video from Chesapeake Conservation Corps member Shelby Cross!

In late December, eight Chesapeake Conservation Corps members gathered at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary for a site visit and to assist fellow Corps member Shelby Cross with one phase of her capstone project: building a giant “bird’s nest” for a new nature discovery play space at Jug Bay’s Wayson’s Corner location.

Each year participants in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps complete a capstone project to top off their Corps experience. The capstone project provides Corps members with experience in grant writing (they apply to the Trust for grants to fund their projects) and project planning, management, and implementation.

To build Cross’s giant bird’s nest, Corps members worked together to remove three truckloads of vine, including some invasive oriental bittersweet, for the construction of the nest. The nest will be a key feature in the nature play space, which aims to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards and encourage children to grow socially, physically, and cognitively by engaging with nature through play.  The Corps members completed the nest within 4 hours, whereas Cross estimates that it would have taken her over 30 hours to complete by herself.

Describing her Chesapeake Conservation Corps experience, Cross says “This experience so far has been absolutely amazing, and in many instances rewarding. I have taught Anne Arundel County Public School’s second grade classes, and it brightens my day to know I made a child smile for something as simple as sharing my knowledge of turtles. However, there are some days that this position is equally challenging, and requires a lot of mental and physical attention. It has an easy balance between being rewarding and challenging, and it’s hard to find that kind of experience.”

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps is currently accepting applications for 2018-2019 Host Sites until March 9, 2018 at 5:00 pm.

Applications for 2018-2019 Corp members are also open and due by April 13, 2018 at 5:00 pm. To learn more about this life-changing program and to submit an application visit: cbtrust.org/prospective.

To learn more about Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, visit their website.

Shelby Cross is a 2017-2018 Chesapeake Conservation Corps member with Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. She received her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Goucher College.

There Used to Be a Forest There

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Photo Credit: Jeffrey Popp

Trust Grant Program helps restore and protect forested land from invasive species

This week is National Invasive Species Awareness Week, so we’re sharing this stunning photo, which shows how planting bamboo as a screen can go very wrong. In this case, an invasive variety of bamboo and other invasive species spread to over 6 acres and killed off all of the native trees on the forested land on this property. The photo shows the land after the bamboo was removed, a process that took two years.

Corcoran Woods is a 215 acre forested area owned and managed by the State of Maryland located near Sandy Point State Park. Over several decades, invasive plants replaced and degraded almost half of the property’s hardwood forests and were threatening to infiltrate the remaining healthy acreage.

To save this forested land, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay received grant funding through the Trust’s Anne Arundel County Forestry and Forested Land Protection Grant Program, a partnership with the County, to launch a three-part, large-scale reforestation project. In the most recent phase of the project, grant funds were used to treat the bamboo and remove invasive species. The next phase of the project will plant more than 11,000 tree seedlings on 27 acres. More than 7,000 trees were already planted in 2017.

“The Anne Arundel County Forestry grant program is an innovative and unique opportunity,” says Craig Highfield, Director of Chesapeake Forests for Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. “It provided us resources to be able to address significant forest health issues of our project site well in advance of planting the trees while also allowing us to implement essential post-planting care for our new trees. This better ensures the overall success of the restoration and improves the function of this forest. It is not just a tree planting program.”

The Anne Arundel County Forestry and Forested Land Protection Grant Program implements cost-effective reforestation and greening projects and increases the number of acres of protected forested land in the County. By increasing tree cover and expanding green areas, erosion can be reduced; water and soil quality can be improved; airborne pollutants such as particulates, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide can be filtered; and summer temperatures and resulting ozone pollution and energy use can be reduced.

The grant program is open until March 5, 2018 at 5:00 pm. To learn more and to submit an application, click here.

To learn more about the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and their forest restoration work, visit their website.

Episcopal Church of Christ the King is Greening their Property to Protect the Bay

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Community Engagement Mini Grant helps Baltimore-based church harvest rain water and prevent pollution

The Episcopal Church of Christ the King (CTK) in Windsor Mill believes “this world is our Father’s creation and we want to take care of it.” With community-lead environmental stewardship as one of their goals, the church community embarked on a series of greening projects on church property to help reduce polluted runoff flowing into the Bay.

CTK began the process of greening their property by partnering with Blue Water Baltimore and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake on a series of projects, including planting 47 trees on church property and planting two community vegetable gardens adjacent to the church building.

A Water Audit recommended rainwater harvesting to prevent further stormwater runoff and help prevent pollution from reaching the tributaries of the Patapsco River. CTK used funding from a Chesapeake Bay Trust Community Engagement Mini  Grant, which is a grant program designed for first-time applicants, to install two cisterns and five rain barrels to collect rain water from the buildings on church property. Water from the cisterns and rain barrels will water the new gardens and trees, helping to filter out pollutants before they reach the nearby creeks and streams.

For CTK, these projects are just the beginning—they have big plans do more in the near future, including adding more rain gardens,  conservation landscaping, and removing as much impervious surface as feasible from church property. In addition to the work on church property, CTK is reaching out their surrounding community to host workshops on rain barrel installation and to spread the word about how their neighbors can green their properties and protect the bay too!

The Trust’s Community Engagement Mini Grant program is currently open and accepts applications on a rolling basis until the funds are fully expended for the fiscal year.  Funds for the grant program are replenished each year on July 1. To learn more about how your organization can benefit from this program and to submit an application, visit here.

To learn more about Episcopal Church of Christ the King, visit their website.

Reservoir Hill Tree Canopy Project Creates Green Culture

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(Photo courtesy of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council.)

West Baltimore neighborhood uses Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant to transform streetscape and build community

by Don Akchin

For many years the Reservoir Hill neighborhood of West Baltimore was better known for its grit than its greenery. But in 2009, the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council launched a visionary Tree Canopy Project with the help of a Chesapeake Bay Trust Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant and many community partners. Over the past seven years, the look and feel of the neighborhood has been completely transformed. Volunteers on the council’s Green Team planted 550 new trees, tagged each tree for easy identification, and completed a comprehensive tree map of the community.  In the same period, more than 4,700 square feet of impervious surface was removed through tree pit cutting and expansion, and more than 2,100 square feet of vacant lots were restored to provide enjoyable greenspace in the community.

In addition to the changes in the physical landscape within the community, perhaps one of the most important outcomes of the neighborhood greening was the project’s impact on attitudes throughout the community. The project triggered the development of a “green culture.” Students at the neighborhood elementary school have become active gardeners and experts on a healthy environment. Other institutions in Reservoir Hill have started their own greening programs. Tree loss through vandalism has been virtually nonexistent. Today, residents of Reservoir Hill take pride in being a greener community.

The Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant program is funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region III (EPA), Chesapeake Bay Trust, and the City of Baltimore Office of Sustainability with support from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The program helps communities develop and implement plans that reduce stormwater runoff, increase the number and amount of green spaces in urban areas, improve the health of local streams and the Chesapeake Bay, and enhance quality of life and community livability.

The Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant program is open and accepting applications until March 16, 2018 at 4:00 pm. To learn more about how your community can benefit from this opportunity and to apply for a grant, visit here.

To learn more about the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council and to see photos of their community greening projects visit their website.

Don Akchin is co-chair of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council.

Students, Chesapeake Conservation Corp Member Learn about Bay Culture and Ecosystem on Trip to Fox Island

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(Photos courtesy of Morgan Jones.)

An island with no time, marsh bouquets, and stories by fire light

By Morgan Jones

Barely visible on the horizon, a resilient piece of marshy land sits with a single structure that catches the light of the midday sun. With Tangier Island to its west and Pocomoke Sound to the east, Fox Island rests there quietly in the Chesapeake Bay. The blue-green waters around it are teeming with life. Built in the 1920’s as a hunting lodge, the quaint building on the island is now an environmental educational center owned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). Thanks to CBF, school groups from all around the watershed can visit Fox, as it’s known, for an authentic island experience. In September, I spent three days on Fox Island with a group of students from the Key School of Annapolis as part of my experience as a Chesapeake Conservation Corps member with CBF.

Aboard the Walter Ridder, a 40-foot jet boat, our group motored away from the town of Crisfield on Maryland’s eastern shore and out into the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. As we traveled further from shore, the legendary islands of Smith, Tangier, and Fox began to take form around us. The students were bursting with curiosity and excitement.

Before I knew it, we pulled up to the dock at Fox. Soon after getting settled, we met in the living room to listen to the rules of the island. One rule in particular stuck with me:

“There is a time and a place for everything, and here is a place where time is nothing.”

Adam Dunn, the Fox Island Manager, explained that from now on we would be living on “island time.” He went around the room collecting cell phones and watches from all of the students. Then, he said, “your normal lives are filled with schedules and routines, but out here all of that goes away.” After this, whenever a student asked for the time, the reply was always “it’s island time.”

The next few days were filled with nonstop adventures. Students learned how to bait and set their own crab pots, dredge for oysters, and identify exciting species that frequent the bay such as red beard sponges, lined seahorses, and black-fingered mud crabs. We spent a few hours on the neighboring island of Tangier where the kids were able to meet island locals and observe the similarities and differences between island culture and their own. To let out some extra energy, we went mud muckin’ and collected bouquets of marsh flowers and grasses.

The nights were just as thrilling. Students stared up at a clear night sky bursting with stars, and they tasted the famous Smith Island cake one evening after dinner. Perhaps my favorite experience of all was sitting around a warm, crackling fire listening to Captain Larry Laird tell the story of the “Green Man” and feeling more spooked than most of the kids.

The time I spent on Fox Island felt magical, and I believe that the students felt it too. The environmental education experiences that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation provides to kids, many of which are funded by grants from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, last a lifetime in their memories. Not only does it draw them closer to the ecosystem, culture, and history of the Chesapeake Bay, but ultimately the rest of the natural world around them.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust offers two educational grant programs that can supply funding for similar environmental field experiences for your students or school. The Trust’s Environmental Education Mini-Grant Program, which awards up to $5,000, is open and accepting applications until January 12, 2018, at 5 pm. The Environmental Education Grant Program, which awards between $5,001 and $40,000 per year (with a multi-year option), is open and accepting applications until December 8, 2017, at 5 pm.

To learn more about CBF’s invaluable educational field programs, visit their website.

Morgan Jones is a Chesapeake Conservation Corps member working for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She splits her time between the Environmental Protection and Restoration Department and the Education Department. This position provides her with professional, educational, and social skills to advance in the environmental field.