Chesapeake Bay Trust Blog & News

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.

ECO City Farms Helps Improve Water Quality for the Anacostia River

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Urban agriculture enhances food security, improves community relationships, and demonstrates small scale farming that can be replicated by those living in cities and urban centers. It also provides an opportunity for community members to learn about agriculture, farming, and the environment.

ECO City Farms (ECO) is a nonprofit organization in Prince George’s County, Maryland. ECO grows food, farms, and farmers in ways that protect, restore, and sustain the natural environment and the health of local communities. ECO currently has two farms, a 1.5-acre farm in Edmonston and a 3.5-acre farm in Bladensburg, where they cultivate a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, honey, and microgreens.  They also work with the local community and educate and train the next generation of urban farmers through their apprenticeship opportunities and SEED2FEED summer youth program.

In 2015, ECO received a grant award through the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program to install a stormwater management system at their Edmonston Farm, located next to the Anacostia River. During a rainstorm, runoff around the farm and surrounding areas would flow directly into the river, carrying with it any pollutants such as trash and sediment. The volume of runoff entering the river also contributed to the erosion of the river banks. After the installation of the stormwater management system, however, runoff is now captured and treated onsite, reducing the negative impacts of runoff on the farm and the river.

The stormwater management system is comprised of hoophouse gutters, tile drainage, catch basins, water storage tanks, and a retention pond. All of these components slow down and capture runoff during rainstorms. For example, the hoophouse gutters collect rain water that flows off of the hoophouses, which are a type of greenhouse, and diverts it to the catch basins. Since the installation, ECO experienced major improvements in the site’s drainage with less occurrence of pooling and standing water around growing beds. ECO also installed educational signage and developed brochures in English and Spanish to educate visitors about their stormwater management system.
 
Amazing work ECO City Farms!
Click on this image to view a larger version and see how the stormwater system works.

ShoreRivers + REALTORS = Water Wise and River Friendly Homeowners

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The Chesapeake Bay watershed offers a lifestyle unmatched elsewhere, however, waterfront property ownership comes with special responsibilities. ShoreRivers recently held a half-day workshop to educate area REALTORS on resources to help them take the lead with residential buyers and sellers and their waterfront homes. “One of the intents of this workshop as to educate Chesapeake Bay REALTORS on how they can be part of the solution to prevent nutrient pollution and it’s resulting algae blooms and fish kills….something that is becoming way to common in other waterways,” said Matt Pluta, director of riverkeeper programs for ShoreRivers.

From yard fertilization to living shorelines, members of Bay Area Association of REALTORS and Mid-Shore Board of REALTORS packed the Chesapeake College classroom to learn about safe, effective, and sustainable methods for improving landscapes and water quality. ShoreRivers’ Riverkeepers updated the group on the conditions and threats posed to the Choptank, Sassafras, Chester, and Miles rivers. Environmental planners from Talbot, Queen Anne’s, and Dorchester counties discussed the laws surrounding protection of all land within 1,000 feet of Mean High-Water Lines of tidal waters, landward edge of tidal wetlands, and all waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Attendees learned about the causes and impacts of algal blooms, water quality threats, bacteria monitoring, the economic value of river friendly yards, laws relating to buffers and critical area protection, and homeowner resources.

What can residents do to keep our local streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay clean and healthy? Slow down surface water runoff. Homeowners can do their part by planting a conservation landscape, rain garden, or trees on their property. They can install rain barrels or cisterns to capture runoff from their roof. They can also replace traditional pavement with permeable pavers that allow the runoff to soak into the ground. These practices not only help improve water quality, they also beautify the property and can save homeowners money on water and heating/cooling bills.

And of course, lawns. The University of Maryland Extension suggests “fertilizer-free and pesticide free lawns are the best choice for the environment. Both time and money can be saved by reducing the frequency of fertilizing and applying pesticides. Slow release and low or no phosphorous fertilizers are optimal to promote a healthy environment.” Over-application of fertilizer and pesticides on lawns contributes to large amounts of excess nutrients in our rivers.

Everyone’s ability and responsibility to minimize adverse impacts on water quality, reduce pollutants and runoff, protect fish and wildlife habitat, and bring our treasured resource and lifestyle amenity back to its best health was the resounding message throughout the day. And while the information-packed focus of this professional development workshop was the Eastern Shore, much of the training is replicable in other areas of Maryland. The University of Maryland Extension reminds us that “most Maryland residents live within a half-mile of a storm drain, stream or river. Most of those waterways eventually drain into the Chesapeake Bay. What we do to maintain our own landscapes can affect the health of our local waterways, the Chesapeake Bay and our environment.”

This workshop was funded by a grant through the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Outreach and Restoration Grant Program. The Trust’s mission to promote public awareness and participation of all local residents in the restoration and protection of our region’s natural resources includes engaging new audiences and partnering with organizations, like ShoreRivers, who recognize the importance of sharing best practices that increase the inclusion of all local residents in the ongoing effort to educate, engage, and restore our natural resources and communities. Thank you ShoreRivers for your innovative idea, logistical planning, and hard work in not only making this event a success but also providing a grass roots outline for others to use!

 

Alice Ferguson Foundation Implements Practices to Improve Water Quality and Engage Visitors

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Environmental nonprofit organizations play a vital role in connecting people to the natural world. Located in Accokeek, Maryland, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) engages thousands of teachers, students, and visitors in environmental education and action each year.

In 2014, AFF received a grant award to implement a variety of stormwater management practices on their property and to provide stormwater education to teachers, students, and visitors. Stormwater management practices improve water quality by reducing the amount of pollutants that enter local waterways.

One of the practices they installed were two 1,500 gallon cisterns. Cisterns help prevent polluted runoff from entering nearby rivers by collecting rainwater that flows off of the building’s roof. The collected rainwater is reused for irrigation in AFF’s Children’s Garden and other areas on the AFF property. AFF also installed five rain gardens and bioswales, planting over 500 native trees and shrubs and 8,000 native plants. Rain gardens and bioswales slow down runoff and allow it to soak into the ground, helping to filter the runoff before it reaches local waterways. AFF uses these practices as demonstration sites and installed six interpretive signs to educate visitors about the practices.

AFF also developed a curriculum titled “Stormwater Solutions” for teachers to use in their classrooms. The curriculum supports student learning of environmental issues and empowers students to understand and develop solutions. In addition to this curriculum, AFF offers teachers and students a variety of resources to learn more about their environment and how they can make a difference.

This project was funded by the Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program.

Great work, Alice Ferguson Foundation!

Chesapeake Conservation Corps Perspective: Olivia Wisner

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On August 20th, the Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) will graduate 31 members from 28 host sites and welcome the programs 10th class, with 37 new members assigned to 32 host sites. Created by the Maryland General Assembly in 2010, the CCC provides career and leadership training for young people interested in environmental careers. The insights gained from graduating corps members can shape the potential for environmental science and industry in the future. We are pleased to share Olivia’s (pictured left teaching a 5th grade class) experience here:

As a native Marylander, the Chesapeake Bay has always been an iconic natural resource. Growing up I was taught by outstanding environmental educators, and was fortunate enough to spend every summer with my family crabbing, canoeing, and camping at Janes Island State Park. My early experiences in nature shaped my subsequent education and career interests. I graduated from University of Maryland Baltimore County with a B.S. in Environmental Science, where I learned about the natural processes that take place within the watershed. But it’s been my time with the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Maryland (CBNERR-MD) that’s taught me the most about the Chesapeake Bay.

I came to CBNERR-MD in August 2019 as a Chesapeake Conservation Corps Member. The Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) is a professional development program managed by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, providing budding environmental professionals with a year of hands-on full-time experience working with non-profits or organizations that aim to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. I’m glad to have been stationed with CBNERR-MD because of their three unique component sites: Jug Bay, Monie Bay, and Otter Point Creek. I’ve had unforgettable experiences at all three sites, growing my perspective of the Bay as a whole.

Within my first month with CBNERR-MD, I had the opportunity to expand my horizons at Jug Bay. Straddling Prince Georges and Anne Arundel Counties, Jug Bay is a freshwater tidal marsh located along the Patuxent River. I was invited to help Melinda Fegler of the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary with Snakehead monitoring; the infamous invasive fish from Asia. In the early morning we boarded an electrofishing boat and spent hours scanning the edge of the water looking for Snakeheads. We removed five that day, and I scooped the largest one.

My involvement with the Shoring Up Resiliency through Education (SURE) program, allowed me to further explore the realm of environmental education. SURE serves teachers and students surrounding the Monie Bay component of CBNERR-MD. I’ve visited parks, marinas, and schools to help support Somerset County Public School system as they develop an environmental literacy curriculum. This has been an exciting project because I’ve been exposed to the behind the scenes efforts of environmental education.

As my Corps experience is winding down, I’ve had the opportunity to give back to CBNERR-MD through my CCC capstone project at the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center at Otter Point Creek in Harford County. I worked closely with Park Manager Kriste Garman and Park Naturalist Lauren Greoski to design a space, called the Nature Discovery Area, where young visitors can learn about nature through play. It was installed in late June with the help of my fellow Corps Members.

My time as a Corps Member with CBNERR-MD has truly exceeded my expectations. I feel lucky to have worked with an amazing organization, in beautiful locations, doing important work for the Chesapeake Bay all over Maryland.

 

 

Many Hands – Working Together – Transform a Neighborhood

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Community leaders, partners and supporters came together recently to celebrate the completion of a vacant lot restoration in the neighborhood of Druid Heights, Baltimore.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) was awarded $66,451 in May 2018 to revitalize a vacant lot in a priority area of the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability’s (BCOS) Green Network Plan, which identifies significant locations for recreation, greening, and other community amenities. Revitalizing vacant properties with green space not only provides environmental and social benefits, but also signals that the community is reclaiming their neighborhood by creating spaces to exercise, convene, play, and learn.

For the past 6 years, the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation (DHCDC) has attempted to address the lack of open space and connection to nature in this area. The McCulloh Street lot was one of the priority locations identified because of its central location within a highly populated area as well as its large size, both of which will maximize the potential for positive communal gathering, and outdoor appreciation and activity. “You took a lot where people were throwing garbage and dumping and you turned it into a place where children and others can come and feel a little bit of life,” said Congressman Elijah Cummings who spoke at the event.

The NWF partnered with the DHCDC and their “Green Thumb Club” on this project and received an award through the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Green Streets, Green Towns, Green jobs (G3) program. The goal of the Chesapeake Bay G3 Grant Program is to help 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. With funding from the Trust and the BCOS, the work began in Spring 2019.

“85% of Americans live in cities and towns across the country. But so do two-thirds of our wildlife. So, it’s incredibly important that we create green spaces like this; that clean our air and water, that provide habitat for birds and butterflies, and also create spaces for our community to gather and our kids to play,” said Jen Mihill, regional executive director, National Wildlife Federation.

The families on McCulloh Street did not have easy access to green spaces or recreational areas, and the high density of occupied housing units on this street provides a captive audience for engagement around environmental stewardship, with the nature space as a venue and inspiration for environmental action. This project directly engaged over 50 community members, with over 200 residents benefiting from their work. “Creative play outside is the biggest single factor determining whether kids grow up to care about the environment and natural resources,” stated Ms. Mihill.

And as community leaders and supporters repeated during tours of the newly installed gardens and play space, “it’s a positive space. A positive place for positive people doing positive things. You can’t get any better than that.”

Pheasant Run Homeowners Association Revitalizes Community and Engages Residents in Clean Water Actions

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Homeowners Associations (HOA) play an important role in educating residents about our environment and ways to keep our communities healthy and beautiful. Pheasant Run HOA in Prince George’s County, Maryland is one of many HOAs doing their part.

In 2014, the Pheasant Run HOA received a grant award through the Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program for a variety of green and sustainable solutions which included the following installations:

  • Six rain barrels were distributed to residents in the community. Rain barrels collect rain water that would otherwise run off of roofs, carrying pollutants into storm drains and rivers. Residents can reuse the collected water for other purposes such as to water flowering plants and trees.
  • A Little Free Library containing books and educational materials on environmental topics was placed near a bus stop in the community. A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. It aims to inspire reading, build community, and increase access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

In addition, the Pheasant Run HOA organized several community events to educate and engage its residents. Residents learned about their impact on the environment and ways they can get involved and improve their communtiy.

Thanks Pheasant Run HOA for bringing together your community to make a positive environmental impact!

Chesapeake Conservation Corps Members are Making a Difference in Prince George’s County

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Providing young adults with opportunities to gain green career skills and become more engaged through meaningful community service is crucial to the protection and restoration of our environment and natural resources.

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps places young adults with nonprofit organizations or government agencies around the Chesapeake Bay region for a year of service focused on improving local communities and advancing environmental initiatives. This year’s cohort includes two members placed with host organizations in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Corps member Andrew Jones is a graduate of Salisbury University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore, receiving a dual degree in biology and environmental science. He was placed with the Town of Edmonston and spent his year increasing green initiatives within the Town.

For his capstone project, Andrew established an after school environmental club at William Wirt Middle School. The club was highly successful, attracting 30 students and engaging them in a variety of rewarding environmental experiences. Students installed a native pollinator garden and a rain garden on campus. They also participated in community clean ups and storm drain stenciling to reduce litter in the community.

Andrew’s fellow Corps member, Kelly Peaks, graduated from Marist College with a degree in environmental science. She was placed with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland. She spent her year supporting the Center’s initiatives such as the Sustainable Maryland certification program.

For her capstone project, Kelly worked on updating and redesigning the Sustainable Maryland website. The current website was outdated and did not have the most up-to-date information about the program. The Sustainable Maryland program helps municipalities fund green initiatives to improve and revitalize their community. Municipalities may select from a variety of actions to complete in order to achieve certification. Kelly led the development of new actions, updates to current actions, and creation of certification tiers. These updates make the website more user friendly and help to further promote the program. The Environmental Finance Center expects to release the full website update later this year.

Thank you, Andrew and Kelly, for the great work you’ve done this year with your host organizations and in Prince George’s County!

The Chesapeake Bay Trust is excited to celebrate this year’s cohort and welcome next year’s cohort of Chesapeake Conservation Corps members at the upcoming orientation and graduation ceremony in August. Next year’s cohort of Corps members is expected to include four members placed with host organizations in Prince George’s County.

Elementary School Leads the Way in Stormwater Management

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By Shannon Taylor
Chesapeake Bay Trust Summer Intern

With large campuses full of green fields for kids to play in, elementary schools such as James Craik Elementary School (JCES), are great places to implement stormwater management. The students there are proud to call themselves a certified Maryland Green School. Along with incorporating environmental subjects into their curriculum, the staff of JCES, with assistance from the Port Tobacco River Conservancy, implemented stormwater management programs on their grounds in order to limit their school’s rainwater, sediment, and nutrient runoff into the downstream Port Tobacco Creek: one of ten major tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay in Charles County.

The project addresses stormwater flowing from the school grounds, including runoff from roofs and parking lots, that ultimately enters Port Tobacco Creek. This project installed a 16,000 square foot bioretention best management practice (BMP) to capture stormwater from these impervious surfaces. It also features 1,000 native plants, including plants that are attractive to pollinators.

During storm events, rainwater flowing off the elementary school’s parking lot once emptied directly into the school playing fields and ultimately into the nearby Port Tobacco Creek. The bio retention BMP, however, diverts water through a descending path of river stones, and native vegetation to create a natural filter for rainwater runoff, allowing the majority of the stormwater to infiltrate at the bioretention feature and to allow clean, filtered water to make its way into the Port Tobacco Creek.

James Craik’s principle Michelle Beckwith is excited for the students to “have the opportunity to learn about and study, hands on, the ecosystem.” This project, she says, “will also help them learn about the importance of water conservation, and the beauty of nature”, as well as “provide a change of scenery” and “fresh air” to the students.. The Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT), Charles County, Michelle Beckwith, and Julie Simpson recently met at the project onsite during the annual kickball game at the school in May.  “This project is an excellent example of how stormwater management can be artistically designed while providing important function and treatment in a highly visible location, perfect for educating young students,” says Sarah T. Koser, Senior Program Officer at CBT.

Thanks to both the Port Tobacco River Conservancy and James Craik Elementary school for their commitment to cleaning up the Chesapeake’s tributaries.