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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: May 2012

May
17
2012

Four new rivers join Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail

The National Park Service, with support of five states, has designated four rivers – the Susquehanna, Chester, upper Nanticoke and upper James – as new sections of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley talks about the Captain John Smith Trail.

(Image courtesy Michael Land/National Park Service)

Recognition of these connecting waterways adds 841 miles to the 3,000-mile-long trail and underscores their significance to the history, cultural heritage and natural resources of the Chesapeake region.

Joel Dunn, executive director of Chesapeake Conservancy said, “These [connecting] trails provide a focus around which communities can engage in efforts to increase recreational use of the Chesapeake's great rivers and protect the river corridors and landscapes. This kind of conservation helps communities celebrate their history and culture, protect wildlife habitat, and protect lands that have unique ecological values.”

The designation comes after considerable collaboration between the National Park Service, the five states through which these rivers flow, numerous American Indian tribes and strong support of the conservation community. The National Park Service will work closely with these partners to provide technical and financial assistance, manage resources, enhance facilities, and mark and promote interpretive routes along the connecting trails.

Visit the Chesapeake Conservancy’s website to learn more about these new rivers and the entire Smith Trail.



May
16
2012

Potomac River named most endangered river in America

American Rivers has named the Potomac River the nation’s most endangered river on its 2012 list of the top ten most threatened rivers in America.

Potomac River

(Image courtesy Scott Ableman/Flickr)

Although the Potomac is cleaner than it once was, the river is still under threat from development, stormwater runoff from cities and suburbs, and pollution from farms. The Potomac is “emblematic of what’s at state for rivers nationwide,” according to the Potomac Conservancy, a local watershed group working to restore the nation’s river.

Visit the Potomac Conservancy’s website for more information about the Potomac River and its ranking as the most endangered river in America.



May
15
2012

Tributary Tuesday: Manokin River (Somerset County, Maryland)

A trip down the Manokin River in Somerset County, Maryland, is like taking a trip back in time. Many area residents make a living harvesting and selling fish and shellfish. Restaurants, highways and shopping centers are hard to come by. At least one large property (at the mouth of the river) has been nearly untouched since the 17th century.

boat on Manokin River

(Image courtesy Wayfarer Cruiser/Flickr)

The 17-mile long Chesapeake Bay tributary cuts through farm fields and small towns as it flows southeast from Princess Anne and into Tangier Sound. A large portion of that land is designated as habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, ensuring that the river remains abundant with critters. On the north side of the Manokin, Deal Island Wildlife Management Area’s 9 miles of trails and scenic roads offer views of great egrets and colorful summer sunsets. To the south, Fairmont Wildlife Management Area is home to waterfowl in the winter and migratory shorebirds in spring and autumn.

At the river’s mouth, historic buildings dating from the early 18th to the mid 20th centuries paint a picture of the Manokin’s past inhabitants. The buildings are located on a property known as the “Manokin Settlement,” and are united by a web of family connections. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, the Manokin Historic District offers a vista downriver to Tangier Sound and upriver to Princess Anne that’s believed to remain unchanged from the 17th century.

Surrounded by preserved forested marshes, early 18th century town buildings, and residents that understand the tides the way most of us understand a clock or a calendar, the Manokin seems to be a river out of the past. Unarguably, it’s a past worth protecting.

Manokin River at dusk

(Image courtesy forest_choir/Flickr)

More from the Manokin River:

  • Explore antique shops and historic mansions in Princess Anne. Named after Princess Anne, daughter of King George II of England, Princess Anne was established in 1733.
  • Take a bridge to Deal Island and see fishermen unloading the day’s catch in each of the island’s three communities: Deal Island, Chance and Wenona.
Alicia Pimental's avatar
About Alicia Pimental - Alicia is the Chesapeake Bay Program's online communications manager. She manages the Bay Program's web content and social media channels. Alicia discovered her love for nature and the environment while growing up along Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts. When she's not at work, Alicia enjoys cooking, traveling, photography and playing with her chocolate lab, Tess.



May
09
2012

Watershed Wednesday: Rivanna Conservation Society (Charlottesville, Virginia)

When Robbi Savage’s 10-year-old grandson Seth saw a car battery submerged in the Rivanna River near Charlottesville, Virginia, he knew enough not to pick it up. Instead, he asked his dad for help, and with more frustration than curiosity, exclaimed to Robbi, “What are these people thinking, grandma?!”

“Even a 10-year-old knows that throwing car parts into the river is dangerous,” says Robbi, executive director of the Rivanna Conservation Society (RCS), a non-profit watershed group based out of Charlottesville. “And yet some folks still think of a river as a trash dump.”

paddling on Rivanna

(Image courtesy Rivanna Conservation Society)

Robbi and RCS’s volunteers are dedicated to cleaning up the Rivanna, a 42-mile-long James River tributary that flows from the Blue Ridge Mountains through the foothills and Piedmont region of central Virginia. It was the first river in Virginia to be designated a “Scenic River.” Although the Rivanna may be “scenic,” RCS understands that maintaining its beauty and enhancing its degrading health requires citizen participation, education and local government involvement.

 “One would think that being at the headwaters, we would have close to pristine waterways, but such is not the case,” Robbi explains.  “We certainly have our challenges.”  

One of the Rivanna’s biggest problems is stream bank erosion, which pollutes the water with too much sediment. Bacteria from pet waste and agricultural manure also threaten swimming areas and drinking water resources; this occurs when residents don’t pick up after their pets, or when farmers allow cattle to enter streams.

RCS’s education and outreach programs have been building awareness of these issues since the group was founded in 1990. But RCS doesn’t forget to have some fun along the way. River paddles, survival workshops and geocaching are just a few outdoor activities the group sponsors.

A river classroom

volunteer planting

(Image courtesy Rivanna Conservation Society)

When Robbi moved from Washington to central Virginia in 2006, she brought with her an environmental initiative she conceived while working on national water policy in Washington. The international citizen-led water quality monitoring effort World Water Monitoring Day involved 340,000 people in 77 countries in 2011. When Robbi left the Hill to become RCS’s executive director, she created a local version of the program, “Water Health for the Commonwealth.”

The program allows middle and high schools along the Rivanna and James Rivers to monitor their local water quality and connect with one another to share their results. RCS is in the process of extending this hands-on-learning opportunity to all schools along the James, from the Rivanna watershed to the Chesapeake Bay.

This “in the river” approach not only educates, but creates an appreciation for the “River Anna,” named after Queen Anne of England.

In addition to education initiatives, recreational opportunities such as river paddles and geocaching (a treasure hunt-like activity) allow area residents of all ages to get outside and appreciate the scenic Rivanna.

 “Recreation is an important part of what this river is used for,” explains Robbi. “But the more people you bring to the river, which is of course part of our mission, the more attention needs to be paid to keeping it clean. We have a beautiful river here, so people want to paddle, and they want to be on the water.”

From the Hill to the foothills

For Robbi, RCS represents community collaboration.

Robbi gained experience in environmental issues at the national and international level in her 35 years of working for EPA Office of Water, the League of Women Voters, and the State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (now Association of Clean Water Administrators).

But when she moved to central Virginia and became involved with RCS, she experienced the challenges and successes of converting Washington’s laws and regulations into local action.

“When you work in Washington, you may come to believe that it is the center of the universe,” explains Robbi. “But when you move to a location like Charlottesville and see what it takes in terms of voter support, local government coordination, and funding decisions, it’s eye-opening. We all know that water quality is important and essential to all living things, but when you actually see the demands for scarce community resources to play out, especially in this zero-based budget economy, you understand that tough choices are being made.”

Although coordinating community leaders, landowners, citizen volunteers, lawmakers and environmentalists is no easy task, Robbi describes it as rewarding. “I would never have said this as a young pup in DC, but I think the real action is at the local level. We are turning words into action.”

poster

(Image courtesy Rivanna Conservation Society)

More from the Rivanna Conservation Society (RCS):

  • “Drink Up” posters make the connection between pollution in the Rivanna River and the community’s drinking water supply.
  • The Scheier Natural Area, a 100-acre parcel of land with eight ponds and more than 3 miles of trails, was given to the Rivanna Conservation Society by Howard and Neva Scheier in 1997.
  • RCS removed the historic (177-year-old) Woolen Milles dam to allow migratory fish such as shad, herring and American eel to navigate through the Rivanna.
  • Participants in the “Flexing our Mussels” program on June 23 will go into the Rivanna to look for and identify mussels. Lucky mussel hunters may even come across the James River spiny mussel, an endangered species!
  • Experience the Rivanna throughout all four seasons in this photo slideshow.
  • Visit RCS’s website regularly for upcoming events, internship opportunities and ways to get involved.
Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



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