At his 22nd annual Patuxent River Wade-in on June 14, former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler saw his white sneakers through 25.5 inches of water -- similar to last year’s measurement of 26 inches but still far from the 60-plus inches Fowler could see his sneakers through during his childhood.
Fowler proclaimed “a new day” for the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay due to recent commitments by the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the federal government to strengthen cleanup efforts. He told the crowd of nearly 200 people who came to Broomes Island, Md., for the wade-in not to focus on the river’s poor water quality.
“Today is a day that we want to cleanse that from our thinking and think of this as a new beginning, a time when we will not forfeit our optimism or relent our determination to make this river better,” Fowler said. “We will not stop until this Patuxent River glistens again.”
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley echoed Fowler’s sentiments, encouraging those gathered to help the river and the Bay get better for future generations.
“We need to get our hearts out of the dead zone and our hands and feet into the rivers, where we know we can make a difference,” O’Malley said.
Fowler hosts a wade-in on the second Sunday of June each year to draw attention to the muddy, polluted waters of the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay. He speaks of the days of his youth when he could wade up to his shoulders in his beloved Patuxent and still see the river's bottom, teeming with crabs and fish swimming among the grasses and oyster shells.
Since Fowler's first wade-in, other wade-ins have sprung up on creeks and rivers across Maryland and become popular springtime community events.
The annual Patuxent wade-in will have its own “new beginning” next year, when it will move from its usual Broomes Island location to Jefferson Patterson Park, its new permanent location.