For the past decade, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has led Project Clean Stream--a vast network of organized annual trash cleanups along the Bay's many tributaries--to help clean up the Bay and connect residents to their local waterways.
During this year's unified day of service on Saturday, April 6, a group of 13 volunteers gathered near the small town of Marydel on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where resident Carol Sparks (not pictured) had reported an illegal dump site along a drainage ditch running adjacent to her property.
According to Sparks, residents from two nearby trailer parks often travel along the foot path adjacent to the ditch, and some have been dumping trash here for years. "I've called everybody and it seemed like nobody wanted to do anything about it. I finally contacted Debbie Rowe, the mayor of Marydel, and she's the one who organized this group, bless her heart."
"I got a call from the property owner that the ditch was in disrepair," said Rowe (below left, with volunteer Wilbur Levengood, Jr.), who had recently learned about Project Clean Stream through the Choptank Tributary Team, a volunteer watershed group from Easton, Md. "To be honest, I didn't know this was back here."
Jennifer Dindinger chairs the Choptank Trib Team, which was searching for neglected sites in neighboring Caroline County where they could make a bigger impact during this year's Project Clean Stream effort. "You don't see trash floating down the Choptank River, but there are places like this that, although it might not end up in the main stem of the Bay, negatively impact life along the tributaries to the river."
Despite the strong odor and armed with garden rakes and stainless steel dip nets, Project Clean Stream volunteers spent their Saturday morning combing through layers of algae in the stagnant drainage ditch. "It's just a nice thing to do on a sunny day," said William Ryall, a fellow Choptank Trib Team volunteer and wetland restoration engineer from Easton, Md. "All of these ditches are connected to the Bay, so it's really important to get this stuff out of here."
"We need everyone to understand how important the drainage is to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and what it will do health-wise and for the environment if we do it correctly," said Wilbur Levengood, Jr., president of the Caroline County Commissioners. "We don't need to bring huge machines in here and disturb a lot of earth to achieve the drainage, we just need to keep it clean."
According to Levengood, the many drainage ditches in Caroline County are an environmental compromise critical to this landscape. "Without these ditches, ponds and wetlands like the one next door to here would otherwise require chemical pesticides to control the mosquito population. Cleaning up the trash will lower the water level in this ditch by a few inches and get the water moving again."
While most of the trash collected from the Marydel site was of the household variety--36 bags total, including diapers, beverage containers and rotting food--a tell-tale oil slick is evidence of even more hazardous materials lying beneath the surface.
According to Levengood, non-salvageable appliances like television sets and mattresses, as well as toxic materials like motor oil and other automotive fluids that cost money to discard, are often thrown into the drainage ditches along Caroline County roads.
"It's not just necessarily that it looks bad. It's an all-around health hazard, and if we don't keep the water going it's just going to get stagnant and cause mosquitoes and more problems," said Mayor Rowe, who recruited local youth to help with the cleanup. "Now that we know it's here, we can all help as a community to help keep it clean and it'll be safe for everybody."
"My mom is friends with Ms. Debbie [Rowe], so she asked if I could come help with cleaning up trash from the ditch," said Gary Colby of Marydel (top), who in turn recruited his friend Daniel Santangelo. "I just wanted to help out Marydel," Santangelo said.
According to Rowe, part of the dumping problem stems from the challenge of cross-cultural communication. More than half of Marydel's population are Hispanic or Latino immigrants, but today's effort to reach the town's young people seems to be paying off.
"I just offered to help my buddies out," said Carlos Martinez (left), who moved to Marydel last year from Mexico City and volunteered with friends Omar Fuentes (center) and Jordy Cordova (right). "I know it's not young people littering because I know my friends."
"I think we just need to recycle more," said Cordova. Fuentes agrees. Like Mayor Rowe, he says "I never even noticed the trash in the ditch, and I've lived here for 10 years."
During a well-deserved break from the cleanup, Mayor Rowe and the other volunteers discussed the idea of posting bilingual signs to explain the ditch's importance in controlling the mosquito population, and to warn of health risks associated with litter and water pollution. Omar Fuentes and Jordy Cordova agree that signs in Spanish might help curb the littering problem, and promised to talk to their neighbors about the ditch. For first-time cleanup volunteer Wilbur Levengood, Jr., this point made the purpose of the day's effort overwhelmingly clear: "This project puts all aspects of people together working for the better, and we just need more of that."
Owning and maintaining waterfront property can be an expensive commitment. Residents across the Chesapeake Bay watershed must contend with shoreline erosion and rising sea level, while adapting to environmental regulations that protect water quality. One strategy for tackling all of these issues has gained increasing popularity: living shorelines that not only protect human property, but also utilize and even enhance the Bay’s unique natural habitat.
Scott Hardaway and Karen Duhring are marine scientists and living shoreline experts at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), which sits at the mouth of the York River in Gloucester Point, Va.
Scott Hardaway began working for VIMS in 1979, and is now the director of the Shoreline Studies Program. He is a leading authority on the design and implementation of “headland breakwaters,” a living shoreline technique that creates protected “pocket beaches” like those constructed at VIMS in 2010.
Headland breakwater systems are built using large stone structures called “headlands,” which sit offshore and disrupt the incoming waves that can cause shoreline erosion. Mathematical formulas determine the necessary angle, shape and placement of each headland. Wider gaps between breakwaters create long, narrow pocket beaches, while narrow gaps create wide, circular beaches.
Their wave-blocking action creates a calm, shallow lagoon between the breakwaters, which are connected to shore by a sandbar called a “tombolo.”
Additional sand must be brought in to form the tombolo and stabilize the beach. This raises the cost of these projects, but is critical to the final phase of construction: planting native beach and dune vegetation.
Karen Duhring is an educator and researcher at the VIMS Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM), where she helps manage and monitor living shoreline projects.
According to Duhring, on-shore plantings serve key ecological functions that enhance the effectiveness of living shorelines. On sandy beaches, plant roots stabilize loose material and improve water quality, as they filter pollutants from upland runoff.
Living shorelines use native plants—smooth and saltmeadow cordgrass here in the Bay—that have adapted to thrive and reproduce in a specific environment. Once established, cordgrass recruits naturally along the beach, dispersing seeds and rhizomes that spread horizontally beneath the sand to establish new plants in empty areas.
Beach plantings are susceptible to damage from foot traffic, so precautions should be taken to prevent the trampling of plants. Access restrictions allowed for more expensive plantings on the VIMS western shore, while heavy use from research activities limited plantings on the other.
During high tides, organic material washes onto the beach and provides nutrients for the growing plants, which in turn provide habitat and food for native wildlife.
Headland breakwaters themselves also provide habitat for crabs, mollusks and other aquatic species that thrive on underwater reefs. Along the VIMS shoreline, oysters have settled on the granite rocks to form the beginnings of a complex reef community.
According to Hardaway, headland breakwaters are not always the perfect solution for every sandy shoreline. Whenever possible, existing habitat for submerged aquatic vegetation and shellfish should remain undisturbed. While the costly structures do come with some tradeoffs, they also offer invaluable protection for human infrastructure. The once-vulnerable VIMS shoreline, for instance, has withstood Hurricanes Irene and Sandy—thanks to its headland breakwaters.
As the living shorelines at VIMS demonstrate, projects such as these—which successfully address the needs of both humans and nature—are critical to Bay restoration. Through the work of experts like Hardaway and Duhring, these living shorelines continue to serve both practical and educational purposes, teaching the public how we can responsibly manage our natural resources today in order to preserve them long into the future.
View full-resolution photos on the Chesapeake Bay Program Flickr page.
Part construction site, part mud pit and part wildlife refuge, the Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project at Poplar Island, Md., tackles two unique challenges in the Chesapeake Bay.
First, sand and sediment accumulate in the Bay’s vital shipping channels—particularly during heavy rain events like Tropical Storm Lee in 2011—and threaten to block cargo ships that allow the Port of Baltimore to contribute $2 billion each year to the region’s economy.
On the other hand, sea level rise, sinking land and increasingly frequent strong storms are quickly eroding away the Bay’s few remaining islands, threatening the survival of iconic wildlife species and critical habitat.
Poplar Island, for example, spanned more than 1,100 acres in the mid-1800s and supported a small community of families, farmers and fishermen until it was abandoned in the 1930s. When restoration began in the 1990s, four scattered acres were all that remained—less than half a percent of the island’s historical size.
But the island that was nearly destroyed is now destined to be rebuilt using 65 million cubic yards of sedimentary silt—imagine a giant cube of mud a quarter mile long in each direction—dredged up from the bottom of the Bay.
In 1998, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to construct stone “containment dykes.” The walls are 10 feet tall and surround Poplar Island’s former footprint, and the island has been divided into six massive containment cells for building island habitat.
The western half of the island, surrounded by an inner ring of 27-foot dykes, is being transformed into 570 acres of forested upland island habitat similar to that of neighboring Coaches Island.
Coaches Island, once vulnerable to the same forces that washed away its neighbor, supports upland species like bald eagles and provides a shallow inlet utilized by nesting diamondback terrapins in the summer and migratory waterfowl during winter.
The eastern half of Poplar Island is further divided into 14 “sub-cells” undergoing various stages of wetland construction and management.
Low-lying wetlands are created through a four-step process. First, dredged sediment is brought in on barges by the Maryland Port Administration, mixed into a watery slurry, and pumped into each cell at precise levels.
As the slurry dries, it forms a massive crust—a vast, other-worldly landscape—that is the base for building habitat.
Next, heavy machines carefully grade the crust and excavate ditches that will function as tidal creeks in the completed marsh.
Then a spillway is opened to expose the new landscape to tidal flow, and water is allowed to move between the Bay and the newly built marshland.
Finally, individual plugs of smooth and saltmeadow cordgrass are planted row upon row into the nutrient-rich soil.
These native plants are capable of withstanding strong storms while offering food and shelter to the 175 species of shorebirds, songbirds, waterfowl and raptors that now visit Poplar Island.
Poplar Island's marshes offer protection and isolation from human and mammalian predators, and the open waters along its perimeter provide feeding opportunities for diving ducks like buffleheads, scaups and long-tailed ducks.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) manages the island’s vegetation and wildlife—including less welcome species like the Canada goose. Fences and fluttering pink flags help deter geese and prevent them from overfeeding on expensive marsh grass.
On our visit in January 2013, USFWS wildlife technician Robbie Callahan led a monitoring team to assess the density of muskrat huts in the marsh. The semiaquatic rodents, though a critical part of the wetland ecosystem, are controlled to prevent damage from overpopulation.
The USFWS also monitors avian predators—like the northern harriers that feed on small rodents—and migratory waterfowl, attracted to Poplar Island during their spring and fall trips along the Atlantic Flyway.
With the help of USFWS experts, Poplar Island is able to provide a range of Bay species with the safe nesting habitat that only a protected, well-managed island can.
Even sunken barges—placed here in the mid-1990s as “breakwaters” in an attempt to retain the island’s remnants—have become host to nesting ospreys and black-crowned night herons.
According to the USFWS, Poplar Island is well on its way to becoming a keystone wildlife refuge. “Poplar Island is an important refuge,” said USFWS biologist Pete McGowan, who specializes in waterfowl and island restoration. “There are species that are highly dependent on these remote island habitats. And this is a habitat type that is rapidly disappearing from the Chesapeake Bay. We need to do what we can to maximize the remaining island habitat that we have, and create new island habitat whenever possible.”
The Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project is scheduled for completion in 2041, with a final price tag estimated at $1.4 billion over 45 years. Rebuilding Poplar Island is an enormous, expensive and painstaking process—but its virtues of “beneficial use” have been extolled throughout the conservation and business communities alike, and it has become a "win-win" for the Bay and all the watershed provides.
View more photos on the Chesapeake Bay Program Flickr page.
On one of the last remaining islands of the Chesapeake Bay, generations of working watermen have found a home.
Settled in the late seventeenth century, Tangier Island spans a five-mile stretch of water and has never supported more than 1,500 people. Its small size and relative isolation have allowed its residents to maintain a close connection to the past, keeping old customs and a distinct Tidewater dialect alive.
Modern families—with surnames like Crockett, Pruitt, Parks and Dise—can trace their lineage back hundreds of years, and the island’s economy remains tied to the harvest of crabs, fish and oysters. But these tenuous traditions are threatened by worsening water quality and sea-level rise.
In December, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team called together decision-makers and watermen for a shared meal and stakeholders’ discussion at one of Tangier Island’s four sit-down restaurants.
Watermen from Tangier and neighboring Smith Island spoke of the problems they see in and on the Bay and how they might be more involved in the management decisions that directly impact their livelihoods.
Held in the community in which these watermen live and work, the meeting allowed many of them to speak and be heard in a new and significant way.
One of the most pressing problems for the watermen is the flow of sediment into the Bay. As sediment runs off of land and into the water, sand and silt block sunlight from reaching the grass beds that offer shedding blue crabs refuge when their soft shells make them most vulnerable.
Soft-shell crabs are critical to the Tangier Island economy. And a loss of grass beds—which one waterman called “the life blood of the Chesapeake Bay”—could mean a loss of soft-shell crabs. “The habitat,” a second waterman said. “It just ain’t there.”
Seawalls have been put in place to slow the erosion of the island. But as sea levels rise, the land sinks and storms like Sandy, Irene and Isabel grow stronger and more frequent, Tangier continues to wash away.
The northernmost portion of Tangier Island is called Uppards. Once home to a store, a school, a church and a collection of homes, the life of Uppards has disappeared, leaving behind one tumbledown trailer and stretches of marsh, sand and beach.
In October, a small cemetery was uncovered on Uppards by the winds and waves of Superstorm Sandy. Headstones in the graveyard bear the common surname Pruitt. The once-buried bones of those who died in the 1880s are now visible aboveground.
This fall, Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell and officials from the Army Corps of Engineers pledged to build a $4.2 million jetty that will protect the island’s harbor. Some see the long-awaited initiative as a beacon of hope, while others believe it serves only to slow inevitable erosion.
As Tangier Island shrinks, the costs of fuel and gear and living rise, placing further pressure on the island’s aging watermen.
But what career alternatives does a waterman have? Some take jobs aboard tug boats. Other host tours for visitors from the mainland. And still others have found work as captains and educators at island study centers operated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
But most Tangier residents would find it difficult to obtain work off the island, where a 45-minute ride on a ferry or mail boat is needed to make it to the nearest town. One waterman lamented this lack of options: “We don’t have the opportunity to get a land job.”
A dependence on the fish and shellfish of the Bay has created a conservation ethic in many Tangier watermen, including Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge. Eskridge spoke of the importance of restoration efforts in a time of environmental change, and of preserving natural resources in order to preserve Tangier careers and culture: “A sustainable resource is more important to a waterman than anyone else.”
Access high-resolution images of Tangier Island on the Chesapeake Bay Program Flickr page.
Gulls call to each other, belted kingfishers swoop down into the seagrass, monarchs chase the wind, and Alicia and I snap photographs of as much of it as we can. Fisherman Island is only open to the public during this time of year, and it is very likely that this trip will be our only opportunity to visit the tiny island at the southernmost tip of the Delmarva Peninsula.
Although thousands of motorists pass over the 1,850-acre land mass each day as they drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, few of them know that this area is one of only 17 sites classified as a “wetland of international importance.” Thousands of migratory birds stop here each fall and spring, and monarchs feed on native plants as they make their winter trip to Latin America.
The refuge is closed to the public because many of these species, such as brown pelicans and royal terns, are sensitive to threats from humans.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages Fisherman Island. Refuge law enforcement makes sure that the public – and yes, even fishermen – stay away.
Alicia and I were afforded access to Fisherman Island through Chesapeake Experience, a non-profit organization that offers summer camps, eco paddles, corporate retreats and experience-based environmental education for educators and students. Chesapeake Experience Director Jill Bieri and two refuge staff members led a morning walk on the island’s nearly unspoiled beach and an afternoon kayak tour from the Chesapeake to the Atlantic.
But this trip is a different kind of Chesapeake experience for us, coming from Annapolis, where the Bay’s brackish water forms a distinctive landscape.
Most of the tour participants are avid birders and have come prepared with binoculars. We see many yellow-rumped warblers, or “butter rumps,” (Dendroica coronate) squeaking back and forth across the path.
There are plenty of other interesting features to observe at Fisherman Island, including:
Although we find treasures that we’re not likely to see in Annapolis, we also saw something disappointing: plastic bags that have washed up on shore and are now buried deeply in the sand.
To me, this illustrates why efforts to restore the Bay need to collaborative, involving agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service, non-profits like Chesapeake Experience, and regular people like you and me. Although this tract of land is hardly touched by the public, and managed meticulously by the government, it is still vulnerable to the pollution that is happening throughout the Bay.
That afternoon, we paddle to where the Chesapeake Bay pours into the Atlantic Ocean, following the meandering path of the water through the marsh. Sitting on my kayak in this water, I feel it drift in and out of the Bay, and realize that the boundary lines between ocean and bay are fuzzy, or even, invisible.
A great blue heron watches us kayak into the waves. Our group slowly paddles to him, waiting for his five-foot wing span to cast a shadow over us. His flight makes our cameras snap and mouths hang open.
Jill instructs us to turn back before the waves get too rough. After all, we’re only novice kayakers!
Our homeward bound drive along Route 13 reveals abandoned homes alongside tents selling Virginia pecans, fireworks and cigarettes, all of them advertising their products with home-made, home-painted signs dotting the side of the road.
Mobile homes, their porches decorated with pots and pans and people in rocking chairs, sit on large tracts of land that I imagine to once have been profitable tobacco or cotton farms.
As the sun sets, these surroundings disappear, and we have only the stars to look at until we reach Annapolis.
“Video guy” Matt and I hop in his truck one Monday morning. It is 85 degrees outside (and it’s only 9 a.m.), and although an air conditioned office can offer some relief, Matt’s idea sounds much better. Today’s adventure? Chasing waterfalls. (That’s right, just like that TLC song, circa 1995).
Annapolis has plenty of water, but most of it is too still and too calm (although, as a newcomer to the area, I am constantly surprised by the number of bridges I cross on my daily errands). We are headed to Cunningham Falls State Park in the Catoctin Mountains, an area just where the farmland surrounding Route 15 meets the Appalachians.
Before I know it, we have left the bustle of the DC-Baltimore-Annapolis area behind and we are climbing up a hill so steep that other hikers are using some sort of ski-pole-like device to help them grab the terrain. Gigantic rocks surround us on both sides. They were probably formed during some Ice Age, Matt and I decide – a dramatic environmental event that has left its remnants for us to climb! It’s not long before I am covered in sweat.
Eventually, the terrain levels out and we hear the sound of water…running water!
I rush towards it, following Matt down the path. He stops me short, making a SHHH! signal. He is taking photos of two pileated woodpeckers. The birds are larger than I had expected, and there are two them, pecking away at a log. It is a rare opportunity for me to run into a creature in its natural state like this, and we shoot away (with the camera, that is).
We are joined by others at the falls, most of them children. I feel like one as I crawl up the gigantic rocks, which have been smoothed out by years of water running over them. The water is trickling down from somewhere I cannot see, but it is clearer than any water I’ve seen in a long time. I take off my shoes and soak it up. This beats air conditioning.
On our way home, we pass farm stand after farm stand, and with a little bit of memory from my college days (Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.) and a little luck, we find our way to a few local orchards. One displays a “calendar” of pears and apples that are scheduled to appear; I make note of “pink lady” and promise the lady selling us peaches that I will be back.
To be honest, I was kicking myself a little bit after our latest photo trip. I realized how dumb I have been for not visiting Patapsco Valley State Park in the one and a half years I've lived here.
When living in an urban environment, you sometimes forget what clean, fresh air feels like. I definitely felt healthier the day of the trip, being surrounded by so many trees and other living things.
I wasn't the only one trying to get out and enjoy the nice weather. We saw a number of hikers, bikers, fisherman and families taking to the trails. The park has multiple waterfalls, picnic areas, and plenty of walkways to check out.
I would strongly recommend visiting Patapsco Valley State Park if you live nearby. They are actually having a volunteer fair this Saturday (May 7th) from 10-1. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website, you will be able to “Explore all the volunteer opportunities available including volunteer rangers, photographers, camp hosts, trail workers, naturalists and much more!”
We want to hear from you! What are your favorite Chesapeake Bay-region parks to visit when the weather is nice?
I have come across quite a few hobbies and crafts in my day that I never knew existed. When we visited the Decoy Museum in Havre de Grace recently, I was introduced to yet another.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the museum and you are in the area, I would suggest taking a few minutes out of your day to do so. The decoys really are works of art.
The museum displays hundreds of these creations, but also gives a detailed history of the art form itself. You can see a few examples in the photo slideshow below.
While we were there, we took some time to get out and take some pictures of the shoreline and wildlife. As the weather continues to warm, we look for more and more of these opportunities.
Do you have any memories associated with decoys or waterfowl? We’d love to hear from you, leave a response below.
Don't shoot the messenger if I'm wrong, but I think spring is just around the corner. Recently we’ve been teased with a few days that may be a sign that this miserable cold weather really won’t last forever. One of those days happened a few Mondays ago.
There is nothing better than kicking your week off with a photo trip, especially when the weather cooperates. This time, we headed out to the Chesapeake Exploration Center on Kent Island at sunrise and followed the paths down to the water.
The plan was to capture some photos of wintering birds. However, it was a windy day so the birds must have been hanging out somewhere secluded.
Birds or no birds, I think we still managed to get a few high-quality shots to add to our online image library. You can see photos we captured in the slideshow below.
Some of the other photos featured were taken at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, about 10 minutes away in Grasonville.
As you can see in some of our photos, there is quite a bit of trash in these beautiful places. This leads me to a perfect opportunity to plug the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Project Clean Stream. On April 2, dozens of organized cleanups will take place throughout the Bay region to rid our local waterways of some of this pollution. Visit the Project Clean Stream website to see a map of all the cleanup locations and find the one that is closest to you.
Since we are sharing our photos with you, we would love to see links to some of your photos as well. Do you have any pictures of birds that winter the Chesapeake region? Or photos of you and a team participating in a stream cleanup? Leave links to them in the comments!
At this point in winter, we're all looking forward to spring. But until warmer weather arrives, why not enjoy the beauty of winter before it's gone for another nine months?
We've collected seven fantastic photographs from Flickr that showcase the best of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in winter. Those who venture out on winter's coldest days are often rewarded with beautiful and unique photographs. Take a look at the photos we chose, and leave us a link to your own winter Bay photos in the comments.
Taken along the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, the photographer captures an interesting winter phenomenon. Not only have the waves that usually lap against the shore frozen solid, the ripples that they normally create look like they have been frozen in time. Having the picture in black and white just makes the image all the more interesting.
This photograph of the Potomac River in January is a great example of finding beauty during the darkest season. The sun’s orange rays on the tree line bring color to a cold winter day, when the Potomac has almost completely frozen over.
Located on the site of the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, Great Falls is where the Potomac River picks up speed and runs over steep and jagged rocks into Mather Gorge. The park has amazing views from three different trails around Great Falls, one of which is where this stunning photo was snapped.
M.V. Jantzen took this picture from Georgetown Waterfront Park, a former shipping port condemned for a new interstate highway that was never built. The land was reclaimed in 1968 and converted into a park for people to bike, walk, row and enjoy the Potomac waterfront. Looking out at Rosslyn, Virginia, and the Key Bridge, the bright blue sky above the frozen Potomac River makes this a perfect winter picture.
The canvasback is one of many waterfowl that maketheir winter home on the Chesapeake Bay. A diving duck, canvasbacks use their strong webbed feet to dive down and grab bay grasses, which make up the majority of their diet. In the 1950s, more than 500,000 canvasbacks wintered in the Bay, but due to the gradual decline in bay grass acreage, their population has dwindled. This canvasback, photographed on the Choptank River, looks like he must have just come up from a dive! Someone get that duck a tissue!
Who doesn’t love a good sunset picture? This picture was taken in Crisfield, Maryland, looking out at the setting sun over Tangier Sound. The colors, clouds and shadows create a relaxing scene that makes you want to curl up with some hot chocolate and watch the sun go down.
Taken along the Turkey Hill trail, which winds along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, this picture shows everything about winter in the Bay’s watershed. The bare tree branches, frozen river and snow cover highlighted in the light pink and purple sky look majestic. I would say this is a view worth putting layers on for!
Looking for more beautiful winter pictures of the Chesapeake Bay? Check out this post by local blogger Molly for some icy, snowy Bay pictures from the early 1930s through the 1970s.
The second annual Choose Clean Water Conference was my destination last Tuesday. The conference had some interesting trips planned around the D.C. area to showcase urban development. Being a baseball fan, I naturally went on a tour of the Washington Nationals stadium.
The first thing to note about the ballpark is that it is located right on the Anacostia River. Because of this, the tour guide informed us, the stadium engineers focused greatly on limiting stormwater runoff. The stadium has a filtration system “that separates water used for cleaning the ballpark from rainwater falling on the ballpark.” Both sources of water are treated before they are released to local sewer and stormwater systems.
The ballpark also uses many water-conserving features, such as dual-flush toilets. According to our tour guide, these features save an estimated 3.6 million gallons of water per year and reduce overall water consumption by 30 percent.
In addition to saving water and reducing pollution, the ballpark conserves energy by using special light fixtures. The ballpark uses a projected 21 percent less energy than typical baseball field lighting.
The ballpark also has a small but impressive green roof just over the fence in left field.
As we toured the facility, it was obvious that our tour guide was just as proud of the stadium’s greening techniques as I am to be a Yankees fan. Nationals Stadium became the first LEED Certified Silver ballpark upon completion in 2008.
One last thing that I thought was pretty cool is that they actually offer a bicycle valet. You can cruise in on your bike, drop it off at the valet, then pick it back up after the game.
After we finished the tour, we walked over to Yards Park, a new waterfront park just a couple of blocks from the stadium. On the way to the park, we passed a few swales in the sidewalk. These grassy areas were intentionally lowered to allow stormwater to be absorbed more easily.
Yards Park is definitely one of the coolest places I have been in D.C. It has a modern design and offers open air in an urban environment. You can see some of the vegetation by the riverbank in the slideshow.
If you would like more information about Nationals Park’s sustainable approaches, visit the team’s official website to view a diagram.
I gotta say… December 3 was not the nicest day ever to go out and shoot some pics, but it was well worth it anyway. Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Upper Marlboro, Md., was our first destination.
What’s great about Merkle is that it is huge and has plenty of trails to explore. It is perfect for hikers, bikers, and photographers. Many of the trails lead right out to the Patuxent River (which I unfortunately got too close to and stepped in within our first hour of walking).
Unfortunately, we missed the fall foliage by just a couple weeks, but we did have a chance to see some awesome sights. The clouds were abundant at sunrise and it made for some very interesting light. My coworker Alicia and I were overwhelmed by the amount of Canada geese. We captured some photos to illustrate exactly how many we saw (you can see them in the slide show above).
It was kind of crazy when we saw two white-tailed deer appear from the woods and run through a huge flock of these geese. All of a sudden, hundreds and hundreds of geese burst into flight going every which way. This made for some cool shots when mixed with the emerging sun.
After a few hours of exploration, the cold won out and we decided to work our way back to the heated car. Unfortunately, the Visitors’ Center was closed but some nice lady working there let me at least come in and run my shoes and socks under the hand dryer for a few minutes. Then it was on to the next destination, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, just northeast of Merkle.
I’m gonna guess that Jug Bay is pretty awesome in late fall or early spring, unfortunately we missed both those time periods. This is one place that I will definitely put on my list to check out when the leaves come back. Jug Bay, like many of the Chesapeake Bay Gateway sites, is a perfect way to escape the crazy, hectic, complex lifestyle and get back to appreciating things for their simplicity and natural beauty.
I would highly recommend visiting either of these locations for a number of reasons. Visits to places like Merkle and Jug Bay get you outdoors and experiencing all that the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries have to offer. After all, how are we going to start protecting and restoring the Bay the way we should until we start understanding and appreciating all that it offers?
If you have been to Tangier Island, feel free to skip this post. However, if you were like me and planned on visiting forever but never got around to it, read on, my friend.
I had the opportunity to join the Chesapeake Bay Foundation a few weekends ago on their venture out to Port Isobel, just east of Tangier Island. The foundation was conducting a weekend workshop for students who graduated from their VOICES program; I just tagged along to shoot some pics.
Let me start by saying that the sunrises and sunsets are ridiculous! As a photographer, I wouldn’t say my favorite genre is shooting these types of landscapes. But honestly, you can’t help it at Tangier.
The first thing that came to mind when I walked onto the island itself was, “Wow, no way does a mix of Pleasantville and the 1950s still exist like this in the world.” Contrary to my assumptions, it does.
Now, granted I am only 23 and thus my previous statement is void (being as that I never saw the 1950s), I still concluded that this is one of the most unique places I have ever been. The island is home to about 500 residents and almost as many golf carts. Throw in the population of cats, and you have yourself a pretty populated little town.
The main street is a continuous line of crab shacks. It’s incredible. Many commercial watermen still call Tangier home. The question is, for how long?
I had the pleasure of meeting a local from Tangier, Captain Charles, who walked me around the island and talked to me about Tangier’s past, present, and future. He said he could trace his family roots on Tangier back to the 1700s.
With the erosion that is slowly eating away at the island, and the number of residents moving to the mainland, it makes you question how much longer this unique and special culture can continue to exist. When you add on regulations for watermen and increasing costs involved with the industry, it begs the question… does Tangier Island have the ability to sustain itself?
You’ve probably seen the ESPN commercials that feature Tangier Island. The locals seem extremely appreciative of tourism and the support that comes from it. However, tourists come to see why the island is unique, and with the loss of the watermen and crabbing culture, that uniqueness may continue to slip.
Despite all that, you would think the folks on the island don’t have a care in the world. They are an extremely friendly group of people that are proud of their heritage and the land they grew up on.
I strongly suggest making a trip out to Tangier Island if you have a weekend, or even a night, to spare. There are several bed and breakfasts on the island where you can stay. The heritage museum is a must-see as well; the works from a few “artists in residence” are more than worth checking out.