Some people might say that riding a train for 12 hours from Annapolis, Maryland, to Providence, Rhode Island, and back to attend a conference about our nation’s valuable estuaries demonstrates real environmental dedication. Others might say, “Take the plane!” I, of course, traveled the route using the former method. Who needs to deal with extraneous baggage charges and cramped seating when you can pay the same amount to travel via train through the New England countryside and view the fantastic fall foliage, while also having ample time to catch up on that long-forgotten summer read? OK, in retrospect, I wish I took the plane. But no matter what mode of transportation, hundreds of participants from around the country gathered in Providence, Rhode Island, last week for the 4th biannual Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) Conference.
The four days of the conference were jam-packed with over 50 different sessions, workshops and plenary discussions pertaining to all things estuarine. Most of the sessions I attended were facilitated by organizations and speakers from outside the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Working here at the Bay Program, I often have a front-row view of how our partners are working to restore and protect our Bay. However, I felt by attending sessions led by, say, the Puget Sound Partnership or Save the Bay - Narragansett Bay, I might gain a different perspective on how to approach our efforts here in the Chesapeake Bay region.
This strategy worked! For example, while attending a session called “Creating Public and Political Will to Restore Our Coasts and Estuaries,” I learned that the folks at People for Puget Sound developed a fun, comprehensive social marketing campaign called MudUp. Almost since its inception, MudUp has been a huge hit with the local community through convincing poster ads and an endearing Mud Monster mascot that attends all MudUp events. Hmm, if the Chesapeake Bay Program had a mascot, what would it be?
As a side note, Providence and nearby areas are real delights to visit. A few co-workers and I had some free time to visit Newport, which is just a must-see. The mansions and Cliff Walk are truly spectacular. Oh, and you can’t leave Newport without a visit to Flo’s Clam Shack; you would regret it if you didn’t go and try their fish and chips -- so good!
All in all, my trip to Providence was extremely insightful (no matter how long the commute!), and I’m looking forward to the 5th biannual RAE Conference in Galveston, Texas, in 2010!