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Chesapeake Bay News

Jun
12
2017

'Sneaker index' of 41.5 inches measured at Bernie Fowler Wade-In

At the 30th annual Patuxent River Wade-In on Sunday, former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler saw his sneakers through 41.5 inches of water. This year’s “sneaker index”—the deepest point at which Fowler can still see his shoes as he wades into the water—measured higher than last year, when high winds and rough waters led to a measurement of just 31 inches.

Bernie Fowler, a former Maryland state senator and advocate for a healthy Patuxent River, walks on the beach after leading the 28th annual Patuxent River Wade-In at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in Calvert County, Md., on June 14, 2015.  Fowler draws attention to the health of the river by wading into the water and measuring the depth at which he can longer see the top of his white sneakers. This year the official measurement was 41.5 inches.

Since 1988, the now 93-year-old Fowler has held the wade-in on the second Sunday in June. Clad in his signature white sneakers and cowboy hat, he hosts the event to bring attention to the polluted waters of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay. Held for decades near Fowler’s childhood home on Broomes Island, the event moved to Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in 2010.

In the 1950s, Fowler could wade into the Patuxent up to his chest and still see the river’s bottom teeming with fish, shellfish and underwater grasses. Nutrient and sediment pollution, however, have led to declines in water clarity and fueled algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching the river bottom. The 1960s sneaker index of 57 inches now serves as the benchmark for a restored Patuxent River.


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