by Caitlin Finnerty
November 21, 2011
I recently had the chance to sit down with Nick DiPasquale, the Bay Program's new executive director. Nick began his position in August, just a few weeks after I began with the communications team. So we’re both still learning to navigate the Bay Program’s world of goal implementation teams (GITs), total maximum daily loads (TMDL), Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), and host of other acronyms!
In honor of Nick’s 60th birthday earlier this month, I thought I’d ask him six questions so we can get to know him a little better!
1. Who is your environmental role model?
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring really got me thinking about the environment back in 1963. The idea that we'd have a world where birds couldn't exist because of pesticide use was a huge shock to me.
But there's also Lewis Mumford, who lived in the early 20th century. He was a city planner, and an architectural and social critic. Mumford talked about livable cities and isolating the automobile to the fringe of communities. He designed homes with driveways and garages in the back, and front porches where you could engage with your neighbors. Mumford wasn't what we'd classify as an "environmentalist" today, but he certainly had an environmental ethic.
I was also quite struck by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv believes that children are suffering from “Nature Deficit Disorder”: lack of exposure to the outdoors and resulting physical and psychological problems. He’s concerned that children aren’t developing a sense of value toward the environment. Without it, they may not be inclined to protect nature in the future. His book has given rise to the environmental literacy movement in this country.
I'd have to say that everyone from school kids to retirees who spend time trying to improve their surroundings are all my heroes. They don't get recognition sometimes, but they're out there trying to make a difference in the environment and in their communities.
2. What do you hope to accomplish as the Bay Program director?
I hope to keep Bay restoration a priority. The TMDL has set very specific goals for water quality. We are attempting to stick to a schedule for implementing best management practices, which will reduce nutrient and sediment loadings to the Bay. There also is the larger Chesapeake Bay agreement, and what comes after that, as well as the president's executive order, which establishes goals in areas like fisheries and healthy watersheds.
There’s a lot we need to accomplish, and in a fairly short period of time. Restoring the Bay isn’t like flipping a switch; the ecosystem doesn’t immediately respond when you put a best management practice in place. In our world, things move at a quicker place; for example, when you send someone a message, you expect them to respond pretty quickly. An ecosystem doesn't do that. We will send it messages, but it will take a while to get back to us.
3. When did you begin to care about the Bay?
I've cared about the environment since I was very young, probably 12 or 13. I grew up across from the high school athletic fields, so I was always outdoors with my friends. We had an abandoned apple orchard right next door. And there was an old rail line we used to walk along...we would go out on these great explorations. There was a farm right by the rail line, with a farm pond where we used to play hockey during the winter. I was just a five or ten minute walk from a huge public beach on Lake Ontario. My brothers, our friends and I were outdoors all the time, so for me it’s really kind of natural to feel some affection for the Bay.
4. Where is your favorite spot on the Chesapeake Bay?
Since I moved to Annapolis, I have gotten out on the water a few times. I went kayaking on the South River with the South River Federation. We toured some shoreline restoration projects. Another one of my favorite places for kayaking is Wye Island on the Eastern Shore. Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge and Rock Hall are two others I enjoy.
In terms of communities around the Bay, I like St. Michael's, Oxford and Easton. The Eastern Shore towns really are picturesque and have many little attractions. One of my favorites is the St. Michael's Winery.
Most of the places I enjoy are on the Bay, but of course, the watershed includes a lot more than just the actual Bay. I recently took my first trip to Ellicott City's historic district. I enjoyed the quaint shops and restaurants along the Patapsco River.
My list of favorite places is long, and I'm sure as I get out more, I will find more.
5. Why should people care about cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay?
There are a lot of good reasons to protect the Bay. Some believe the most important reason is economic: the Bay represents a huge resource in terms of tourism, fisheries, boating and recreation.
And of course, we should protect the Bay’s natural resource value. This is also related to economics because fisheries, for example, are an important economic sector. Natural resources also include the wetlands and upland areas of the watershed, which are equally important.
And then there is the Chesapeake’s sense of culture and sense of place. There is history here that is embraced by those who have been around for a while, and also, those who haven't.
I think there is also a value of having a place where you can go for spiritual renewal. A lot of people, myself included, experience a sense of calm and well-being when they go out on the water. This is more important than ever as our world gets a little bit crazier and a little bit busier. I go hiking in the woods a lot. There's something about a forest – maybe the smell of the trees, or the decomposition process – that lifts the weight of the world off your shoulders. My friend's grandfather used to go out walking after work; he would say he was "blowing the stink off" from the day. He thought that when you're inside all day, your body emits or attracts something harmful. So he would go out walking to "blow the stink off." But I also think he was talking about the stress of the day, and how you can't carry it around with you. Even if you can get out for 20 minutes over lunch, you'll feel more at ease.
6. How do you help the Bay personally?
I am an avid recycler. I also try to walk to work when I can. I drive a hybrid vehicle so I cut down on air emissions and gas consumption. I'll be volunteering with the Spa Creek Conservancy to take bacteria samples on Spa Creek, here in Annapolis. This information will be entered into a database to track water quality trends over the long term.
I try to involve myself in tree plantings, especially along riparian areas. I've participated in a few of those types of projects, and any other opportunity to go outdoors and help improve the Bay’s resilience. I'm a big advocate of planting trees because it is one of the best ways to stabilize shorelines. Trees sequester carbon, benefit air quality, and are simply pleasant to be around.
Nick served as secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control from 1999 - 2002. Nick was also deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and as director of the Brandywine Conservancy's Environmental Management Center. Most recently, he served as a senior consultant with Duffield Associates in Wilmington, Delaware.