Another new year is about to start, perhaps the perfect time for new beginnings, for taking something negative and turning it into a positive. Just such a project is in the works that will restore land that was damaged and then neglected. When completed, the site will have a new purpose; providing habitat for forest dwelling birds, as well as a site to teach youngsters about trees, wetlands, vegetation and wildlife.
The Maryland Coastal Bays Program Showell Restoration project will restore about 88 acres off of Pitts Rd. in Bishopville. The area is bordered by drainage ditches, including Middle Branch to the north, a tributary of Shingle Landing Prong in the St Martin River – the most degraded waterway in the coastal bay system.
Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary was originally assigned the wetland restoration project after Perdue Farms provided the property as well as $150,000 as part of an agreement with state environmental regulators to settle a water pollution enforcement case. However, in 2007 the Maryland Attorney General's environmental crimes unit discovered that Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary had not preformed restoration at the site. The project was then turned over to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.
Plans for the site were determined after discussions with the National Resource Conservation Service, with the primary goal to restore wetlands. A secondary goal is to use the property for low impact environmental education and service learning opportunities. With that in mind, the land will be a habitat restoration site all year long, but during the spring and fall for about a three to four week period the MCBP will use the area for teaching opportunities.
The fallow areas in the northern section will be restored to a forest area that will be contiguous with the rest of the site. The southern portion will be maintained as open meadow to enhance habitat diversity to the site. Two shallow, 3-acre ponds are planned for the site. The shoreline along Middle Branch will remain vegetated. The wooded areas – including about 40 acres of mature red and white oaks, loblolly pine, American beach, sweet gum and American holly – will be unaltered except for cleared trails that will provide access to the interior of the property. Plans also include a 20 x 30 pavilion with six picnic tables.
Among many other objectives, the MCBP is dedicated to restoring habitat in the coastal bays. Ensuring a healthy habitat is vital since it is the natural environment in which organisms live. Habitat loss can lead to the decline of a species.
In 2009 and beyond, the MCBP will continue to work toward protecting our natural resources, which are so vitally important to our ecological, economic and cultural future. The MCBP staff hopes that everyone will have a safe, happy, successful and environmentally-healthy new year.