Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for 2010

As we begin a new decade, we can all resolve to make our planet a healthier place. Below are a few small changes that can result in big dividends for the earth – as well as our checking accounts – in 2010 and beyond:

• Reduce phantom energy loss – Many of us don’t know that energy is wasted by electronics and power chargers that are plugged in but not in use. That cell phone charger and laptop suck energy from the outlet continuously, so try to use a power strip and flip the switch to off when the items are not in use.

• Use reusable shopping bags – Twelve million barrels of oil were used to make the 88.5 billion plastic bags consumed in the United States last year. These petroleum-based plastic bags never biodegrade and often end up in our oceans. Keep reusable shopping bags in your car and try to remember to use them.

• Buy local foods when possible – Support local agriculture and purchase foods from sources as close to home as possible. Consider how many miles your food has traveled, how many chemicals are used, and how much pollution and waste have been generated in the production of the food you buy and your family consumes.

• Drink tap water instead of bottled water – Instead of buying bottled H2o, pour tap water into reusable water bottles made from stainless steel or aluminum. Tap water is just as safe as bottled water, and no plastic is needed.

• Wash laundry in cold water –Ninety percent of the energy used to wash a load of clothing comes from heating the water, but most clothes will get just as clean in cooler temperatures. For heavily soiled clothing, use warm instead of hot water.

• Use the dryer more efficiently – This appliance is second only to the refrigerator in terms of energy usage. To help it do its job more efficiently, clean the lint filter after each load and dry only full loads, drying heavy fabrics separately. Of course, hanging clothes outside in the sun or inside on a drying rack whenever possible is always a good option.

• Check toilets for leaks – A leaky toilet can waste between 30 and 500 gallons of water every day, but often such leaks go unnoticed. To find a leak, put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait about 15 minutes to see if the dye ends up in the bowl. Leaking is usually caused by an old or poorly fitting flapper valve, which can inexpensively and easily be replaced without a plumber.

• Use the dishwasher – Forego pre-rinsing and simply scrape off large pieces of food from plates before putting them in the dishwasher. Running a fully loaded dishwasher (without pre-rinsing) can use a third less water than washing the dishes by hand, saving up to 10 to 20 gallons of water a day. Save even more by using the air dry setting, which consumes half the amount of electricity than the heated dry.

• Adjust the thermostat – In the winter months set your thermostat to 68 degrees or less during the day, and lower it even more at bedtime or while out of the house. In the summer set thermostat to 78 degrees or higher. For a small investment, a programmable thermostat will change the settings automatically.

• Maintain the correct tire pressure – According the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than a quarter of all cars and nearly one-third of all SUVs, vans and pickups have underinflated tires, which leads to lower gas mileage. Keeping tires properly inflated can save 2.8 billion gallons of gasoline a year in the U. S alone.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Bird Count Dec. 28




The Christmas Bird Count is now underway. A yearly tradition in which groups of North American bird-lovers pick a day around the winter solstice and search their designated areas to count every bird they see is more popular than ever.

Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, this is held every year between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. This year the coastal bays watershed count is scheduled for Dec. 28. Volunteers armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists brave the cold weather on a mission to assess the health and record changes in resident populations and ranges, before spring migrants return.

The data collected is used to help guide conservation action, and when combined with other surveys, provides a vital look at how the continent's bird populations have been altered in the past hundred years. This long term perspective makes it possible to develop strategies to protect birds and their habitat and help identify environmental issues that can affect humans as well. Local trends can reveal habitat fragmentation or provide a warning of an immediate environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination.

As Audubon president John Flicker put it, birds are “the canary in the coal mine — a sign that something is going on” in terms of environmental issues. The Christmas Bird Count not only helps identify birds in need of conservation action but also reveals conservation success stories, documenting the resurgence of the once endangered Bald Eagle and Brown Pelican, as well as significant increases in waterfowl populations.

The Christmas Bird Count started in 1900 when the National Audubon Society proposed it as an alternative to the then popular holiday activity called the Side Hunt, a yuletide bird shooting competition. Conservation was a budding concept at the time, and many scientists and naturalists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations.

Ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the Audubon Society, proposed a new a Christmas Bird Census idea that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt and kill them. The first count was held on Christmas day in 1900 with just 27 participants finding 90 species of birds.

Flicker calls the inception of the Christmas Bird Count a “visionary act” because no one could have predicted how important it would become as a resource and tool for conservation. Flicker says it allows birds to “send us a wake-up call about the importance of addressing the warming of our climate and the loss of vital habitat through action at every level.”

Today the count is the longest-running “citizen science” project in the world, with tens of thousands of Americans participating in the Christmas Bird Count, spotting more than 2,000 species last year. Volunteer birders participate for conservation efforts, but it’s also a good way to connect with nature, despite the cold temperatures, and has become an annual holiday tradition for many families.

In April the MD-DC Audubon designated the Coastal Bays as an Important Bird Area – a global effort to identify and conserve areas that are vital to birds and other biodiversity. The Coastal Bays geographical area has the highest species total of any Maryland Christmas Bird Count and is also typically the highest species total for any Christmas Bird Count at this latitude in the United States, averaging 150 each year.

For more information about the Christmas Bird Count, go to www.audubon.org.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Lorax


This holiday season when shopping for the little ones in your life consider a classic book with creative illustrations, unique characters and clever rhymes that also includes a strong message about the importance of being good environmental stewards.

The book is the Lorax written by classic children’s author Dr. Seuss. Although it was released in 1971, the point of the tale is even more valid today.

The story is narrated is classic Seuss fashion by a character called the Once-ler, a businessman whose quest for profits literally kept him from seeing the forest for the trees. It begins with the Once-ler telling a young boy how many years ago he came upon a beautiful forest of Truffula Trees at a time when “the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean”.

The Once-ler is awed by the colorful and beautiful Truffula Trees, which have tufts softer than silk, and decides to chop down a tree to make a “Thneed”, a frivolous item that he believes “everyone needs.”

Emerging from within the stump of the first chopped down tree is a mossy creature called the Lorax. “I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues,” the Lorax tells the Once-ler. But with profits growing, the Once-ler is unmoved by the Lorax’s repeated warnings.

“I meant no harm. I most truly did not,” the Once-ler says.” But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got. I went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds. And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.”

As the trees disappeared, the creatures that depended on the forest for food, shelter, and fresh air were forced to leave in order to survive. After the last tree is chopped down the Lorax himself also abandons the now desolate landscape, leaving behind a rock engraved with one word – ”UNLESS.”

With all the trees gone, the Once-ler goes out of business. For years afterwards he sat atop his abandoned factory and pondered what he had done. “That was long, long ago. But each day since that day I’ve sat here and worried and worried away. Through they years, while my buildings have fallen apart, I’ve worried about it with all of my heart.”

He tells the boy that he finally understands the meaning the word that the Lorax left behind on the rocks, and gives the boy the very last Truffula Tree seed. “You are in charge of the last Truffula seeds. And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”

The Lorax was reportedly Dr. Seuss’s personal favorite. Nearly 40 years later the book has become a timeless cautionary tale of excess and neglect. Without sounding too didactic, it warns children – and adults – that we must all be concerned about unchecked growth on our natural resources or suffer the consequences.

As the remorseful Once-ler tells the boy, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

Green Gift Ideas


Finding holiday gift ideas that please the recipient and are also consistent with being kind to our environment can be a challenge, but there are options that will satisfy both criteria that are also economical and original.

All manufactured items require material and energy to be produced, and production and transportation of merchandise translates to some level of pollution, so this year consider shopping for presents at thrift and resale shops. Buying secondhand items is also easy on your bank account, and you can often find new items with the tags still on them at a fraction of the original cost.

There are several thrift shops nearby where you can find great bargains. Check out the Church Mouse in Berlin, the Sheppard’s Nook in Ocean Pines and Used to be Mine in West Ocean City. All three are run by non-profit organizations and profits often go back into the community.

Although this next practice has been frowned upon in the past, don’t be afraid to shop in your own home for things that you no longer need but that are still useful and can be passed along to someone else. That great book you read last summer or that decorative bowl that doesn’t fit in with your new d├ęcor might make great presents for friends. And don’t be ashamed to re-gift. That two sizes too small sweater that your old boyfriend’s aunt gave you that has been sitting in your drawer since Christmas 2007 might still be in style and fit your niece perfectly.

Food makes for a great gift any time of year, but delicious treats are particularly festive during the holidays. Although not inexpensive, filling a basket with organic coffees and chocolates is a great idea for someone who might not typically buy organic items. It’s also a great way to reuse that basket you’ve had in your closet since last Easter. For a more personal touch, add some homemade goodies such as cookies, quick breads and cookies, or buy some at a local bakery.

Consider giving services instead of merchandise this year. Pay to get your mom’s house cleaned, or your sister’s haircut, or purchase tickets to movies, plays or concerts for your friends. Buy some local artwork or give gift cards for dance, cooking, martial arts or yoga classes, or pay for a meal at a local restaurant.

Donating to a non-profit charity or organization, such as the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, can be a great gift idea for the person who already has everything. A donation to the MCBP will benefit many and the recipient will know that they are making a difference, helping to ensure that our wonderful natural resources will continue to provide joy for future generations.

Donations are gifts that endure and continue giving long after the holiday season is over. To give a monetary gift from yourself or in someone else’s name, go to the Coastal Bays Program website at www.mdcoastalbays.org and click on the donate button.

In-keeping with the donations theme, this is a good opportunity to thank Ocean City’s Vera McCullough – our Queen of the Bays – who recently gave a generous monetary gift to the Coastal Bays Program. Thanks to Vera and others like her we will be able to continue working toward preserving and protecting our watershed.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Delmarva BioBlitz Award Winners Announced at Tally Rally




Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences (DLITE) announced the winners of the Second Annual Delmarva BioBlitz at the BioBlitz Tally Rally on November 19. The event was hosted at the Hazel Outdoor Discovery Center in Eden, Maryland.

The Delmarva BioBlitz connected kids and families to nature through fun, semi-competitive nature exploration, while raising funds for non-profit organizations working on the Delmarva Peninsula. The BioBlitz helped adult and youth teams of up to 10 citizen-scientists conduct inventories of plants and animals in their local parks, watersheds, and throughout the region during the week of October 10 - 19, 2009. All proceeds were shared 50/50 between DLITE and the designated partner charitable organizations.

Thanks to event sponsors, the Hazel Outdoor Discovery Center and Jolly Roger Amusement Park, four prizes of $500 each were awarded to local non-profit organizations. Prizes were awarded to the youth team that inventoried the most total species, and one to the youth team that raised the most money. Prizes were also awarded to adult teams in each category.

The adult team award for most species inventoried went to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. The Coastal Bays team counted 403 species during an eight-hour block on October 18. The team averaged one species every 71 seconds.

The adult team award for most funds raised also went to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. The Coastal Bays team raised $2,114.15 by soliciting pledges for species inventoried. The team raised $5.25 for every species inventoried.

“The Delmarva BioBlitz is a great fund raising event for us,” said Dave Wilson, Jr., Executive Director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. “Not only do we receive contributions that benefit our own programs, we also get a chance to showcase the incredible diversity of wildlife that lives in the land and water of our coastal bays.”

The youth team award for most species inventoried went to the Coast Kids, a program of the Assateague Coastal Trust. The Coast Kids team counted 274 species during a four-hour block on October 10. The team averaged one species every 52 seconds.

The youth team award for most funds raised also went to the Coast Kids. The Coast Kids team raised $1,221.00 by soliciting pledges for species inventoried. The team raised $4.46 for every species inventoried.

"The BioBlitz is such a great opportunity for children to learn about biodiversity in a fun and semi-competitive way,” said Verena Chase, Coast Kids Program Director. “I am so proud of our Coast Kids BioBlitz team members. Some of the kids are talented naturalists already. For instance, they know a lot more about bugs and snakes than most adults do. The children were very focused searching the beach, marsh, meadow, forest, and garden habitats for species. Some animals, such as white-tailed deer and red fox, were identified by their tracks, some birds by their call, and the kids even dug up a termite nest. The Delmarva BioBlitz is undoubtedly the most fun fund raiser."

The Delmarva BioBlitz was sponsored by the Hazel Outdoor Discovery Center and Jolly Roger Amusement Park. The Delmarva BioBlitz is supported by the Delmarva Environmental Educators Network (DEEN) and the No Child Left Inside Coalition.

For more information, please contact Jim Rapp at dlitedirector@comcast.net or 443-614-0261.

Grow Berlin Green Explores Green Initiatives on the Shore

By Kate Patton

The public is invited to an informal work session in Berlin on Dec. 10 featuring guest speaker Briggs Cunningham, the coordinator of the Chestertown Goes Green initiative.

The event is hosted by Grow Berlin Green (GBG), the campaign to establish Berlin as a model community for participatory environmental protection, conservation, and smart growth policy and practice. Cunningham – who is also Chestertown’s climate action coordinator - will speak on Thursday, Dec. 10, from 3 – 5 pm at Berlin’s Town Hall. The public will have an opportunity to learn about the Chestertown initiative in the afternoon work session and also later that evening at the Lower Shore Land Trust Annual Dinner.

The issues related to environmental protection, conservation and smart growth are not unique to Berlin. Towns throughout Maryland are wrestling with how to reduce waste and conserve resources, and sharing information is a key to identifying best practices and lessons learned. Priority issues such as stormwater and wastewater management, energy, water and land conservation, and waste reduction and recycling are being discussed across the state. The green initiative in Chestertown, active since 2007, is a useful case study to build upon.

In the spring of 2007, Chestertown Mayor Margo Bailey approached the Center for Environment & Society (CES) at Washington College for assistance in implementing the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (MCPA). A Chestertown Climate Action Committee was formed, ultimately producing a formal relationship with CES and Washington College. With grant support from the Town Creek Foundation and the Shared Earth Foundation, Cunningham was hired as the full-time Climate Action Coordinator for Chestertown.

Cunningham will share an overview of projects he manages, including the Chestertown Goes Green effort, how the initiative is taking shape, challenges to the project and the future of the work. Cunningham also coordinates the Urban Greening Initiative and Washington College’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the American College and University Presidents’ commitment to climate change.

The Chestertown initiative is one example within Maryland of citizens, schools, residents and businesses working together to create a more sustainable community. Going Green Downtown: A Sustainability Guide for Maryland’s Main Streets, developed by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is a resource for Main Street communities across the state. The document provides an overview of the Clean, Safe and Green strategy to increase sustainability within Maryland’s Main Street communities, examples of projects already implemented in Maryland, as well as resources for funding and technical support. It can be found online at www.mdhousing.org.

Cunningham will also speak at the Lower Shore Land Trust dinner at the Atlantic Hotel at pm on Dec. 10. The cost is $35.00 and includes a three course dinner and live entertainment by Berlin musicians Katherine Munson and Raquel Orsini. The Lower Shore Land Trust, a Grow Berlin Green partner, will present a brief overview of its land protection accomplishments in 2009, as well as goals for the upcoming year.

For information about the work session or to attend the dinner, call 410-641-4467 or email lslt@intercom.net by Dec. 7.

Kate Patton is the Executive Director of the LSLT. She received the Aileen Hughes Award for Outstanding Leadership in Land Conservation from the Maryland Environmental Trust in 2009.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving and Thoughts on Food

By Anita Ferguson

As you sit down to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal take a moment to consider where the food you are about to eat originated long before it got on your plate.

Most of us are disconnected from where our food comes from, how the food is packaged and how far it traveled to get there. It’s not easy to track, considering the majority of grocery store packaging and restaurant menus do not reveal a name of a farmer or farm where the produce was grown or the livestock was raised, what fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides were used to grow the produce, or the conservation practices the farmer used.

Today there is a growing national movement encouraging consumers to start buying local foods – foods that are produced as close to home as possible. Why? Protecting our environment, saving family farms and concern over food quality and food safety are just a few reasons to buy local.

Measuring the full environmental impact of food production, transportation, sale and consumption is a complex task, but we know that produce in the U.S. on average travels thousands of miles from farm to consumer, which translates to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, industrial food production depends on fossil fuels, which when refined and burned creates greenhouse gases.

In addition to helping protect our natural resources, buying local food is a great way to support farmers and our community in general. Farmers receive an average of less than 10 cents of every dollar spent on food, with the rest of the money going to processing, packing, and distribution. At farmers markets, however, nearly all of the money goes straight to the farmers. Helping farmers make a living also helps the local economy by ensuring the money we spend on food circulates within our own community.

Another added benefit of local foods is that knowing where your food comes from enables you to make more informed decisions, allowing you to choose food from farmers who avoid or reduce their use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified seed.

Try to eat local foods for one meal each a week, or incorporate local foods for part of one meal several days a week. Start with a vegetable – squash, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, turnips, beets and scallions are currently in season. Meat, eggs and dairy products are also currently available from local farmers.
An all local diet can be a challenge, even in a rich agricultural area such as ours, but keep in mind that local means as close to home as possible, so this may mean purchasing lemons from Florida rather than Chile.

For information where to find local foods, check out Delmarva’s Eastern Shore Farm Market Guide at skipjack.net/homegrown/farms_table.html. More information is available from the Maryland Online Farmers Market at www.foodtrader.org, and from Buy Local Challenge at www.buy-local-challenge.com. A local resource list from the Local Eastern Shore Sustainable Organic Network is available on the publications page of our website at www.mdcoastalbays.org.

The ability to preserve farming, protect our natural resources stimulating the local economy at the same time are truly reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Website Coming Soon!

After months of editing, writing, revising, removing and renovating, the staff of the Coastal Bays Program is proud to announce the launching of our new and improved website.
Thanks to the generosity, hard work, and wizardry of those at D3 Corp, the new site is bigger, better and more comprehensive than ever before. Our web address remains the same www.mdcoastalbays.org, but our site is now easier to use, with an interactive map, videos, photo galleries, an up to the minute calendar, and historical as well current information on the Coastal Bays. The new site should be live by early next week.
In terms of content, our site is rather voluminous and was quite a task to organize, but it had to be undertaken so that we can continue to get the message out about the importance of the Coastal Bays watershed. Good websites have become vital to the success of most organizations, non-profit and for profit alike, and we are no exception. As a non-profit, we need to get our message out as much as possible and as clearly as we can.
Our website must make it easy for users to learn more about our cause, to donate money, and to become more involved. It must also be easy for users to find the information they need and the contact information of key personnel. And it must accomplish all this in a way that’s inviting to the organization’s targeted donors and volunteers. We are happy to report that our new site does all that and more.
Of course, there will surely be a few kinks that must be worked out in the coming months, so please keep that in mind when browsing the new site. Feedback from the public is important to us, so don’t hesitate to contact us if the site can be improved. We are always looking for ways to communicate directly with the public, and we hope the new website will provide another avenue to do so effectively.
We would not have been able to update our site to this professional level without help. Thanks to D3 Corp’s generous in-kind work, we were able to afford the company’s technical and graphic expertise and search engine marketing skills.
This kind of community outreach and generosity did not start with us. D3 Corp has also contributed or donated in-kind work for several organizations within the Worcester County and Maryland. Moreover, D3 staff members actively contribute their time, energy and money to various non-profits, including the American Cancer Society of Worcester County, the Blood Bank of Delmarva, Women Supporting Women, Special Olympics, the Ocean City Paramedics Foundation and the Worcester County Humane Society.
Without exception, every person at D3 Corp who worked with us was professional, knowledgeable, courteous and patient. To John, Tanja, Natalee, Nikki, Mike, Nick and David and everyone who helped with this project at D3, thank you so much for making this project possible.
The new website can be previewed on Nov. 19 at 5:30 pm at D3’s West Ocean City office at the Berlin Chamber of Commerce November Business After Hours co-hosted by D3 and the Coastal Bays Program.
.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Conservation Easement Walk on Friday


On the afternoon of November 6th, the Lower Shore Land Trust and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program will lead a short walking tour around a conservation easement property along Pitts Road. The property is owned by the Coastal Bays Program and the conservation easement is co-held by the Lower Shore Land Trust and the Maryland Environmental Trust.

Recently, wetland restoration work has been completed along Middle Branch, and the Land Trust and the Coastal Bays Program are excited to share this work with you. The habitat restoration work will enhance an already productive riparian corridor, while maintaining critical flood control functions. The Maryland Coastal Bays Program acquired this 79 acre conservation easement property, near Showell, in 2008. In addition to the habitat restoration work, the Coastal Bays Program has used the property for various educational trips, including previous Great Worcester Herp Search outings.

A conservation easement is a written agreement between a landowner and a conservation agency, or land trust, which ensures that a property will not be developed beyond an agreed upon limit. The land remains in private ownership while the Lower Shore Land Trust assures that the terms of the agreement are forever met. Easements are a tool for property owner to control the future use, appearance and character of the land. Landowners can continue to farm, harvest timber, and hunt, as well as reserve building rights for future use.

Contact the Lower Shore Land Trust to sign up for this field trip which will take place on Friday, November 6th from 2 – 4 PM.

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the Lower Shore Land Trust hope you will consider joining us for a fun and educational tour of a unique conservation easement property.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rezoning Takes a Step Back

The Worcester County comprehensive rezoning process took a step backwards last week when the commissioners decided to overstep staff and planning commission recommendations and look at rezoning requests on a parcel-by-parcel basis.


While the majority of commissioners seemed to favor following proper procedure, the group conceded to the move after debate stalled on commercial zoning on MD 589 and higher density residential on MD 611 and South Point.

Good reasons exist to discuss these areas, but to re-open the entire rezoning process after professional planning staff and the Worcester County Planning Commission have strenuously reviewed the over 100 requests for zoning changes is without merit.

Comprehensive planning and zoning is about the long-term well-being of the community, not what’s most lucrative for individual property owners. For the past four years, the public and planning staff have taken great pains to make sure transportation, wildlife, bay health, and public safety were top priorities in the county’s comprehensive plan and rezoning.

The award-winning Worcester County Comprehensive Plan was written to keep new growth out of forests, wetlands, flood-prone areas, and around existing infrastructure. This protects the public, water quality, tourism, and keeps taxes low. Upzoning requests that do not adhere to the comprehensive plan or to these principles should be disregarded.

Elected officials should serve to do what’s best for their community, not certain individuals or other special interests. Randomly spot zoning individual parcels has nothing to do with the greater good. Arbitrary zoning decisions that abandon the notion of planning should be rigorously questioned. Moreover, any decision about changes on individual parcels should be subject to a hearing and further debate from all Worcester County citizens.

If certain commissioners have issues with zoning change requests that were denied, they should bring those to the fore. But going over ever request parcel by parcel has already been done ad nauseum and will take months of work sessions.

The dismantling of the Worcester County Comprehensive Planning Department earlier this year makes this latest maneuver all the more troubling. By now most know that residential development doesn’t pay for itself. Examples of the effects of unchecked development on taxes abound from Glenn Burnie to Wicomico County.

We are confident that the majority of commissioners will take an ethical stance on this issue and side with the planning commission, county staff, and the public which created the comprehensive plan that the zoning should mirror.

The silver lining on re-opening this debate could be that it will allow communities to address certain parcels that are not consistent with the comp plan, such as the ones zoned A-2 along MD611/Sinepuxent Rd., all of the estate zoning (most of which is in flood-prone areas and should be zoned for Resource Protection), the large proposed commercial site across from Stephen Decatur High School, Gumpoint Road, the expanded village district near Stockton, the commercial zoning both along US 50 and to the south and east on the MD 376/611 junction etc., etc.

Planning and zoning are the key factors in determining the future economic and environmental health of towns and counties.
The comprehensive plan and the zoning that follows it were created by citizens, property owners, and professional planners who worked hard to reach consensus.

But however much quick profits and individual property owners come into play, the Worcester County Commissioners have a moral and political obligation to stick to the core planning principles in the comprehensive rezoning for the common good and future health of their community.

Worcester County’s Comprehensive Plan won numerous awards and was held up as a model for counties to emulate nationwide. The commissioners should be sure the zoning regulations do the same.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ayres Creek Project Stalled



A group of non-profit organizations, the town of Ocean City and Worcester County have a chance to transform an old, unused landfill into a recreational site, creating another great opportunity for residents and visitors to enjoy our beautiful natural resources.

The West Ocean City property is located along Lewis Rd. Although it is beyond town limits, the property is owned by the town of Ocean City. It was used as landfill from the 1950s until 1980, and in 2007 it was declared a safe area by state officials.

The proposed recreational project called the Ayers Creek Water Trail would be on the 37-acre site, which includes 450 feet of shoreline. The site would also have an entry gate, a parking area and a 120-foot long wooden walkway and could possibly become a kayak launch in the future. Work for the project would be paid for by a $47,000 State Highway Administration grant.

The idea originated from local kayaker Spencer Rowe, who worked with non-profit and government entities – the Coastal Bays Program, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, DLITE and Worcester County Tourism officials – interested in establishing local water trails with the hope that the site would develop into an interpretation program to educate tourists and local residents about the rich nature and heritage of our coastal bays. With the funding in place, all that remained was to get approval from the town.

Unfortunately, the Ocean City Council decided last week that due to liability concerns they will not sign off on the project, suggesting that either the Coastal Bays Program or Worcester County government be responsible for liability insurance.

In hundreds of municipalities throughout the country, local, state and county officials have united with citizens to turn brownfields into safe and productive parks and tourism attractions. These transformed landfills are ideal for parks because of their size, location, and low cost. One such park is the very popular Mount Trashmore in Virginia Beach. The park spans 165 acres with hills more than 60 feet high and 800 feet long. Facilities include picnic shelters, playground areas, a basketball court, four volleyball areas, parking, vending machines and restrooms, multiple walking trails and two fishing.

Obviously, the Ayres Creek project would not be nearly as complex, but will simply create water access that provides a route for paddlers to travel along the picturesque creek and Newport, Chincoteague and Sinepuxent Bays. The water trail flows about six miles to the Worcester County public boat ramp at South Point on Chincoteague Bay. From there, paddlers can go to the canoe launches at Ferry Landing Road and Bayside Drive on Assateague Island National Seashore or they can travel along Sinepuxent Bay roughly four miles to the Assateague State Park boat ramp at the Verrazano Bridge. It could be a potential location for kayak regattas, which are increasing in popularity throughout the country.

The development of the Ayres Creek Water Trail would also be an important tool to promote tourism by providing the only public water access in upper Ayers Creek that would connect to established areas. Expanding water trails enhances water based recreational opportunities in the area. In addition, it will also help local environmental organizations protect the water quality of Newport, Chincoteague and Sinepuxent bays.

The non-profit Coastal Bays Program has simply been a facilitator in this process and stands no economic gain. We have worked with county and state officials to get this project up and running and we are almost there. It would a shame to let it go now. We are hopeful that resort officials will have a change of heart, or that perhaps Worcester County will step up to the plate and make this project a model for what is achievable through cooperative partnerships.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rezoning Work Session Oct. 20

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program often calls upon the public to get involved with local issues to ensure citizen voices are being heard and that all sides are considered before decisions are made. This is certainly true with rezoning issues that are vital to preserving and protecting Worcester County’s natural resources.

We encourage everyone to attend a work session Oct. 20 at 1:30 pm at the Worcester County Government Center. The session will focus on zoning maps as part of the comprehensive rezoning plan, which will serve as a guide for determining where growth takes place within the next two decades.

Although initially unhappy with parts of the proposal, we are pleased county staffers and the planning commission have worked together to form compromises that address both property rights and conservation Their recommendations have made the rezoning more consistent with the 2006 Worcester County Comprehensive Plan. Keeping strong agricultural zoning free of non agricultural uses, not allowing upzoning random parcels outside designated growth areas, and removing higher density residential zoning from South Point are all issues that are in-keeping with the 2006 award winning plan.

It is often said that compromise is usually necessary to accomplish major goals, and this process is certainly no exception. By no means did the Coastal Bays Program get everything that we wanted – we would have preferred that a transfer of development rights program for large lot estate zoning and for the excess commercial zoning on Route 50 from Ocean City to Berlin be included in the plan, as well as mandatory conservation subdivision design, not allowing off-site septic, and removal of the more permissive A-2 zoning down MD 611 and east of Berlin.

As pleased as we are with the compromises made, we still must be vigilant. Nevertheless, we remain optimistic that the Worcester County Commissioners will continue to listen to their staff, the planning commission, and the voices of the public to continue to reach a middle ground for all concerned regarding the principal issues on the county's rezoning. It is for this reason that we encourage everyone to attend the Oct. 20 work session.

On a side note, we’d like to take this opportunity to bid a fond farewell and best wishes to Sandy Coyman, who for 10 years was head of the county’s now defunct Comprehensive Planning Department, which was dissolved in May in a department consolidation. As head of that department, Sandy worked to make Worcester County a leader in planning and helped Worcester County win a 2006 award for its nationally recognized comprehensive plan.

He also oversaw the implementation of land protection programs such as the Coastal Bays Rural Legacy Area program, the county’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program, and the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program. These programs have permanently protected over 8,000 acres of farms and forests in the county since 2000.

Sandy’s job also included tracking trends and anticipating future community needs, educating citizens and getting them involved in community stewardship, supplementing local monies with grants and managing the county-wide Geographic Information System, among other duties.

Sandy’s work protecting natural resources for future generations will continue in Talbot County, where he will head that county’s planning and zoning department beginning later this month. Worcester County’s loss is Talbot County’s gain. We wish him all the best in his new position.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vote for Grow Berlin Green for Tom's of Maine Award!


Grow Berlin Green’s Neighborhood Green Teams project has been selected as one of 50 finalists for a $20,000 Tom’s of Maine Community Sponsorship award and we can all have a say in the outcome by voting online.

Grow Berlin Green’s Green Team Project is competing against nonprofit organizations from dozens of other states for the Tom’s of Maine award. GBG’s ultimate goal is grow the town “green from the grassroots up”, educating and engaging the community to meet pressing environmental and conservation challenges, leading to establishing it as a model community for environmental protection and conservation.

The Green Teams project will mobilize neighborhood teams to take practical steps to conserve energy and water, increase recycling, reduce solid waste, and build a more sustainable community. Results will include lower energy and water usage, improved water quality and a reduced waste stream. The project will spur neighborhoods and the community as a whole to improve the town’s environmental health and protect the surrounding fragile landscape and hopefully sow the seeds of a citizens’ movement to establish and sustain environmentally sound policies and practices.

Rarely do we have a chance to influence a company’s decisions on where their donated money should be allocated, but here we have a chance to do just that. To vote for Grow Berlin Green go to www.tomsofmaine.com, click on Community Involvement, then click the Project Sponsorship tab for the list of contenders. You can also find a link to the Tom’s website at www.growberlingreen.org. Winners will be based on the total number of votes cast on the Tom’s of Maine website. You can vote once a day through Oct. 30. Tom’s of Maine will announce the five winners in November and award each $20,000.

Grow Berlin Green is a three year campaign managed by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, the Lower Shore Land Trust and Assateague Coastal Trust. It’s funded by a $125,000 grant from the Town Creek Foundation, a private, philanthropic organization dedicated to encouraging a sustainable environment. The GBF campaign includes events and activities designed to involve citizens, business owners and government officials to better build a foundation for citizen and policymaker participation. A community information meeting held in February attracted a standing room only crowd at Berlin Town Hall where citizens offered numerous ideas and suggestions for programs and activities.

In less than one year, GBG has made great strides to meet its goal, including installing a rain garden in town, purchasing and installing rain barrels at several Berlin eateries and distributing thousands of free, reusable shopping bags to area merchants and shoppers. GBG also awarded scholarships to four local teachers to attend the Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education Conference held in Ocean City earlier this year. Still, there is more to be done and winning the $20,000 Tom’s of Maine award will help keep the momentum going.

Tom’s of Maine manufactures personal care products in Sanford, Maine, in an environmentally sensitive manufacturing facility using natural ingredients derived from plants and minerals and biodegradable, earth-friendly recycled and recyclable packaging, according to the company’s website. Ten percent of the company’s profits are donated to charitable organizations and Tom’s employees are encouraged to use 5-percent of their paid time doing volunteer work for the organization of their choice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

10th Annual Osprey Triathlon Raises $43K


More than 400 athletes from across the region competed in the 10th Annual Osprey Sprint Triathlon at Public Landing Saturday, Oct. 3 to benefit the Maryland Coastal Bays Foundation.

The $75 entrance fee and generous local sponsorships helped raise more than $43,000, which will be used for restoration, monitoring, and education in the coastal bays watershed. Despite the cloudy and threatening weather, hundreds of spectators gathered to cheer on racers during the half-mile swim in Chincoteague Bay, the 15.2-mile bike course and the 3.1-mile run on the roads surrounding the rural countryside of southern Worcester County.

This year’s winners included 42 year old Kent Buckson of Rehoboth Beach, who finished first with a time of 1:10:01. Patrick Serfass, 31 of Washington, DC finished second 1:10:28 , followed by Steve Meininger, 40, of Clarksville, Md with a time of 1:11:14.

In the women’s category, Krista Schultz, 31, finished first with a time of 1:20:26, followed by second place winner Rebecca Durivage-jac, 25, of Baltimore, with a time of 1:26:16. Melissa Denault of Berlin, 42, took third place, crossing the finish line with a time of 1:28:12.

Our youngest competitors were Vivian Killian, 11, of Kensington, MD, who finished with a time of 2:33:21, Jason Wuertz, 12, of Chesapeake, Va, who finished at 2:12:11 and Joshua Wuertz, 13, also of Chesapeake, Va who crossed the finish line with a time of 2:22:46.

Our oldest competitors were 70-year-old John Mulflur of Easton, who came in at 1:48:04; 73-year-old Robert Healy of Stevensville, Md who finished at 1:48:37; Joe Marhoefer, 73, of Reston, Va, who crossed the finish line at 2:00:33 and Huston Bud Schlosser, 77, of Dover, Pa who finished with a time of 2:54:30.

The 10th annual Osprey Sprint Triathlon was sponsored by Seacrets, M & T Bank, Bahia Marina, Thrasher’s Fries, Gismondi Insurance, Taylor Bank, Francis Scott Key Motel, OC Wasabi, Sun Signs, Delmarva Power, Barcoding Inc., Ocean City Chiropractic Clinic, Halls Restaurant, the Original Greene Turtle, Bike Sports, Pepsi, Home Depot, Coastal Builders, Atlantic General Hospital, Mike Truitt of Merrill Lynch and Worcester County Tourism.

Thanks also to Hi-Tide Marine, Todd Burbage and Kool Ice and Seafood for donating goods and services and to local artist Kirk McBride who donated the logo design for our 10th anniversary race. T-shirts sporting the new logo will be sold during the race and at the pre-race dinner Friday night at Sunset Grille in West Ocean City. A final thanks to the Worcester County Public Works Department and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

For complete race results visit www.compuscore.com.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sponsors & Volunteers make Annual Osprey Triathlon a Success

Hundreds of athletes will descend on Public Landing Saturday morning for the10th Annual Maryland Coastal Bays Program Osprey Sprint Triathlon, our biggest fundraiser of the year.

The sprint distance triathlon includes a half-mile swim in Chincoteague Bay, a 15-mile bike course and a 3-mile run on the roads surrounding the area. Proceeds from entrance fees and sponsorships raise money to support the bays behind Ocean City and Assateague Island. The magnificent setting of Public Landing is a natural fit for the triathlon since it showcases our estuary so well and provides the perfect course for swimming, running and biking. Thanks to the work of Coastal Bays Program partners, a 230-acre farm was permanently protected on the north side of Public Landing Road this year.

Our first race 10 years ago was the brainchild of former Coastal Bays Program Director David Blazer. With planning help from triathlon organizers from the American Cancer Society in Salisbury, Blazer, his staff and a great group of 90 volunteers made the event a success, with 138 athletes and $18,000 raised for the Program.

The response from racers was overwhelmingly positive, with competitors proclaiming it to be one of the best settings available in the region, providing a challenging, safe and fun course and helpful volunteers. Last year was our most successful triathlon to date, with 450 athletes participating bringing in more than $25,000. In addition to attracting additional racers each year, the annual race has become a spectator attraction, with more than 1,000 gathering along the route and at the finish line to cheer on the racers.

Coastal Bays staffer Kate Diffenderfer, who took over from Blazer as the event’s organizer, has made some changes this year that will help make the race more environmentally friendly. Instead of mailing 3,000 brochures, she used the internet and email to promote the triathlon. More recycling bins will be on site the day of the race and any leftover food will be donated to a local charity. Our winners will receive medals made from recycled bike chains, which can be converted to a keychain.

It is no small task to prepare for such a large outdoor athletic event, so we count on the help of volunteers to make the day run smoothly. We utilize the services of more than 100 volunteers who help ensure the success of the event. Volunteers are needed to help with course preparation on Friday afternoon, as well as Saturday morning. They are stationed at areas along the transition area, and along the swim, bike and run routes to cheer on racers. They also help to close down the event, including removing the finish line, disassembling the bike racks, helping to corral trash and recyclables and packing up race materials.

We also couldn’t make this event a success without the help of sponsors. This year we’d like to thank the following businesses for their financial support: Seacrets, M & T Bank, Bahia Marina, Thrasher’s Fries, Gismondi Insurance, Taylor Bank, Francis Scott Key Motel, OC Wasabi, Sun Signs, Delmarva Power, Barcoding Inc., Ocean City Chiropractic Clinic, Halls Restaurant, the Original Greene Turtle, Bike Sports, Pepsi, Home Depot, Coastal Builders, Atlantic General Hospital, Mike Truitt of Merrill Lynch and Worcester County Tourism.

Thanks also to Hi-Tide Marine, Todd Burbage and Kool Ice and Seafood for donating goods and services and to local artist Kirk McBride who donated the logo design for our 10th anniversary race. T-shirts sporting the new logo will be sold during the race and at the pre-race dinner Friday night at Sunset Grille in West Ocean City. A final thanks to the Worcester County Public Works Department and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

To volunteer, contact Kate Diffenderfer at 410-213-2297 ext.106 or kdiffenderfer@mdcoastalbays.org. For race information go to www.mdcoastalbays.org/osprey/info.php.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Volunteers needed for the 10th Annual Osprey Triathlon Oct. 3




We need volunteers to help with the 10th Annual Osprey Sprint Triathlon held Oct. 3 at 9 am at Public Landing. This is the biggest fundraising event for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, which works to protect the back bays of Ocean City and Assateague Island.
Last year, more than 450 athletes participated, making it our most successful triathlon to date. Volunteers are what make this event work and function smoothly and they are needed for a variety of duties, including hanging banners and registration in the morning. Volunteers will also be stationed at areas along the transition area, and along the swim, bike and run routes to cheer on racers. Kayak owners are needed to assist racers who may need help during the swim and they are needed at the site.
Volunteers are also needed to help break down the event, including removing the finish line, disassembling the bike racks, helping to corral trash and recyclables and packing up race materials. Everyone who helps will get a special thank you gift.
The 10th Annual Osprey Triathlon is sponsored by Seacrets, M & T Bank, Bahia Marina, Thrasher’s Fries, Gismondi Insurance, Taylor Bank, Francis Scott Key Motel, OC Wasabi, Sun Signs, Delmarva Power, Bar Coding, Inc., Ocean City Chiropractic Clinic, Halls Restaurant, the Original Greene Turtle, Bike Sports, Pepsi, Walmart, Home Depot, Coastal Builders, Atlantic General Hospital, Mike Truitt of Merrill Lynch and Worcester County Tourism.
To volunteer or for more information, contact race organizer Kate Diffenderfer at 410-213-2297 ext.106 or send an email to kdiffenderfer@mdcoastalbays.org.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

State Explores Offshore Wind Possibility



State officials are now taking steps to explore the potential for developing wind energy off Maryland’s coast, which could result in inexpensive, clean and renewable energy for hundreds of thousands of homes in the future.

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) last week asked those in the wind power industry whether they’d be inclined to submit proposals to build a wind park off the state's 31-mile coastline about 12 miles out to sea. Offshore wind power is especially useful in densely populated coastal regions, where demand for energy is high and land availability is low. A 1000 megawatt wind park could provide the amount of energy for more than 200,000 homes statewide year.

In a Sept. 15 statement MEA Director Malcolm Woolf said offshore wind has the potential to supply more renewable energy than any other resource in the region. If Maryland is able to successfully harness these resources in a cost-effective way, he said, the state will be able to satisfy its renewable portfolio standard of 20 percent by the year 2022.

According to the US Energy Department, Maryland has “outstanding” wind resources that compare favorably or better than Midwestern land based wind resources.” MEA’s offshore wind initiative will include outreach to potential offshore wind developers, a technical evaluation of the wind resources off of Maryland’s Atlantic coast and Outer Continental Shelf, and will include community engagement.

“Offshore wind energy offers vast potential to create jobs for our workers and to help stabilize electric costs for our families while also increasing grid stability,” Governor Martin O’Malley said. “As we continue our commitment to promote a Smart, Green and Growing Maryland, the benefits of the clean energy generated from offshore wind may prove to be vital for our state’s energy and environmental future.”

Wind is a renewable resource that can be widely distributed. It’s also an inexpensive and clean form of energy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions when it displaces fossil-fuel-derived electricity. This technology is well established in Europe but is new to the United States and has had a difficult time becoming a reality. Opponents cite the high initial construction costs while others complain that wind farms are eyesores. Advocates agree that the initial price tag can be high, but say the long term savings more than make up for the start-up costs. They add that wind farms are built so far offshore that visual concerns are minimal.

Cape Wind, a 130 turbine project in Nantucket Sound could supply the electricity needs of more than 300,000 homes, but it has been delayed for eight years due to concerns regarding its effects on marine life, tourism and property values. It has been the subject of endless studies, public hearings and reviews by federal, state and local agencies and lawsuits. Its fate now rests with the Department of the Interior and a decision is expected as early as this winter.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources along with the Nature Conservancy will study how birds, bats, fish and marine animals might be affected by turbine use. In the long run, the benefits likely outweigh the risks but proper study of marine mammal, bird and bat migration should take place before plans are finalized. Some species may be impacted, but the need for clean energy to offset climate change will have a much larger impact on birds and marine mammals if nothing is done.

Yes, there are serious aesthetic, economic, and technical questions that must be answered and concerns about the impact on wildlife that must be addressed. If the measure leads to an offshore wind park off our coast it will likely change the energy paradigm in our state for the better.

Monday, September 14, 2009

International Cleanup Day and Coast Day on Saturday

A rescued loggerhead turtle will be released into the ocean on Sept. 19, a day that will include two important events each designed to enlighten, educate and engage people from all backgrounds and ages about the health and importance of our coastal region.

The first event begins at 9 am at the Assateague Island National Seashore for the 24th International Beach Cleanup Day. This local coastal cleanup organized by the Assateague Coastal Trust is part of the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup designed to engage people to “remove trash and debris from the world's beaches and waterways, identify the sources of debris, and change the behaviors that cause marine debris in the first place.”

Participating in Coastal Cleanup Day is a great way for families, students, service groups, and neighbors to join together to remove trash from our coastlines, show community support for our shared natural resources and learn about the impacts discarded trash on our fragile marine environment.

Last year more than 260 volunteers collected 3,269 pounds of trash off of Assateague National Park – trash that if not removed is bad for our tourism economy, hurts our seafood industries, harms species and entire ecosystems essential for marine life to survive. Participating in the Cleanup makes a big impact, empowering people to become involved in supporting a healthy coastline. Registration for the cleanup at Assateague National Seashore begins at 8 am at the Ranger Station. Participants should supply their own bug spray, sunscreen and work gloves.

The 13th annual Maryland Coast Day begins at 11 am at Assateague State Park. This free, family-oriented festival of wildlife, entertainment and environmental education is a fun day of coastal ecology awareness, children’s activities, live music and great local food. The event will kick off when officials from the National Aquarium release a rescued loggerhead turtle back into its ocean home.

This popular festival that attracts about 3,000 visitors is held each year to celebrate the wildlife, culture and natural resources of Maryland’s coastal region. The event includes exhibits from more than 30 organizations, including the National Aquarium, the Salisbury Zoo, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Scales and Tales and Coast Kids. There’s more fun to be had with arts and crafts, a touch tank, live animal exhibits, live music by the Knuckleheads, and activities and demos, such as sand castle building, marine mammal rescue drills, surf-casting demos and Native American dancing.

This year will include a new exhibit by local musician and artist Charlie Flagiello. Flagiello’s Other Than Footprints display is a grouping of jars that contain sand along with litter – cigarette butts, bottle caps, wrappers – he collected during his off-season jogs on the beach. This simple yet powerful and innovative display was recently featured in USA Today and was showcased at the Ocean Pines and Berlin libraries over the summer.

Coast Day is co-hosted by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Friends of Assateague State Park, Assateague State Park, Delmarva Low Impact Tourism Experiences, Assateague National Seashore and Assateague Coastal Trust.

Coast Day is sponsored by Jolly Roger Amusement Park, Town of Ocean City, Choptank Electric, Red Sun Apparel, Sun Signs and artist Kirk McBride. For more information about both events call 410-629-1538.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Maryland Coast Day Coming Soon



The grounds of Assateague State Park will turn into a world of wildlife, entertainment and environmental education when visitors flock to the barrier island park for the 13th Annual Maryland Coast Day on Sept. 19 from 11 am to 4 pm. In addition to fabulous Eastern Shore eats, live music, arts and crafts and animal exhibits, this year’s event include the release of a rescued loggerhead turtle.

This popular festival is held annually to celebrate the wildlife, culture and natural resources of Maryland’s coastal region. The event attracts about 3,000 visitors each year with informative and attractive exhibits presented by more than 30 organizations, including the National Aquarium, the Salisbury Zoo, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Scales and Tales, Assateague Coastal Trust Coast Kids and the Assateague COASTKEEPER. In addition to the exhibits, Coast Day also features live music, activities for the kids and demos, such as sand castle building, marine mammal rescue drills, surf casting demos, and Native American dance.

This free, family-oriented event takes place at the Assateague State Park after the International Coastal Cleanup which begins at 9 am by the National Seashore entrance. This fun day of coastal ecology awareness, children’s activities, music and great local food is co-hosted by Assateague Coastal Trust, Friends of Assateague State Park, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Assateague State Park, Delmarva Low Impact Tourism Experiences and Assateague National Seashore.

Coast Day is sponsored by Jolly Roger Amusement Park, Town of Ocean City, Choptank Electric, Red Sun Apparel, Sun Signs and artist Kirk McBride. For more information about Maryland Coast Day contact the Assateague Coastal Trust at 410-629-1538.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Coastal Stewards Program Makes Big Impact


By Carrie Samis

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, stimulus funding – we hear about it and read about it often, but what do those dollars look like when spent? Are they making a difference? How do they help our community? How do they benefit our coastal bays? And, perhaps most importantly, how do they impact lives?
Through its partnership with Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program was able to hire eleven area young men and women to be Coastal Stewards, a summer youth employment program partnership funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

As a Coastal Steward, Joriee’ Dorman learned “to love it, live it, and breathe it. It was a rewarding and enriching experience that I was blessed to have. Seeing a little child’s face light up when they touch a comb jelly, a family crabbing in the marsh, eager visitors anxiously listening to learn more about our beaches and bays. Being a Coastal Steward opened my eyes to the diversity of the Lower Eastern Shore, my home. I grasped so much and learned about my own heritage, in a way that no classroom or lecture could teach me.”

Consider the broad smile of Joshua Moore, as he received his first paycheck – ever. And Todd Nock, who noted in his journal, “I’m seeing growth in myself and in others. When we first met Danielle, she was very quiet and did not say much but now, she has bloomed before our eyes,”

For the first time, Joe and Janae Dorman, siblings, found themselves gliding atop the Sinepuxent Bay in sleek kayaks. Arien Perry derived great satisfaction assisting with debris removal at Isle of Wight and Grey’s Creek – and talking to hundreds of residents and visitors about how they, too, could become better stewards of our environment.

Hoa Nguyen’s methodical approach in searching for sea beach amaranth, an endangered plant found on Assateague Island, was a contribution to scientific research welcomed by the National Park Service. Kedena Thompson was thrilled for the opportunity to meet with so many community leaders, elected officials, and agency representatives, exploring future career opportunities as she prepared to leave for graduate school.

Carlos Thompson is now excited to bring his own young daughter to test the water – and dip her toes in our coastal bays, something he had never done prior to this summer. Moved by the passion of others, Stephen Castaneda found himself “motivated to care about the well-being of our environment.” “This job gave me a chance to shine and make a difference,” Danielle Miller said proudly.

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program feels privileged to have spent the summer with such incredible young people – the next generation of stewards protecting our bays. Thanks to the ARRA funding, our Coastal Stewards left a little richer – with money in their pockets. But thanks to the strength of our partnerships and the dedication of our Stewards, our lives and theirs were enriched beyond measure.

Collaboration with Assateague National Park, Assateague State Park, Worcester County and many local parks, museums, and towns ensured that our Coastal Stewards were working on meaningful programs and projects throughout the region. They helped to educate thousands of residents and visitors about our local natural and cultural history, and assisted with a variety of stewardship projects, for the benefit of our bays.

Funding was also provided by the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance, the National Park Service, and the Ocean City-Berlin Optimists.

Samis is the education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. She can be reached at csamis@mdcoastalbays.org.

Friday, September 4, 2009

8th Annual Horseshow Crab Spawning Survey Results


The 8th annual Maryland coastal spawning survey resulted in the highest number of horseshoe crabs ever counted in this local assessment of population abundance and critical habitat availability in the Coastal Bays. Thanks to the generosity of volunteers who provided their time, 63 surveys were collected from 5 beach sites, and reveal a sum total of 21,846 crabs. The study was coordinated by Maryland Coastal Bays Program Technical Coordinator Carol Cain and Steve Doctor from the Fisheries Division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Maryland Coastal Bays survey was initially set up to mirror the same time frame as the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab spawning surveys (May and June) to allow for comparisons. Since the noticeable temporal range of spawning seemed longer than we were initially sampling, the 2009 survey was again conducted throughout July as it as in 2008 (with MCBP & DNR continuing into August). Future surveys will begin in late May and continue throughout July to better capture peak spawning activity.

Spawning in the Maryland coastal bays typically peaks in June, and often continues into July. This pattern was repeated in 2009, with the greatest spawning concentrations again found in June. In May only ten horseshoe crabs were found in all of the surveys.

Far fewer dead (3) and stranded (2) crabs were recorded this year. The total number of swimming crabs was determined to be 462, increased a bit from 2008 findings of 457. The vast majority of crabs, 19,842 (92%), were spawning at or within one meter of the high tide line.

The survey numbers over the last eight years indicate a gradual increase in male to female ratios. In 2009, we find that there are approximately 4 males available to mate with every female crab. This is an important for maintaining genetic diversity. Conservationists and ecologists know from experience in managing other economically important species that the higher the genetic diversity, the healthier the population.

Recent harvest regulations in Delaware Bay, Maryland, and Virginia have capped the number of female horseshoe crabs that can be harvested. This data indicates that male biased harvest in recent years has not had an effect on the local spawning population’s sex ratio.

While it is widely recognized that temperature, wind direction and wave energy influence where crabs will spawn, we can only speculate at how and why some areas experience heavy spawning while other equally available areas do not. It is noteworthy that on June 9, 2009 approximately 170 crabs were spawning adjacent to the sample area at Gudelsky Park which was recorded as having 56 crabs. Previous surveys have indicated that horseshoe crabs often move to new areas of spawning along beaches from year to year, which tends to complicate monitoring.

The southern tip of Skimmer Island held the most surprises and number of crabs this year with a noticed shift in areas of greatest spawning activity from the northeastern and southern beaches to the most southern beach on the Island over the past three years. Fifteen tagged crabs were found along Skimmer Island this year. The tag numbers were forwarded to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Science who informed us of when and where the crabs were captured and released. Two tags were attached by the USGS in upper Delaware Bay in 2004, three tags were too faded to determine the numbers, and the remaining 10 tags were attached by Virginia Tech and were the crabs were released in Tom’s Cove, VA.

The past three years water temperature has been monitored to determine the temperatures effect on the commencement of horseshoe crab spawning behavior. Early analysis indicates that spawning activity commences around 15 degrees C in the Maryland coastal bays. Comparison with Delaware Bay surveys indicate that horseshoe crabs spawn earlier and at a colder temperature than the horseshoe crabs spawning in the Maryland coastal bays.

Special thanks to 2009 volunteers Bill and Joleen Killinger, Frank and Andrea Watkins, Bruce and Nancy Jarvis, Jim and Janet Kerner, Dave and Salley Kohler, Bob and Diane McGraw, Clark and Betty Prichard, Roman and Mary Ellen Jesien, Janet Morse, Sharyn O’Hare, Larry Points and Carolyn Beatty.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Volunteers Needed to Help with 10th Annual Osprey Triathlon


We need volunteers to help us as we prepare for the 10th Annual Osprey Sprint Triathlon. Volunteers are what make this event work and function smoothly! The race is scheduled for Saturday, October 3, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. in Public Landing, MD.

All volunteers receive a special THANK YOU gift. Time slots and duties that we need help with:

6:30/8:00 a.m. - set up breakfast items, water/drinks; help with racer registration from 6:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.; hang banners near the finish line and along the transition area, etc.

8:30 a.m. –volunteers will be stationed at areas along the transition area, and along the swim, bike and run routes to cheer on racers.

10:00-11:30 a.m. – Pass out lunch to racers, Pass out THANK YOU gift to volunteers, etc.

11:30 a.m. - Breakdown event (tearing down the finish line, disassembling the bike racks, helping to corral trash and recyclables, packing up other race materials).

Own a kayak? We need your help to assist racers who may need help during the swim. We ask that volunteers show up at 8 am for this activity.

Pre-race dinner will be held at Sunset Grille, West Ocean City from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. on Friday, October 2, 2009. It’s a pasta buffet with salad and bread for $15 and all of our racers, family, friends and volunteers are welcome to join!

For details contact Kate Diffenderfer at 410-213-2297 ext.106 or kdiffenderfer@mdcoastalbays.org. Check out our race website at www.osprey-sprint.com.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Management of the Coastal Bays and Watershed

By Peter Andes

With the green movement now more than ever a highly visible effort, it is widely realized that steps must be taken to reverse the detrimental effects of pollution and increase the health of the environment. The book Shifting Sands, written in part by three Coastal Bays staffers, is an excellent resource for this, detailing the effective application of environmentally-friendly practices and laying out an overall plan that addresses the major problem areas.

The chapter of the book entitled “Management of the Coastal Bays and Watershed” calls for the reduction of air and water pollution, supporting local agriculture while decreasing fertilizer and pesticide use, and facilitating community restoration efforts. The particular details for each of these initiatives are extensively highlighted within the text as a comprehensive way to reach the overall goal of a healthy watershed.

The book begins by emphasizing the connection between a community and its environment before moving to cover different aspects that need to be addressed. An area is only as healthy as its air, land, and water, and due to over-fishing, pollution, and inadvertent neglect the health of the Coastal Bays has suffered. The text makes clear improvement will not be immediate but gradual as problems are remedied over time. It is crucial for the general public to be involved and aware of this effort to ensure its success.

The issue the book covers first is that of the watershed-wide Nutrient Reduction Action Strategy that is currently being developed in order to identify specific areas that require work. This involves implementing the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning code, as well as strengthening the enforcement of existing laws and many other steps elaborated on by the text. Regional collaboration is imperative for the effective undertaking of these activities.

Air quality, land management, and water quality are also covered in depth. A section is devoted to each, explaining their current status and recommending changes that would lead to improvements in their health. Of all the nitrogen inputs to the Coastal Bays 30 percent are atmospheric, formed by pollution from power plants, vehicles, industry, and other sources.

Energy conservation, alternative energy, and public transit are just some of the suggestions offered in Shifting Sands to address this situation. Land use is another major factor in watershed health as variations in use determine the amount of runoff as well as available habitat.

The text emphasizes development practices that will minimize land consumption through well planned environmentally sensitive practices, such as better planning with impervious surfaces to control runoff and reducing the number of septic systems that are put in place. Also provided is insight into actions that homeowners can take to improve water quality, such as encouraging marsh growth through the use of living shorelines and replacing lawns with native plants.

Shifting Sands makes highly evident the strong ties between the Coastal Bays community and its natural resources. Boating and many other aquatic entertainments are a favorite activity of both residents and visitors in the area. Worcester County depends on this revenue from tourism, an income that would be harmed considerably if those visitors no longer found our waterways a healthy and pleasant place for recreation.

A great multitude of other informative resources can be found in this chapter, outlining the steps that need to be taken to improve the health of our local ecosystem. Such in-depth analysis of the situation of our local area is priceless in the struggle for an environmentally sound watershed.

To purchase a copy of Shifting Sands call the Maryland Coastal Bays Program office at 41-213-BAYS.

Peter Andes just completed his second summer as an intern with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. He left last week to begin his freshman year at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Viable Compromise Reached with Planning & Zoning

The road to consensus on planning and zoning matters can be a bumpy one but the past two month’s work with the Worcester County comprehensive rezoning has proven that when people work together harmony is possible.
While there are several issues that were not resolved to the liking of all in the conservation community, the middle ground reached so far in the principal issues surrounding the county’s rezoning represent a viable compromise.
The Worcester County Department of Development Review and Permitting have met several times with the county planning commission to hash out the details of issues in the revamped code ranging from commercial zoning to conservation of agricultural land. In general, the recommendations from staff and the planning commission have made the comprehensive rezoning more in step with the award winning Worcester County Comprehensive Plan passed in 2006.
Specifically, the group agreed to draft language to
• No longer zone South Point for higher density
• Scale back the more permissive agricultural zoning (A-2) and limit development from certain soil types in the district while protecting parcels for farming and forestry
• Keep true agricultural zoning (A-1) free of golf courses, campgrounds and other non-agricultural uses
• Not permit upzoning of random parcels that property owners requested outside designated growth areas

Although the Coastal Bays Program would have also liked to see (1) a transfer of development rights program for the excess commercial zoning on Route 50 from Ocean City to Berlin and for large lot estate zoning, (2) mandatory conservation subdivision design, (3) and addressing of TMDLs (maximum allowable nutrient load) for subwatersheds, we understand the process is one compromise.
Along with the comprehensive rezoning, the planning commission should take steps to make sure an ill-conceived service road through a forested wetland complex south of US 50 from Holly Grove Road to Flower Street is either rerouted or nixed for the original State Highway-approved road that avoids the heavily wooded area.
The county’s reorganization of planning and zoning staff should also include a Comprehensive Planning Department which was dismantled in the move to “streamline” county government. Currently the county has no organized comprehensive planning but will need it to protect the long-term ecological and economic viability of Worcester County and keep pace with national trends in professional planning.
It’s now up to the Worcester County Commissioners to make sure the re-zoning and the road are consistent with the comprehensive plan. We are hopeful that they will continue to listen to their experienced planning staff, the county planning commission, and the citizens of Worcester County.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Goodbye and Thanks to our Summer Interns


Maryland Coastal Bays Program summer interns worked in Bishopville last week surveying the fish population of Bunting Branch stream. From left to right, Salisbury University senior Robert Causey of Delmar; Kenney Olukoga of Nigeria, a junior at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Peter Andes of Berlin, soon to be a freshman at University of Maryland Baltimore County; and Renee Laffite of Honduras, a junior at Loyola University. The group is finishing their work with the MCBP this week.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thanks to Local Businesses!

The economic climate is a tough one right now for everyone, particularly for small businesses. We are all struggling and non-profits are no exception. We couldn’t hope to accomplish our goal to protect and enhance our bays without the help of others, which is why we’d like to publicly thank those businesses and organizations who have provided us with opportunities to raise money even as our economy is in the midst of major challenges.
In the past year or so there have been several events designed solely to raise money for the Coastal Bays Program.
• In October the 707 Bar and Grille sponsored a golf tournament at Eagles Landing Golf Club to benefit the MCBP. It was their concept, and for a first time event it was quite successful.
• The Original Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille in North Ocean City made us the recipient of their December Funds for Friends program for the second consecutive year.
• Last month Seacrets allowed us to collect all cover charges between 5 and 9 pm on a busy Thursday night.
• More than 55 participants competed in the first annual catch and release White Clam Open at Macky’s Bayside Bar & Grill on Aug. 9. All proceeds from competition entry were donated to the MCBP.
• The Ocean City Development Corporation allowed us to host its Free Music Tuesday concert at Sunset Park in Ocean City Aug. 11, with guest artist Randy Lee Ashcraft and the Saltwater Cowboys.
Businesses have helped in other ways as well. In March we made our first foray into the Delmarva Irish-American annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Thanks to the help of Denny Sharp of High Tide Marine, Su Lane of Sun Signs Ryan Murphy and Shane Murphy of Go Green Painting & Home Improvements we were able to create a fabulous float that went on to win first prize. We should also thank D3 Corp for helping us rebuild our very expansive website at a vastly reduced price.
And although they are technically not business owners, we must also thank Jim and Bonnie Griffin who last month donated one adult and one child’s bike to our canoe and bike rental stand. The couple work for the stand, which is located at Assateague Island National Seashore, and decided to help us out with the donation, valued at $425.
As in previous years, the town of Ocean City, as well as Jolly Rogers owner Buddy Jenkins, will donate items or services for Coast Day on Sept. 19. On October 3 we will hold our 10th annual Osprey Triathlon. We already have many sponsors, which we will publicly thank in a separate column as the event gets closer.
We thank those businesses, groups and individuals (we hope we haven’t forgotten anyone) helping us continue our mission to preserve and protect the bays behind Ocean City and Assateague through research, education and outreach programs. We hope and believe that such generosity is also good for business. We know it’s good for our bays.

If you’d like to help, please contact our new development coordinator Sandi Smith at sandis@mdcoastalbays.org.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coastal Bays Program Awards $30,000 for Local Environmental Projects

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program Community Stewardship Mini-Grant Program awarded $30,000 to local community groups for projects designed to help protect wildlife and water quality. A total of 17 local groups applied for available money from the 2009-2010min-grant fund. The following 13 projects were awarded:

• $1,000 – Assateague Coastal Trust for its annual Coast Day event.
• $690 – Worcester County 4-H for a shrinking habitat course and another bay pollutants.
• $1,000 – Ocean City Power Squadron for materials for safe boating training.
• $3,000 – Worcester County Government for a reprint of its rain garden how to manual.
• $1,500 – Town of Berlin to construct a demonstration rain garden at Stephen Decatur Park.
• $2,500 – Assateague Coastal Trust/Coast Kids for educational materials.
• $1,750 – Green Team of the Community Church of Ocean Pines for a rain barrel workshop.
• $920 – Worcester County Government for materials for a land stewardship conference.
• $4,540 – Delmarva Flying WILD Across the Maryland Coastal Bays training, activities and educational materials.
• $5,000 – Delmarva Low-Impact tourism Experiences for the Coastal Stewards Program.
• $1,600 – Ocean Pines Environment and Natural Assets Advisory Committee for an educational campaign regarding the pond at the South Gate area.
• $2,500 – Lower Shore Land Trust for outreach materials.
• $4,000 – Lower Eastern Shore Sustainable Organic Network for outreach materials and website enhancement.

The goal of the Mini-Grants Program is to increase public awareness and public involvement in restoring and protecting Maryland's Coastal Bays and its tributaries. This program is made possible through private contributions made to MCBP and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
To guide its grant-making decisions, MCBP and CBT use the goals in the management plan for the Coastal Bays, which seeks to improve water quality, restore and improve fish and wildlife populations and habitat, improve navigation and recreation, and insure sound development and planning for our community. Priority is given to those proposals that adhere to the plan, offer match monies or in-kind services, and show committed partnerships.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Free Concert Tonight in Ocean City

Visit Sunset Park in Ocean City on Tuesday, Aug. 11 from 7:30 - 9 pm for a free concert featuring Randy Lee Ashcraft and the Saltwater Cowboys and help support our bays at the same time.

Sponsored by the Ocean City Development Corporation, Free Music Tuesdays at Sunset Park Aug. 11 will be hosted by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. Bring your own lawn chair and enjoy the concert at this scenic park located on S. Division Street and the bayside in downtown Ocean City.

Randy Lee Ashcraft has been entertaining people all over the country for more than 15years and has opened for several national acts such as Lonestar, Toby Keith, Travis Tritt, and Sawyer Brown.

The mission of the Ocean City Development Corporation is to create and foster a safe and attractive environment in which innovative public and private sector partnerships will collaborate to maximize available resources and opportunities, and eliminate barriers to revitalization in downtown Ocean City.

For more information call the OCDC at 410-289-7739 or the Coastal Bays Program at 410-213-BAYS.

Monday, August 10, 2009

First Annual White Clam Open a Success!




More than 55 participants competed in the first annual catch and release White Clam Open at Macky’s Bayside Bar & Grill on Sunday afternoon. Macky’s owners Pam and Macky Stansell donated all proceeds from competition entry fees – totaling about $400 – to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

Berlin Couple's Yard is Wildlife Habitat




We devote much time talking about issues and policies that affect the health of natural resources – as well we should – but it’s also important to recognize those in the community who strive to make our watershed even better.

Two such people are Mike and Helen Wiley of Berlin. Mike, a retired lieutenant from the Anne Arundel Fire Department and Helen, a former sign language interpretater, moved to Berlin a few years ago. Always nature lovers, they have taken the time to landscape their backyard in such a way that it has now become a place where bunnies, butterflies, and all kinds of birds can call home. In fact, their Buttercup Road yard is now an official Certified Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Foundation.

The Wileys created this haven because they deeply believe that wildlife must have places to feel safe from predators, people and inclement weather. Increasing development has taken away that space, so a backyard habitat provides a wonderful sanctuary to help wildlife to thrive, the couple says.

These fourth generation naturalists still own the Wildlife Foundation book Mike’s mother gave the couple at Christmas in 1974. Mike says his mom was environmentalist before the word was coined and was involved in the grassroots effort to bring recycling to Annapolis. Helen’s father was avid gardener and she has always loved nature. Together the couple encouraged their two daughters, and now six grandchildren, to respect and care for natural resources and wildlife.

Their Cape Saint Clair half-acre lot home in Annapolis had also been designated as a Certified Wildlife Habitat that included 500 square foot of woods and wildflowers which became a refuge for box turtles, woodpeckers, and a screech owl. Their Berlin yard includes several bird houses, two bird baths, three bird feeders plus a suet cake area, a wet sandy area, a small rock pile, an above ground pond, a brush pile, and a row of Leyland Cyprus and a small rain garden of sorts. This yard is now a habitat that attracts a variety of birds, including hummingbirds, toads, rabbits, butterflies, and the occasional fox just to name a few.

When the Wiley’s received certification for their Annapolis home in the early 1990s it was certificate number 10,788. Their Berlin certification is 117,508. The NWF began the Wildlife Habitat certification program in 1973 and has certified more than 150,000 habitats nationwide. According to the NWF website the majority of these sites represent these home habitats, the organization has also certified more than thousands of schools and hundreds of businesses and other sites.

A wildlife sanctuary can be accomplished on a small apartment balcony or on a multi-acre farm, outside a business or at a community center. By providing food, water, cover and a place for wildlife to raise their young, and by incorporating sustainable gardening practices, these areas can restore lost habitat for wildlife.

The Wiley’s concern for our natural resources continues beyond the confines of their yard. Mike is a member of the Berlin Parks Commission and in charge of the recycling program for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Helen volunteers to run the church’s thrift shop, where donated items, recycled, renewed and reused.

The Wiley’s believe their habitat is a small way to improve the natural resources in our community. As Mike puts it, local governments don’t have extra money these days to put toward improving parks, so creating a haven for wildlife in their backyard is one small and inexpensive, but significant way to mitigate that loss.

For more information on how to create a certified wildlife habitat, go to the National Wildlife Federation website at nwf.org.