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

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

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thanks to Jim and Bonnie Griffin

Thanks to Maryland Coastal Bays Program Canoe and Bike Stand staffers Jim and Bonnie Griffin who donated two bikes to the stand last month. The adult bike is a 26-inch Jamis Earthcruiser and a child’s Mongoose 20”-inch. Together the bikes are valued at a total of $425. The canoe and bike rental stand is located at Assateague Island National Seashore. The stand rents canoes, kayaks, adult cruiser bikes, child size bikes and clam rakes. Proceeds go to help fund the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The First Annual White Clam Open this Sunday at Macky's

Don’t Miss the First Annual
White Clam Open
A catch and release
sporting alternative to the world famous
White Marlin Open
at Macky’s Bayside Bar & Grill
54th Street on the Bay
Sunday, August 9, 2009
11am – 2pm

Catch clams from the clear and shallow waters off of Macky’s Bayside Beach to compete to win trophies awarded for: “Most Clams Caught” and “Biggest Bivalve Bucketed”

The 5 Clams ($5) entry fee benefits the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, and entitles the Clammer to a complimentary Clamamato Bloody Mary

If you can walk in water, use a rake, or feel with your toes, this is the tourney for you. The clams are waiting, because that’s what they do!

For more information call Macky’s Bayside Bar & Grill at 410-723-5565

Monday, August 3, 2009

MCBP Remains a Consensus Building Organization

by Dave Wilson Jr.

In recent weeks, many champions of the environment have asked why the Maryland Coastal Bays Program has not been more vocal about the Worcester County planning reorganization and some parts of the zoning code.

While the program was disappointed with the process used in the reorganization and the result, and while we provided numerous comments about ways to improve the comprehensive rezoning, we do not take advocacy positions.

As part of the National Estuary Program, we work with partners to reach consensus on issues related to conservation in the bays behind Ocean City and Assteague. Ocean City, Berlin, Worcester County, the state of Maryland and the US Environmental Protection agency are all partners who work hard to fulfill the goals in the Coastal Bays Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan,--created by local farmers, developers, scientists, recreational and commercial fishermen, tourism professionals and local business owners.

Since 1996 our focus has been to protect and enhance the health of the bays behind Assateague and Ocean City, and our method to accomplish these goals has always been to reach common ground through listening and learning. Our work represents a consensus of the best means needed to preserve the economic and ecological prosperity of the coastal bays in the next century.

Unlike advocacy groups, consensus building groups seek to achieve overwhelming agreement after sincere efforts are made to meet the interests of all stakeholders. It should be noted, however, that consensus building does not have a goal of unanimity. Rather it is successful when everyone involved can live with the final agreement and that every effort has been made to address stakeholders’ priority interests.

To be sure, when our partners eschew their commitments or when they act in a manner that gives priority to special interests rather than the community as a whole, we will work to get them back on track.

Advocacy groups like Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT) work differently. According to its mission statement, ACT works to “protect and enhance the natural resources of the Atlantic coastal bays watershed through advocacy, conservation, and education.” ACT has a long history of environmental advocacy in the coastal bays, beginning with efforts in the early 1970s to preserve Assateague Island, which is now protected as a National Seashore. Such groups attempt to influence political decisions by trying to persuade public officials to act or vote according to the organization’s position. These groups seek to influence the political and regulatory process through lobbying efforts. There is an important place for this, but it is not with the National Estuary Program.

We often agree with ACT and often we also disagree. True, we share a common goal with ACT to preserve and protect the watershed, but our methods to accomplish these goals are quite different. That said, no matter what we do or don’t do, there will always be some who think the Coastal Bays Program goes too far to protect the watershed, while there will be others who believe we don’t go far enough.
Despite angering a few on the extremes, we will continue to build a consensus to provide a forum for stakeholder interests for mutually acceptable solutions.

Dave Wilson Jr. is the Executive Director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.