Lea's Clean Water Story

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Girl Scout Lea Bonner with CBF's Heather North.

Since my early childhood, I have had a passion for marine science and protecting our coastal ecosystems. My interest started with spending lots of time on the beaches, bays, and sounds in California, North Carolina, and Virginia. I enjoy swimming, sailing, and surfing and am concerned about how human activities are impacting our coastal systems.

For the past two years, I have participated in Marine Science summer education programs at the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute on the Outer Banks. When I discovered that currently there is no oyster collection program in the City of Chesapeake, Virginia, I decided to create one. My hope is to create a collection program that will help sustain the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay and educate restaurants on the importance of oyster restoration.

The Chesapeake's native oyster population plays a critical role in the Bay ecosystem. Oysters filter algae and pollution from the Bay waters. In fact, one adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day! But with pollution and overharvesting, the Bay's oyster population has been reduced to more than 90 percent of its historic level.

2Through establishing a collection program for oyster shells in Chesapeake-area seafood restaurants, this project will assist in recycling shells to create oyster reefs to repopulate the Bay with healthy oysters. This project will also include an outreach and education program with restaurants and residents to support pollution prevention and sustainability of the Chesapeake's oyster population. 

As a member of Girl Scout Troop 643, I rely on a sound foundation of science, community service, and written/verbal communications. Working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and local restaurants requires teamwork and development of partnerships. Through this project, I hope to gain knowledgeable insights in marine science, ecological science, and public engagement as well as valuable leadership skills.

Recently, I went to different restaurants around Chesapeake, asking them to participate in the collection program. I explained the details, including pick-up information and why I am doing the project. I showed the kitchen managers or owners the size and type of bucket we are using, and showed pictures of the oysters and collection centers. I gave them my contact information, brochures, and stickers, and answered any questions they had. I also showed them the list of restaurants that already participate in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Hampton. The restaurants that agreed included The Black Pelican, Surf Rider, Pirates Cove, Red Bones, Butcher's Son, and Kelly's Tavern. I plan to start collecting the oyster buckets from the restaurants very soon!

—Lea Bonner

What does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your clean water story here!

 

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A Park Manager Looks Back on 27 Clean the Bay Days

59093_1590688095987_7547821_nIn the spring of 1989, 16-year-old Cameron Swain went on an outing with her family in Hampton Roads to pick up trash on a beach. As a teenager, she didn't realize that the small informal cleanup would become the first ever Clean the Bay Day, now going stronger than ever as it enters its 28th year. 

Swain has watched the event grow from its grassroots infancy in the late 1980s and early 1990s to a longtime Virginia tradition that mobilizes thousands across the Commonwealth to beautify their local waterways.

In recent years, Clean the Bay Day has attracted 6,000 to 8,000 volunteers at sites stretching from coastal Virginia to Richmond, Charlottesville, the Shenandoah Valley, and Northern Virginia. In just three hours participants often pick up well over 100,000 pounds of trash.

Just as she has for nearly 20 years, on the first Saturday of June Swain will lead her own Clean the Bay Day site at False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach, where she is the assistant park manager. At False Cape, a few dozen people usually come out to clean the six miles of beach, often picking up between 500 and 1,000 pounds of trash in one morning.

"You get the same volunteers year after year. Now they are bringing their children," Swain says, recalling toddlers at the first cleanup who now come out as adults. "You see these people evolve and grow."

11066783_10153821018615943_1759498088508493681_nOver the years, participants have recovered all sorts of trash from the park's beach. "Now that I've been doing it so many years, nothing really surprises me," she says, listing everything from computer screens and light bulbs to tires and bathing suits. "You name it, it's probably washed up on the beach at one time."

When you consider the sheer number of people who participate, it is amazing how one morning's effort transforms hundreds of miles of beaches, parks, rivers, and streams. The massive collaborative effort across Virginia every Clean the Bay Day is "heartwarming," Swain says. "Even if it's the only time they do it this year, that makes a real difference," she says.

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

Be a part of the Virginia tradition! Sign up for this year's Clean the Bay Day.

 


Joseph's Clean Water Story


19052267_25244661_thebayThe Bay has played a huge part in my life. I've been fishing since I was two years old. The first time being back in 1998 on the Choptank River with my dad.

My life has revolved around the pursuit of fish. Living in Maryland has given me opportunities to do so. But, over the years the lack of clean water, fish, and forage has affected the fishing tremendously. I've had to pursue fish in other states like New York, New Jersey, and even down south to South Carolina.

The fishing has declined, and I'm beginning to see less fish every day. Growing up I used to see schools of bunker being blitzed on by stripers. It was hard not to see a school of baitfish roaming around. But now its all but ghost waters. These bunker schools don't appear—if you're lucky you can see a few swim by. If you're lucky.

Being a U.S. Marine, I learned the value of pride in oneself. I take that pride into where I live and fish. I love Maryland, and I'd love to fish here, too. But without the proper care and pride taken into caring for the Bay's health, I've had to pursue fishing elsewhere. I'd love to see more fish and more life within the Bay. And we can help. Whether its by picking up trash, recycling oyster shells, planting underwater grasses, or releasing a large cow striper in the spring to spawn—it's these small things we can do to help.

I want to see a Bay that we can not only fish, but can swim in as well. I hate hearing people bad mouth the health of the Bay, instead we should hear more people telling each other about how they helped the Bay and how it played a role in their lives. The Bay provided me with fishing and an opportunity to relax and have fun. But with its health depleted we need to help give back to the Bay that has given so much to us.

—Joseph Anonuevo
Ellicott City, Maryland 

What does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your clean water story here!


Christina's Clean Water Story

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Photo by Damon Fodge.

"When I was a little girl there was a sandy beach at the foot of Market Street in Historic Annapolis. At that time the waters of Spa Creek were clean and clear enough that we would collect brine shrimp, minnows, baby crabs, and snails.

As an adult, I live in Shady Side, Maryland. We live a block from the Bay. Our neighborhood has recently completed a shoreline restoration project so we have a little sandy beach. It [has] been tough seeing the [Bay's] decline over the years in so many areas, but it looks like people are taking a serious interest in [restoring our waters] and giving back. It's great to see."  

—Christina Demorest-Sugg
Shady Side, Maryland 

What does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your clean water story here!

 

 

 


Karen's Clean Water Story

KarenWathen_19052253_rockfishGifts of the Chesapeake 

In a deep slumber, I feel a hard, calloused hand grab my foot and vigorously shake it. This is Dad's traditional signal to communicate to me that it is time to go. Neither of us utters a single word; just a simple shake of the foot and I know exactly what to do. Like clockwork, I leap out of bed, throw on a few layers of clothes and sprint to the 18' Carolina skiff tied up to our dock. I jump into the boat where my Dad is impatiently waiting for me to untie the bow so we can cast out on our usual Saturday morning adventure.

There he sits in his captain's chair, with his arms folded tightly and perched atop his belly, giving me the "you're-almost-late" look. In a crumpled up 7-Eleven bag, I spy two cream-filled doughnuts atop the steering console: our usual Saturday morning treats. I rush to release the bow lines as I anticipate biting into a creamy, chocolate covered doughnut while watching the sun perch above the Chesapeake. My seven-year-old spirit bubbles with excitement as I hear the roar of the outboard motor gear up for another big day. Racing the rise of the springtime sun, we chart out through the cool and misty open waters.

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When the calendar falls on April 20th in Southern Maryland, people drop their boats in to the frigid, brackish waters and set out to stalk the king of the Chesapeake: the striped bass. The morone saxatilis, better known as the rockfish, striper, and/or striped bass is a highly respected and cared-for population. In 2007, President George W. Bush issued an executive order that the coveted striped bass be considered a protected game fish. The striper is one of Maryland's most vital commercial and recreational fish; so important, in fact, it has been declared the Maryland state fish. The rockfish provides the people of the Chesapeake Bay watershed with delicious meals but also a challenge that fosters intimate relationships amongst those who seek to catch this special species.

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We finally reach the prime real estate for our hunt of the coveted striper. Dad rushes around the boat, gathering the rods, fidgeting with the lures, attempting to steer clear of neighboring vessels and keeping a keen eye on the depth finder. At the tender age of ten-years-old, I stand in awe as I watch him perfect the process. Flawlessly, he executes the preparation and gracefully drops two lines into the depths of the Chesapeake. With our bellies full of sugary sweets, we sit side-by-side anxiously awaiting a bite from a striper. It is during these idle times that the true pleasure of fishing is elicited.

I listen to Dad tell me about how things were back in his day; he narrates stories of adventures and triumph in an animated and fabricated manner that keeps me on the edge of my cold, plastic seat. He talks about how he walked five miles to school, uphill both ways and tells innumerable tall tales of his childhood. I reciprocate the story swapping by rambling on about the boy in school that I like and how he never waits for me after lunch and how he always pays more attention to my friend Chelsea. He listens intently and advises me to move on; my ten-year-old spirit is devastated but there is a sense of safety in his voice that compels me to take his advice. We sit and talk until we see a sharp bend in one of our rods; the secret sharing stops and the action begins.

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Trolling is the most popular strategy used to capture stripers in the Chesapeake. It consists of setting up fishing lines, dropping them over the sides of the boat and slowly cruising through open water as the lures drag behind. The slow glide of the boat gives the tacky, brightly colored lures a lively spin which makes them look quite appealing to the hungry stripers who lurk within the dark waters of the Chesapeake. The infamous striper is known as a "lazy feeder," meaning that when it feeds, it travels with the current and simply eats what it comes across rather than fighting the current and searching for prey; this fact is crucial to ones success in capturing the coveted striper. Within the charter industry, trolling is a very popular strategy because it is a relatively simple and hands-off process. This allows the attendees on the boat an ample amount of time to kick back, enjoy a few beers and simply revel in the beauty of the Chesapeake. It should be noted that even though this is a relatively simple process, when the striper finally bites the trolling lures, a dramatic bend in the rod warrants grown adults to propel themselves into a mass hysteria of excitement. These fish are true fighters and it can sometimes take upward of half an hour to get one striper reeled in.

Other techniques used to capture the striper also include jigging, bottom fishing, and surf fishing. One of the most exhausting and exhilarating strategies used to capture the striper is the jig. Jigging is a technique where a boat anchors near a submerged structure in the water such as pilings or docks. From there, the striper-seekers take a rod with multiple fish shaped lures on the end and bob it vigorously up and down in the water at a considerable depth. This makes an illusion of a school of fish and stripers go crazy at the sight of fast movements and bright colors of the lures. This technique is used less on charter boats more so for the individuals who consider themselves true anglers. Trolling seems to be the charter strategy of choice in the Chesapeake because of the perfect dichotomy between action and relaxation that it provides.

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I am looking at a photograph framed in my room. Twenty-years-old, there I stand on that same dock that I raced down each Saturday morning as I anxiously awaited our fishing trips. My Dad and I stand closely with excited eyes after one of these exhilarating mornings spent fishing the depths of the Chesapeake. I am gripping the mouth of my thirty-inch rockfish with both hands, trying to hold back laughter as my Dad cracks a joke about how he can barely hold it up. My face indicates that I am struggling to keep it in my hands; looking at the photo, I can feel my arms quivering and my grip slipping from the slimy coating of the fish. I am reminded of how hard I constantly tried to impress him with every detail of my life; if I drop this fish, I will never hear the end of it. I am the strong daughter; the closest thing to a son that Dad has and I can see myself in this photo filling those shoes.

Dad stands next to me with his entire forearm stuffed up into the gill of a forty-eight-inch striper. Effortlessly, he holds up the humongous fish; he is truly the last John Wayne. Never one to crack a smile in a photograph, I can see the faintest look of excitement in my father's eye and I can see that the times we have spent together on the Chesapeake have given us much more than just a few big fish. Looking at this photo, I am reminded of the striking dichotomy of both the closeness and distance between us; we stand together with only our elbows gracing one another. Close enough to touch but far enough away that it doesn’t appear too "soft."

Karen Wathen
Leonardtown, Maryland 

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!



Nadine's Clean Water Story

Mom photo"I am the mother of four beautiful children. I am concerned not only about them but about their children and their children's children and their children's children.

What we do now creates all of their futures. Are they not going to be able to know the joy of crossing a stream by hopping from stone to stone? Are they never to peer down into the river and see crayfish at work? Will the stench of the river be too overwhelming that when they need to sit by its banks and listen to its music they will find no respite? I want them to have a world filled with all forms of life. I want them to hear and see the frogs and tadpoles in the spring and to be able to hone their reflexes by catching them instead of with video games.

We as people need wildness, and we need to cherish its message of inter-related individuality. I want that for our children and for the generations to come."

—Nadine Zsebenyi
Baltimore, Maryland

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!


Sam's Clean Water Story

SamSchoedel_photo1This [past spring] we planted a garden . . . to help reduce [stormwater] runoff to the Bay. The garden will help by sucking up [pollution] and stopping it from going into [our] rivers and eventually into the Bay . . . 

Our final project in science [class this spring] was to research a plant and make a presentation about it for our garden. Our group wanted to do something different, so we did the purple pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant. This plant would help the garden by absorbing runoff and eating pesky insects. The only downside to this plant was the constant pruning and babying that would go into it. Most of the other plants [for our garden] were perennials . . . but didn't have to be pruned constantly.

In the end, our plant was not chosen [for the garden], but it was still fun to [grow], and I enjoyed knowing that we were helping the Bay by planting a garden. [My close friend] David Deaderick said, "Every plant counts." It is very true.

—Sam Schoedel
Fredericksburg, Virginia

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!

Reflections from a Summer Intern

Emma RodvienAs summer intern season begins, we are wistfully thinking about all the inspiring young leaders that have helped us in summers past. Last year we were fortunate enough to have Emma Rodvien come intern with us in CBF's Education Department as part of the William & Mary Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow Fellowship (TCT). Emma had taken part in many meaningful CBF experiences pior to her internship—from participating in a Karen Noonan Center Field Experience to taking part in several CBF Student Leadership Courses. These experiences led her to pursue education in college and to come back to us again last summer as an intern. Take a peak below at her thoughts on her lastest CBF experience. 

 

As I prepared myself for this internship, I distilled a set of questions that I hoped to answer during my time as an intern. I applied to the TCT program with the overarching goal of gaining insight into the education field. If learning about environmental education was my organizing question, my supporting questions were as follows: How does outdoor education differ from classroom education? In what ways can the lessons and experiences from outside the classroom be effectively introduced within the classroom? How can I utilize my interests and talentsscience and otherwisefor education purposes? Investigating these questions was a foremost expectation for my internship.

I dove into my internship hoping to learn more about the world of environmental non-profits. Prior to the internship, I was familiar with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation from a student's perspective. Naturally, gaining an "insider's perspective" into CBF as an employee or educator was a true curiosity of mine, one that would allow me to explore the intersections of my interests in communications, social science, and the environment.

Observations from the Field
Perhaps the most meaningful lesson that I learned throughout my internship was how the Bay can intrigue every sense. This concept was certainly embodied in the field experiences of my internship! Each of my senses was heightened in the field, captivated by the life and spirit of the Bay. To focus on just one would be to deny the Bay's influence on another; instead, I will recount Bay memories from the perspective of all five senses:

1. I saw...  The orange sunrise over Port Isobel's eastern marshes, the pink sunset over its western shore, the frantic scattering of fiddler crabs around my feet, the sky severed by lightning bolts, illuminated in a tie-dyed pattern of black and white, the slow and synchronized Clagett cows migrating between fields, the momentary terror that dances across students' faces at first touch of a catfish, the proud smiles when they finally pick one up and hold it.

2. I smelled... The pungent odors of a wastewater treatment plant, the salty smack of Virginia Beach air, the slow and wafting scent of marsh detritus, the sweet smell of blue crabs and the tang of Old Bay seasoning, the earthy air as a storm blows in over Port Isobel.

3. I tasted... Sustainably grown radishes from Clagett Farm, the oily lips of menhaden bait, the bitter sting of brackish water against my tongue, the delicious flakiness of Captain Charles' fried trout.

4. I heard... The comforting cluck of Clagett's chickens, the deafening roar of airplanes and helicopters over the Potomac, the wind meandering its way through marsh grasses, the friendly horns of Tangier's boats, the roll of thunder and the crack of lightning, the subtle "whoooosh" of a blue heron overhead, the bubbling of blue crabs recirculating their water.

5. I touched... The pointy tops of Black Needlerush, the slippery side of a Spot fish, the prickly spikes of a Northern Puffer, the perfect smoothness of Diamondback Terrapin eggs, the blisteringly hot black seat of my canoe, the worn ropes of a trawl net, the bristly hair of Clagett's cows.

—Emma Rodvien

 Ensure that Emma and future generations continue to have these life-changing moments along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint! 


Creola's Clean Water Story

197Photo by Creola Brossman.

Clean water is very important to me. I grew up in the Hampton Roads area in Virginia. My friends were always at Buckroe Beach during the summer sunbathing and swimming like most teenage girls were doing.

I'm living in Pennsylvania now and make frequent visits back to the beach at Buckroe. I have been back to visit every year as my sisters still live in the area. [I] have brought my husband to the beach and would like to share my childhood with my grandson, who is to be born this July. [My hope is that] the beach would be just as pristine as it was when I was a child.

Michael's Clean Water Story

MichaelSheehanCity Dock in Annapolis earlier this month. "I was walking by the seawall and noticed the trash floating on the water. I darn near fell in trying to get the shot!" 

Multiple reasons can be given when discussing why clean water is vital to the ecologic, recreational, cultural, and economic resources of the Chesapeake Bay. By extension, clean water is important to anyone whose life benefits as a result of the Bay. Still, the most compelling reason is that the quality of our water, and thus the health of the Bay, is a reflection of the culture and values of the people who live upslope of its shores.

In a sense, the Bay is a record of our knowledge, values, and priorities. When we lived in ignorance of clean water, a dying ecosystem reflected a society that lacked the knowledge to recognize our connection to the living environment. When we did not value clean water, we saw corresponding losses in the value of the Bay's resources. And when we did not make clean water a priority, we did not make our obligation to future generations a priority.

We should always aspire to do great things. As a child, I remember the tremendous sense of national pride that Americans felt when we placed a man on the moon. It was a remarkable act that defined greatness. The people and governments of the Chesapeake Bay watershed have an opportunity to create a comparable legacy of greatness. If we are to take pride in ourselves, we can and must find the means to restore clean water in the Bay.

—Michael Sheehan

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!