6,000 Virginians Giving Back to the Bay

IMG_20160604_102908Saturday June 4 marked the 28th Annual Clean the Bay Day, a yearly seismic eruption of volunteers, all descending on waterways throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia to give a little back. And all those small individual efforts had a massive cumulative effect once again.

As CBF's single largest annual clean-up event—and one of the largest volunteer programs in Virginia—Clean the Bay Day brought several thousand people together to clean up harmful debris and litter from hundreds of miles of streams and shoreline in just three short hours!

In the birthplace of the program, all seven cities of the Hampton Roads area were absolutely overflowing with volunteers. The Navy had a precedent-setting turnout and even ran out of places to clean! Every state park in the Chesapeake watershed in Virginia (22 total) fielded clean-up teams. Our clean-up sites in Richmond and Charlottesville specifically saw a tremendous spike in volunteers this year. And we had our first bilingual "Día de la Bahía" clean-up event, which attracted more than 50 volunteers from the Richmond-area Latino community. Clean the Bay Day also helped kick off the very first #ChesapeakeBay Awareness Week, which continues through June 12. The enormity of this event never ceases to amaze.

NewNumbers are still rolling in, but here are the impressive stats that we've tallied thus far from the day's events:

  • Approximately 6,000 volunteers;

  • Roughly 138,000 pounds of debris removed;

  • More than 440 miles of streams and shoreline cleaned; 

  • All in just three hours;

  • A mix of 20 elected officials (federal, state, and local), government appointees, and more participated; DSC_0578

  • Approximately 25 organizations participated;

  • 13 military installations took part, including more than 1,200 enlisted and their families;

  • 22 Virginia State Parks participated; 

  • 265 clean-up sites across Virginia.


As usual, the most common items found during the cleanup were plastic bottles, plastic bags, and cigarette butts. But household appliances, automobile parts (especially tires), furniture, shopping 1carts, ghost crab pots, and construction debris were a big part of the overall yield. Volunteers were also surprised by many strange finds including a lottery ticket station, a crock pot, a jet ski, a complete car transmission and an axle, multiple mattresses, a teddy bear with Mardi Gras beads, an enormous stuffed bear, a headless G.I. Joe doll, a taxidermy deer head, a screen door, a smart phone, a walkie-talkie, and two kitchen sinks.

Since 1989, Clean the Bay Day has engaged approximately 146,000 volunteers who have removed more than 6.4 million pounds of debris from more than 6,900 miles of shoreline.

—Tanner Council, Hampton Roads Grassroots Coordinator

Check out more photos from the day in our Facebook Photo Album.


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!


Part Two: From Sandbags to Black-Eyed Susans at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church

This is the second part in a series about how a Bel Air community tackled the problem of polluted runoff together. Click here to read part one.

Belair1
Rain gardens, like the ones installed at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Harford County, Maryland, filter rainwater and prevent eroded sediment and nutrient runoff from entering the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

We applied for and received a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to assist in the purchase of native vegetation, and Christ Our King's administration provided significant donations of time, money, and supplies. As rain gardens provide beautiful, effective ways to mitigate polluted stormwater, our team designed and installed two rain gardens that converted 1,200 square feet of turf grass to beds of sand/soil mixture growing 16 species of native shrubs and perennials.

Belair2
More than 60 volunteers, including Christ Our King members, a local Cub Scout pack, and interested citizens in the Harford County area came together to build rain gardens. And more than 400 native perennials and shrubs were planted to provide habitat for wildlife, filter excess nutrients and sediment, and prevent erosion on the property.

During a rain event, water temporarily collects on the garden surface, then soaks into the soil, removing pollutants and preventing erosion as it does. Native plants in the garden require little maintenance, provide habitat for local wildlife, and prevent toxins from reaching groundwater. Our rain gardens capture runoff from 4,000 square feet of roof and treat more than 2,300 gallons of polluted runoff during a one-inch rain event. That's more than eight tons of water! The water in the rain gardens infiltrates within 24 hours and alleviates flooding in the stormwater management pond

In addition, gutters around the parish house roof funnel collect 1,500 gallons of clean rainwater into a rain harvesting cistern for landscape maintenance. These cisterns help water nine vegetable garden beds that support families in the congregation. Catching rainwater this way protects the rain gardens during extreme storms.

Moreover, this water keeps the landscaping and gardens productive and reduces the Parish's need for municipal water. When a rains storm occurs, the first quarter of an inch of water collects the highest concentration of bacteria and debris from the roof. This "first flush" of polluted water enters the gutter system, where a diverter and filter system directs it to the rain gardens, helping to keep the cistern clean, and lessening maintenance demands.

Belair3
Community members installed a 1,500-gallon cistern that stores clean rainwater for the vegetable beds and flower gardens at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. Cisterns and rain barrels are an excellent alternative to municipal water for watering plants or even washing cars.

This coordinated series of best management practices has alleviated the flooding and erosion issues on the property associated with polluted stormwater runoff. Together, they provide a wildlife corridor for local pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds. Hummingbirds have been visiting the gardens' bee balm and cardinal flower for nectar, and many bee species buzz around the black-eyed susans and mistflower for pollen. The Sunday school classes and the youth group created interpretive signage to educate visitors about how the rain gardens and cistern are helping to alleviate polluted runoff. The youngest volunteers even converted parts of scrap wooden pallets into garden markers.

And what happened to the sand bags? 

We used their contents to make up the soil mix for the rain gardens. Christ Our King Presbyterian may be only one church, but our project has greatly benefited our common property as well as Bynum and Winters Runs. We hope our experience will inspire and inform other churches to take on similar projects for the benefit of God's Creation.

—Julia Poust, Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer


Part One: From Sandbags to Black-Eyed Susans at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church

Polluted-runoff-1-e
Polluted runoff from storms is a major source of water pollution in Harford County.

In all of Maryland's political fights over stormwater runoff pollution (remember the "rain tax"?), there was precious little conversation about the local benefits that county programs would bring. Nor did opponents ever admit that most of those programs included significant incentives for local people to join with their county governments to help solve issues like flooding. Here's the story of one of those local projects that benefited both a local waterway and its people.

Harford County, between Baltimore and the Susquehanna River, was one of the jurisdictions that objected to polluted runoff fees. Despite its long and proud history of agriculture, including preservation of close to 50,000 acres through state easements that protect that land from commercial and residential development, its relative proximity to Baltimore is driving up suburban population growth. The agricultural easements have actually concentrated most of the county's growth in the I-95 corridor and along Route 24, which crosses the interstate in the watersheds of Bynum Run and Winters Run to serve the county seat of Bel Air.

Both streams flow to the Bush River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay's upper Western Shore. The Bush offers habitat for waterfowl, blue crabs, yellow perch, white perch, rockfish, largemouth bass, and juvenile menhaden, but sediment runoff from developed land is rapidly filling its tidal wetlands and channels.

The Bynum Run watershed is now heavily urbanized, becoming one of the most densely populated areas in Harford County. In fact, 70 percent of the total area is covered by impervious surfaces such as paved roads, driveways, and parking lots. The Maryland Department of the Environment has listed Bynum Run as a biologically impaired waterway, damaged by channelization and smothered by sediment.

As a lifelong Harford County resident, I have witnessed stormwater flowing off our rooftops, over our lawns and pavement, down storm drains, and directly into our nearest waterway. When rain events occur, water polluted with sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus, flows so fast that it disturbs both the bottom and the banks of the streambed, further eroding those banks and destroying habitat for the vegetation, macroinvertebrates (insect larvae), and fish that are native to the stream ecosystem.

As this year's Chesapeake Conservation Corps volunteer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I decided to focus my capstone project on protecting local stream health and working in my community to promote stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  My first thought was to work with my church, Christ Our King Presbyterian Church—a medium-sized congregation, straddling both the Bynum Run and Winters Run watersheds. Throughout the 16 years of attending Sunday school, youth group, vacation bible school, and regular services at Christ Our King, I have experienced first-hand the detrimental effects stormwater has on its property.

When founded 50 years ago, Christ Our King included a single building with a small parking lot. Jump to 2015: The parish has grown to more than 500 members and gone through two building expansions, significantly increasing the cumulative area of its rooftops and parking lot. The rest of the property is turf grass, broken by one grove of trees. During this growth, channeling the roof gutters directly into a stormwater management pond was the common practice to handle surface runoff, but it only intensified the volume and velocity of runoff entering the pond.

But for the past few years, the pond has not been able to handle the volume of an average rain event, frequently flooding the lower level classrooms and activity hall, and a neighbor's property. Like preparing for a hurricane, our only defense has been lining walkways with sandbags to protect the building against the overflowing pond. To combat the stormwater issues, some fellow Christ Our King members and I set about planning and installing a series of best management practice techniques to protect our church and lessen the pollution load entering the Bynum Run watershed.

The church is Bay-Wise-certified through the University of Maryland Master Gardeners' Program. Our Care of Creation Committee focuses on environmental stewardship, enhancing sustainable landscape practices, and raising awareness in the community of how local actions affect the Chesapeake Bay and the wider world.

Polluted-runoff-2-e
CBF's Doug Myers discusses how to support a healthy Chesapeake Bay with residents of Harford County.

The Care of Creation Committee holds an annual Earth Day Celebration, which this year featured an open discussion about local stream health and overall issues affecting the Chesapeake Bay. Doug Myers, senior scientist in the CBF's Maryland Office, led the session. Twenty local community members attended, including representatives from Christ Our King, the Master Gardener Program, the Senior Science Society of Harford Community College, and CBF members.

Many of the congregation's members live in single-family detached houses in suburban communities that lie along tributaries leading to the Gunpowder, Bush, and Susquehanna Rivers. Volunteers understand that polluted runoff from impervious surfaces and agricultural practices are responsible for the existing pollution problem in local waterways. They also have remarked that there is not a lot of public knowledge on how well local governments and individual citizens are fulfilling their responsibility for protecting water quality in the area. My goal was to provide the community with the necessary tools and hands-on experience needed to create rain gardens and other Bay-friendly practices in their own neighborhoods.

—Julia Poust, Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer

Click here to continue the story on how Julia was able to tackle polluted runoff at her Bel Air Church.


Christina's Clean Water Story

PC 0177
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!

 

 

 


Our Community on Camera!

Avalon-theatre
The Avalon Theatre in downtown Easton, Maryland.

What do the community of Easton, a menhaden fishing boat, and nesting pelicans all have in common?

 

You'll see all of them in film on October 17 at the Avalon Theatre in downtown Easton!

This past summer, CBF, in partnership with the Avalon Foundation, hosted the Clean Water Concert Series on Harrison Street in Easton, Maryland. These concerts brought the community outside to listen to some incredible music, learn more about the Chesapeake Bay, and visit with local environmental organizations.

While the music was playing and people were up and dancing, Midshore Community Television (MCTV) was collecting clean water testimonials from concert goers, who shared their stories about living on the Eastern Shore and the connection we as a community feel to the Chesapeake Bay (perhaps you were one of them?!).

Throughout the course of the concerts it became clear that not only is the Chesapeake a part of our daily lives here on the Eastern Shore, it also has a special place in our hearts. From the stories of people who grew up wading in the Choptank and working the fishing boats, to those who found their way down here and stayed, it's clear that the Bay links us all together. So, lets take a moment to celebrate that connection with our community, with the Bay, and with the 18 million other people, and 3,000 different species of plants and animals who share this watershed.

On Thursday, October 17, from 7 p.m.–9 p.m., CBF will premiere some of these videos at the Avalon Theatre, along with some other videos that Chesapeake Bay Foundation has put together to highlight the incredible community of people and wildlife who live alongside, and depend upon, the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

This film event is free and open to the public, so come on out. Come see your community on camera and learn more about the connections we all have to the Chesapeake Bay!

See you at the movies!

Bess Trout, CBF's Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist 


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.

*******

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.

*******

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.

********

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.

*******

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!