Fox Island Magic

Fox
As Arthur Sherwood, one of CBF's founding members and first executive director, said: "The place to teach people about the Bay is on it and in it." Now in its 40th year, our education program has been doing just that, providing students and teachers with meaningful outdoor experiences on the Bay and its rivers and streams. And our Fox Island Education Center is no exception.

Fox Island is part of a string of salt water marshes surrounded by the Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds of Chesapeake Bay and is the ideal place to investigate how the Bay's health depends on its watershed of 64,000 square miles, 17 million people, and six state governments and the District of Columbia. The lodge was constructed in 1929 by the Fox Island Rod and Gun Club for recreational fishing and hunting. After many years of hunting and fishing, the group decided to donate the lodge to CBF. 

At Fox, we want to inspire current and future generations of environmental stewards. Even after 40 years, each field experience is completely unique, and this season has been filled with some amazing moments. Veritas School (an independent school in Richmond, Virginia) started our season off with a bang by breaking in the lodge and being the first school to join our "Conservation Challenge Hall of Fame"! This distinguished award is given to those groups that meet or exceed our conservation challenges in water usage, energy conservation, species identification, and S.L.O.P. (Stuff Left On Plate). Because of its unique elements, if Fox Island students use 3 gallons of water or less each, have less than three strikes in energy baseball (a race to shut off lights), identify at least 50 Chesapeake species, and have no S.L.O.P. after each meal, then they are true conservationists and are inducted into our "Hall of Fame." When students take these conservation practices home, they send out a wave of responsible resource use that influences their family, friends, and community.

Fox2

One of Veritas' favorite field investigations was exploring the submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and the critters that inhabit this environment. Using a crab scrape, a tool used by watermen for centuries that includes a metal frame and net that extends roughly 5 feet, we scraped the grass beds underneath the Walter Ridder, CBF's 40-foot, jet-drive field investigation boat, for about two minutes and dumped our catch onto the engine box. Sixteen students crowded around the Ridder’s engine box, sifting through the grasses, on the prowl for life. A habitat that provides food and protection for many types of animals, underwater grasses harbor large critters like terrapins, blue crabs, and fish, along with small mud crabs, amphipods, and shrimp.

As natural filters of pollutants and sediment, Bay grasses are incredible indicators of the health of the Bay. As students explore these grasses and the species that rely on them, with their hands and using books and dichotomous keys, the connection between the health of the Bay and the grasses is immediate. Further, we discuss what prevents these grasses from thriving, like contributing excess nutrients into the Bay's rivers and streams and overworking the grasses with large sediment loads.

Time and time again teachers and students talk about something called "Fox Magic." We certainly experienced that "magic" out there in the middle of the Bay with Veritas students, and I, too,  experienced that magic in high school on education experiences with CBF on Fox Island in 2010 and 2011. It's an honor to capture these awesome moments and speak for such a great place.

—Adam Dunn, CBF Fox Island Educator

Click here to learn how you can take part in "Fox Magic" and other CBF education experiences.

 


Photo of the Week: The Lifeblood of the Chesapeake

IMG_0172
This photo was taken on the Susquehanna River just north of Harrisburg during a workshop with Pennsylvania teachers earlier this summer. 

I think it's a powerful image because the beauty of the land, water, and sky each play a key role in it. Simplicity and stillness allow for the reflection: an ideal metaphor for how the river's health reflects our actions. We need to preserve beauty, find simple elements like clouds and colors, and allow time for ourselves to experience the entire watershed. A historically valuable river and often ignored element of Bay culture, the Susquehanna is a lifeblood of the Chesapeake, providing roughly half of the freshwater to the system, and deserves our respect and adoration. 

—Allyson Ladley Gibson

The Susquehanna River is sick. Take action to save it! The Susquehanna is a powerful economic engine and one of our region's most important waterways. But agricultural runoff, acid mine drainage, and urban pollution have contaminated the river for far too many years. Stand up now to take action for this critical river.

 


Ditches for Clean Water

Ditch-1200-a
Ditches, such as this one under construction in Talbot County, are an innovative and inexpensive way to reduce polluted runoff. Photo by Amy Jacobs.

The word "ditch" doesn't conjure up good feelings about water quality, wildlife habitat, or aesthetics. But a new kind of ditch is offering serious opportunity for the Eastern Shore's Talbot County to meet its nitrogen reduction goal under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The goal is restoring fish, crab, and waterfowl habitat in waterways like the Choptank and Miles Rivers. 

For a long time, we humans designed "funnels"—stormwater pipes and U-shaped open ditches—to substitute for natural streams in moving rainwater quickly away from inconvenient places like roadways and farm fields. Trouble is, the folks who designed them didn't pay enough attention to the way natural streams "work" with rainfall, so over time, the pipe/ditch systems filled with sediment in some spots, eroded in others, and degraded the quality of the water that moved through them, picking up pollutants from the land and carrying them downstream.

Then some enterprising civil engineers in the Midwest had an idea. Suppose they designed two-stage ditches that mimicked nature by providing a small central channel sized to accommodate average natural (base) flow, with "benches" (floodplains) on either side for overflow. Plant the benches with native wetland grasses and they would allow the ditches to catch water from heavy storms, slow it, and let some of it percolate into the soil, where the grasses' root systems would catch sediment and soak up nitrogen, phosphorus, and even some toxic chemicals.

Sound intriguing? That's what CBF's Eastern Shore Office Director, Alan Girard, thought when Amy Jacobs of The Nature Conservancy's Maryland Chapter told him about the idea over coffee one morning. Jacobs was exploring the use of LIDAR (laser-based LIght Detection And Ranging) deployed from aircraft to plot drainage patterns on farm fields leading to Talbot's system of roadside ditches. Girard realized the system might offer a "two-fer" by catching and treating runoff from both the fields and the roadways. The widened ditches take some extra land from both farms and road rights-of-way, but LIDAR allows designers to focus strategically where the ditches provide the most benefit. In terms of cost per pound of nitrogen removed from county waterways, the two-stage ditches offered an attractive, inexpensive alternative to complex urban stormwater retrofits.

The concept is good, but what counts for restoring waterways is putting these ditches to work in the right places. Thus the effort had to blend technology with local politics and public administration. Siting and building them requires teamwork from two agencies, the Department of Public Works (for roadways) and the Talbot Conservation District (for farmland), plus funding. At this point, Alan Girard brought multiple players together to build that team and raise grants for several pilot projects. The discussions included County Council members, staffers from the two agencies and the two nonprofits, and—very important—farmers cultivating land adjacent to county roadways.

Ditch-1200-c
Photo by Amy Jacobs.

The result of the discussions was a $100,000 capital budget item in the 2015 Talbot County budget, which allowed the pilot programs to begin. This year, the county set aside another $50,000 for more ditches and for monitoring their effectiveness. The major challenges now for the project partners are to refine and standardize the techniques, employ the County's funds as leverage for larger grants, and go to work on other priority ditches across the county. The Talbot Ditch Project is essentially about applying an agricultural Best Management Practice (BMP) to suburban stormwater runoff pollution. If early results continue, the two-stage ditch technique has great application for other counties and towns on the Eastern Shore, and in other rural areas of the region. "It's a cheap, simple, common-sense approach that doesn't take much land away from farms or roadways," concluded Girard.

Thought this story would be about crabs, rockfish, and Chesapeake science? Well, it is. Who knew that Saving the Bay would turn out to be about Midwestern engineering, ditches, lasers, excavators, and local government, all working together for clean water? That's the kind of creative partnership thinking that gets this job done.  

—John Page Williams, CBF's Senior Naturalist


Lea's Clean Water Story

1
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!

 

Image4
Image1Image2


Photo of the Week: A Lone Waterman

LoneWaterman_ScottPhillips

A lone waterman tending to his crab pots near the Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve in Onemo, Virginia.

I travel weekly for work all over North America. Likewise, my family is very active, going in different directions all week long. Every Friday when we cross the bridges in West Point on our way to Mathews County, we simply relax and begin to enjoy the peace, quiet, and solitude of the Chesapeake Bay. I grew up on the Bay as a kid, and I'm so thankful that I can raise my children on that same Bay today almost 50 years later!

—Scott Phillips

Ensure that Scott, his family, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Farmer Spotlight: Eco-City Farms

File-1Miles from the countryside, surrounded by townhomes and busy city streets in Prince George's County, Maryland, one organization is working to serve as a model for urban farming operations. Deborah Wren and the team at Eco-City Farms are working to prove that farming in urban environments is not only viable but is greatly needed in these areas. Wren, the lead farmer of Eco City Farms, draws on her experiences growing up on a dairy farm and studying anthropology in college as she connects people of various cultures, backgrounds, and classes to fresher food in the city. Wren works to ensure that Eco-City's motto of "growing great food, farms and farmers," spans across the organization's two farms in the county.

The Edmonston Farm, the first property Eco-City worked, was founded six years ago on 1.25 acres. The farm started with hoop houses and a small outdoor growing space in a highly residential area. The second property in Bladensburg is larger at 3.5 acres and is known for its permaculture, garden beds, and edible forest. Both properties are Certified Naturally Grown, which is "a practice managed by a farmer collective where farmers from around the world hold each other to certain standards."

PhotoFarmer Wren credits her passion for farming to her upbringing. As one of seven children she was often working outside, helping her mother in the garden or helping her father with the cows. In her undergraduate studies in anthropology she traveled to a number of developing countries. She began drawing comparisons between urban areas such as those in areas like Washington, D.C. and Prince George's County to those in developing countries. The shocking similarities—lack of resources, environmental issues, and lack of access to essential resources such as food—motivated her to make a change upon returning to the United States. Wren began her career with Eco-City Farms as an apprentice just five years ago and is now the lead farmer in her third growing season.

As one can imagine, farming techniques are different for urban agriculture. For example, tractors do not till the soil and extensive sprayers do not water the crops. A part of changing farming into urban spaces is adapting the growing practices as soil, water, and even temperature are all different in the city. Eco-City Farms works with these changes to provide fresh sustainably grown produce year-round to its local community.

PhotoAdjusting to the land is just one factor as Eco-City Farms also works to appeal to different cultures. Nearly 48 percent of its customers and volunteers are Spanish speaking. The organization has an education and outreach coordinator who is fluent in Spanish as the farms are located in what many locals call "Little Mexico." Addressing the cultural differences and unifying people through food is something they hope to achieve as they look to reach a broader audience.

Eco City Farms offers two-size CSA shares and allow members to apply and pay weekly, providing more flexibility to those in lower income communities. In addition to their CSA share, it sells fresh produce at the Riverdale Park Farmers Market on Thursdays and the Port Towns Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Eco-City Farms not only works to deliver food to those with limited access but also provides resources such as nutrition-based education, training programs such as the Beginner Farmer Rancher Training program, as well as hosting composting workshops, and beginner farmers for apprenticeships. Eco-City Farms is a model for the future of urban farming, led by people who want to reconnect people to fresh, healthy food, regardless of their culture, class, or location.

—Kellie Rogers; Photos courtesy of Deborah Wren

Learn more about how farmers across the watershed are working to improve both water quality and farm productivity in our Farmers' Success Stories series.

 


Photo of the Week: Summer Solstice on the Bay

IMG_4069
With more than 150 major rivers and streams flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, we travel by boat within Maryland from the northern Bay heading toward the majestic Chesapeake Bay Bridge, where aesthetically the bridge's design in and of itself is absolutely breathtaking!

This body of water is known for its beauty and bounty; home to an array of beautiful birds, blue crabs, fish, oysters; a passageway for many sailboats, powerboats, and other vessels; place of amazing sunsets and gorgeous sunrises.

—Stephanie Rosier Karas

Ensure that Stephanie and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Photo of the Week: Sunrise Sailing with the Grandson He Never Met

Memorial Day weekend cruise, 2016 111This is a sunrise photo from a father-son sailing trip I took with my five-year old son this past Memorial Day weekend. 

It is an amazing experience to introduce my son to sailing on the Bay in the same way my father introduced me to sailing on the Bay some 40 or so years ago. I can practically feel my father's presence with the grandson he never met as I talk about anchoring, navigation, and the stars above us.

—James Wilson

 

Ensure that James, his son, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


What We're Reading This Summer

PicMonkey CollageHurling ourselves into the Bay or a cool mountain stream as often as possible. Getting up early to watch the sunrise and cast off a few lines before work. Feasting on sweet blue crabs with friends and family. These are some of our favorite summertime activities. And right up there on this list is grabbing a good book and a patch of shade and digging into an extraordinary story. 

So for the second year in a row, we asked some avid readers across CBF what some of their favorite summertime books are. Here's what they had to say: 

Josh Young, Director of Research and Prospect Management: "The Lord's Oysters by Gilbert Byron. A classic, this novel explores the Chesapeake through the lens of watermen and their families in the early 20th Century. Byron really knows how to spin a good yarn; and he writes about areas in and around Chestertown that I first discovered as a college student on the Eastern Shore, so this particular read also carries some personal significance for me. A perfect way to get lost in a lazy summer afternoon!"

Kim Coble, Vice President, Environmental Protection and Restoration: "The book I just finished was awesome—a fiction by Donna Tartt called Goldfinch. It won the Pulitzer Prize, which is easy to understand . . . the writing is fabulous.  You learn a lot about each character and become involved with them from the very beginning. The story is both simple and complex and is centered around a painting of a goldfinch. I highly recommend this book if you want a get-away, well-written novel."

Paul Smail, Staff Litigation Attorney: "As the weather warms I am typically drawn to Swedish crime fiction or the hawks and badgers of Ted Hughes, but a friend recently introduced me to the work of Joan Didion. I've jumped into the deep end this summer with her 1970 novel, Play It as It Lays."

Ann Jurczyk, Virginia Outreach and Advocacy Manager: "Here's one I love (an oldie but a goodie for anyone who likes water)—Spartina by John Casey. You can almost smell the salt marsh and feel his boat rock underneath you."

Alan Girard, Eastern Shore Director: "It used to be that recommendations about what to read would come from my wife. Now that my teenage son has become one of the biggest bookworms I know, my reading list comes from him. New York Times-bestseller The Fault in Our Stars by John Green delivers a great message about life, death, and the world as a place that's bigger than ourselves. 'I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness,' says one of its characters. 'It rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I to tell the universe that it—or my observation of it—is temporary?' A provocative perspective on human nature and our common purpose. And what a thrill when such compelling ideas come through our children."

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

Special Note: A portion of the purchases made through the above dedicated Amazon links will go toward saving the Bay. So get out there and get reading!

 


Photo of the Week: Summer Storm Over Horn Harbor

LighteningStrike

This is a 30-second exposure taken from our pier last Friday evening in Peary, Virginia, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

This storm rolled down the Mobjack Bay and took direct aim at Cape Charles. The lightning strike is directly over Cape Charles.

I travel weekly for work all over North America. Likewise, my family is very active, going in different directions all week long. Every Friday when we cross the bridges in West Point on our way to Mathews County, we simply relax and begin to enjoy the peace, quiet, and solitude of the Chesapeake Bay. I grew up on the Bay as a kid, and I'm so thankful that I can raise my children on that same Bay today almost 50 years later!

—Scott Phillips

Ensure that Scott and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!