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October 2011
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December 2011

Photo of the Week: Smiling Down on the Bay

ByClaytonWoodPhoto by Clayton Wood.

"This photo was taken off Aberdeen Proving Grounds in early April in the upper Bay looking toward Betterton, Maryland. When you see such a majestic sight, you can't help but think that someone is looking down upon the Bay with a smile on their face."  

—Clayton Wood (as told to Emmy Nicklin)


Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? We're looking for Holiday-themed photos! Send them to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Notes from the Education Field, Part 3: Lessons from the Smith Island program include the importance of community

All photos by Adam Wickline/CBF Staff.

The early October sun shines brightly as I tie up my skiff into the harbor of Tylerton, one of three towns located on Smith Island, MD. Here is where the Chesapeake Bay Foundation operates its Smith Island Education Center in the heart of town. I walk up the dock where I am greeted by Jessie Marsh, CBF’s senior manager for all our island education centers, including Smith. Jessie is a native of Tylerton but now resides in Crocheron, MD in Dorchester County. With a big grin, Jessie hands me what appears to be bear claws with handles. It’s time to pull some slow-roasted pork shoulders that have been cooking since last night.

Today is the Smith Island Pig Roast, a free community event that has been happening here since 1991 when a group of North Carolina folks started the tradition. It is a chance to gather all those connected to the island for an outdoor meal while enjoying each other’s fellowship. In preparation for the meal today, CBF barbeques around 180 pounds of pork, shucks four bushels of oysters, and acquires a giant tub of macaroni salad. The oysters will be breaded and fried, and the pork will be pulled and slathered in a vinegary sauce.

As I work diligently to pull apart the pork shoulders for the feast ahead, I look around the Smith Island center’s kitchen. Most people have a certain image in their minds when you say “environmental education center”: woods, cabin, dirt, and a bearded man in a flannel shirt directing activities. However, this center is unique in its unobtrusiveness; its ability to blend in with the town in which it resides. The education center here looks like any other house on Smith. And therein lies the beauty of this program: It fits right in with the community.  

DSC_0044The Smith Island Center was established in 1978, and since its inception it has been a part of Tylerton. It is comprised of two houses—one of which is among the oldest in town—that were both family homes at one time. The center’s program involves visiting with locals and discussing the history of the island as it relates to the health of the Chesapeake. Students also experience life as a waterman by setting crab pots, scraping the underwater grasses for soft crabs, and oystering. The goal is to show students the way of life in this community and understand that it is directly connected to the Bay’s health. 

Beyond its education program, the center adds to Tylerton in many ways. The economic impact of the center has been a boon to local people. The ferry is paid to take CBF students back and forth from the mainland to the island. Teachers may purchase part of their groceries for their trip from the Drum Point Market, the only store in the town. If they do not want to cook their own meal, teachers and students have the option of hiring Mary Ada Marshall to cater their meal with her famous baked rockfish or crab cakes, followed by a famous Smith Island layer cake.

CBF’s Smith Island Center also works to culturally enhance its neighborhood. Twice a year it hosts a Ladies’ Night where the hard-working women of the island can relax, swap stories, and eat together. In the spring it provides a chicken supper to accompany the annual Blessing of the Fleet, and in the fall it hosts the Pig Roast. The educators here have helped run the wintertime bingo series, hosted community clean-ups, and assisted families cleaning soft crabs for market. One educator even fell in love, got married, and stayed on the island after she left CBF. Needless to say, CBF has become an integral part of community life in the small town of Tylerton. 

DSC_0281After I finish pulling the pork and washing my hands, I grab my camera and walk outside to see the throngs of hungry residents preparing for the feast. Most are sitting in the sun, talking with friends old and new. As the educators walk out the door with trays of pork and oysters, I cannot help but wonder if CBF’s relationship with Smith Island is a prime microcosm for our role in the broader watershed. In the community, we are a full-blown partner and stalwart neighbor. We take care of our neighbors when trouble arises and work to improve our communities. We hope for a better future and work hard towards a better Bay. 

And now the lines form with our neighbors and friends. After a short prayer, the procession of eaters pass the table and pile on their vittles. The investments CBF has made in the community have been worthwhile, as evidenced by today’s gathering. The investments CBF is currently making in the watershed community will pay dividends in the future when we have a healthy, vibrant Chesapeake and educated future generations that will keep it that way. And that is something all of our neighbors can agree upon. 

—Adam Wickline

Read Parts One and Two of this "Notes from the Education Field" series.


Photo of the Week: CBFers Take to the Water

ByMiriamMcCulloughPhoto by Miriam McCullough

Just last week, CBF's Communications Department went on a retreat to St. George Island in southeast Maryland. There at the mouth of the Potomac River where it stretches out into the Bay, we talked about our work, what we could be doing better, and how we can and must get to a saved Bay. When the rain showers subsided, we grabbed the first opportunity to get out on the Bay, kayaking out onto gray, flat waters back into the marshes in time to watch the sun set.

—Emmy Nicklin


Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving-themed Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send them to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Why I'm a CBF Volunteer

100_4243Photo courtesy of Zhizhong Yin.

I am an immigrant from China. The American dream and world-class education and research brought me here at the dawn of the new century. I spent most of my time in the U.S. in the greater Baltimore area, starting as a Ph.D student at Johns Hopkins. Before I came, I learned a bit about the city, including its glorious history as the dominant port in the new continent as well as its current problems.

However, that is not what impressed me when I first put my feet on American soil. What really struck me was how blue the sky is and how green the grass is. Later I found out many of my friends from China have the same feeling. Due to neck-breaking development over the last three decades, pollution has become a huge problem in China. Blue sky, clear water, and green grass are no longer the normal. That is actually one of the reasons that propelled me to come to the U.S. I have since then enjoyed the good environment we have here. But I never forget the environmental problems China faces.

To get a Ph.D from Johns Hopkins is never easy. Life as a new immigrant is equally tough, if not tougher, for the first few years. Now that I am kind of settled down, I am starting to think about it again and seeking opportunities on learning about how to tackle the environmental problem. I am grateful that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) gives me the opportunity. Through my volunteer services with CBF, I learned what kind of actions we can take as an individual and as a community to preserve and protect the precious environment we have.

I also learned that in the 1960s and 1970s, many areas in the U.S. faced similar environmental problems as China is facing today. Thanks to organizations like CBF and government agencies, we can enjoy a much better environment comparing with 40 or 50 years ago. It gives me hope. On the other hand, there is still a lot to do to make the environment better and closer to its undisturbed condition, or even simply prevent it from skipping back to worse conditions. As an immigrant settled down in the Chesapeake Bay area, it gives me another reason to get involved with CBF.

—Zhizhong Yin

Photo of the Week: The Martha Lewis

MarthaLewisBYAdamRybczynskiPhoto by Adam J. Rybczynski/

The Martha Lewis on a cold, blustery mid-October morning in Havre de Grace.


Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send them to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign],along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Gearing up for Clean Water Week

  SmithsunsetPhoto by CBF Staff.

In just three days, Marylanders will gather in Easton to celebrate clean water...will you be there?!

"With clean water plans being developed now in every Maryland county," CBF's Senior Land Use Policy Manager Alan Girard says, "we wanted to host a series of events to help people see and hear what's going on locally to meet the Bay's pollution diet. People connect with the Bay in different ways, so it was important to provide a variety of programs that suit different tastes."

And indeed "variety" is the word to describe it. From film previews to poster competitions to concerts and panels, Clean Water Week offers something for everyone. Participants will also learn about what's being done nowand what else we could be doingto chart a new course forward for reducing water pollution in our rivers, streams, and Bay.

With a dozen sponsoring groupsincluding Adkins Arboretum, Easton Main Street, Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancyand well over two dozen additional supporting organizations, Clean Water Week is truly a community event.

"People care about clean water, and these events are a chance to show just how much healthy waterways mean to our families and livelihoods," says Girard. "It's a chance to celebrate bringing back the health of our rivers and the Bay and show state and local decision-makers just how strong community support really is for actions that can make our waters fishable and swimmable within 10 years."

—Emmy Nicklin

Clean Water Week is fun for all ages—and admission is free, with refreshments served most nights. Celebrate bringing back the health of local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay with music, film, art, and educational programs throughout the week. Plus, learn the latest on ways to make our local waterways clean and healthy again. Visit for more details, download the Clean Water Week flier here, and mark your calendar today!

Here's a quick line-up of what to expect:


Photo of the Week: Hershey Meadows Tree Planting

Tree_Planting_6Photo by Glen Morrison.

"This is my family at a CBF tree planting event in Hershey Meadows, Pennsylvania, a few weekends ago. It was a great morning and even our youngest was able to plant several trees. It is nice to think such a fun family event can have an impact all the way down the watershed. We hope to attend the next planting in November."

—Glen Morrison (as told to Emmy Nicklin)


Interested in participating in the next CBF tree planting this Nov. 12? Register here.

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send them to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign],along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Notes from the Education Field, Part Two: Fall on Clagett Farm

ClagettCowsPhoto by Melissa Simmons/CBF Staff.

The air has turned cooler and the sound of geese resonates high above the clear skies. Students from across Maryland are back in school and their teachers are bringing them to CBF’s Clagett Farm for a first-hand, organic agriculture experience. While here, these students are also learning what they can do to improve the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay whether it be planting stream buffers and fencing off cattle or deciding to eat only grass-fed beef.

Clagett Farm has seen many fall seasons. Formerly a working tobacco farm, the Clagett family passed nearly 300 acres to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in 1981 to run as an educational working farm. Since then, Clagett has grown over the years to offer a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program with its vegetable production, grass-fed beef, and native tree nursery, as well as educational programs. From pulling weeds, to moving cattle, to collecting chicken eggs for our CSA program, students who participate in CBF’s Clagett Farm Education Program have the opportunity to engage in real-life, hands-on farm work.

On a recent sunny, fall day, I find myself working with a group of Baltimore high schoolers. After loading into a hay wagon, I inform them that we will begin the day with a very important task: moving the cattle. On our hay ride over to the cattle, our farm manager, Michael Heller, speaks to the students about why we raise our beef on grass, and why he considers himself a grass farmer.

Raising beef on grass is better for the farmer, the consumer, the cow, and the Bay he tells us. The farmer can charge a higher price for grass-fed beef (not to mention that he/she experiences less back problems than working on concrete, which is often found in non-grass-fed situations). The consumer enjoys beef that is less fatty and higher in healthy omega fatty acidsfound in grass-fed beef. The cow enjoys a fresh patch of clovers and freshly sprouted grass every two days instead of being locked into a confined situation. And finally, the Bay wins because the cow manure is absorbed in the roots of the grass rather than running off a concrete lot and adding to water pollution.

The students begin to see why grass-fed beef could be better for the Bay, but still need more convincing. Once we arrive at the cattle, we divide the students in two groups: One to arrange the electric fence, and others to herd the cattle. The students are fascinated once they see the cattle—they ask about the breed of the cows, their weight, and how they taste. The cows know they are about to see greener pastures and trot towards the open gate. Once the cattle have made it into the new pasture, all goes quiet.  

This moment of silence with the backdrop of bright green rolling pasture is the perfect opportunity to connect students with where their food actually comes from. We ask questions: Why is it important to buy locally? and How does this farming operation effect the Chesapeake? At last the students start to get it. Through these hands-on moments on the farm, students begin to see agriculture’s impact on the watershed and make connections between where their food comes from and how it effects the health of the Bay.

—Phillip McKnight, Clagett Farm Educator

Learn more about Clagett Farm, its CSA, and its Education Program. Read the First Part of the Notes from the Education Field series.

PhillipEducator Phillip McKnight in teaching action. Photo courtesy of Melissa Simmons/CBF Staff.

Chesapeake Born: Saving the Planet on the Cheap

IMG_7024Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

What if you had to save the Chesapeake Bay, and you had no money?

It's a fitting question in the depths of the Great Recession, as deficit hawk shrills throughout the land and governments across the watershed wonder how to afford the next round of Bay cleanup requirements.

Personally, I've been investing cheaply in a host of advanced green technologies: a clothesline in the backyard ($3) and a rainy day drying rack ($20) in the cellar; organic cooling systems, AKA trees, to shade the south and western sides of my house ($500); busting up half my driveway with a pickaxe ($27) to absorb stormwater runoff, planting it with more organic cooling systems.

I bought a small house near work and stores, saving energy, allowing bicycle to replace car most days. A smaller fridge is next as I now shop almost daily. I installed a super-quiet whole house fan ($900) for all the cooling I need most days; and heavily insulated the attic and crawl spaces ($800).

Had I sprung big bucks for Energy Star appliances, solar panels, geothermal heat pumps and an electric car, I'd have received tens of thousands in government subsidies. And in the end I wouldn't have been greener.

So I think it’s time we took a serious look at cheaper ways of getting to a better planet, of saving taxpayer dollars as we restore our environment.

Broadly, that would mean cutting government subsidies to polluting activities; and letting polluting activities reflect their full price.

If I’d bought a big house in a rural subdivision, for example, I’d have been awarded a bigger mortgage deduction, even as I drove more, used more open space, required more roads and polluted more on my septic tank than on a city treatment plant.

We give some $1 trillion annually in federal tax breaks to homeowners, a presidential fiscal reform commission reports. At state and local levels, taxpayers pay thousands a year for every home in a sprawl development to ease the real cost of roads, water and air pollution and the cost of services such as fire, police and utilities.

The extra gasoline such residents burn would cost maybe eight bucks a gallon if we removed government subsidies to oil companies—more than 12 bucks a gallon if, as some suggest, we include part of the defense budget for protecting foreign oil sources.

If gasoline fetched its true market price, there’d be far less need to subsidize electric cars—or mass transit, or bigger roads. No need either, to subsidize solar and wind energy as much if all our traditional energy sources operated without subsidies (like the taxpayer guarantees for part of the accident insurance on nuclear power plants).

Power companies could be rewarded for saving energy, not pushing more of it. At a hearing on a new, $1.4 billion power line I asked what if that money went instead for conservation, could we avoid the need for the line?

Their shareholders wouldn’t like that, a company spokesman said, as they make money based on how much energy they transmit.

Agriculture, the Bay’s biggest source of pollution, is underpinned by federal crop subsidies; at the very least, we’d save big time on cleanup costs if these were morphed into payments for reducing runoff.

Water quality would also benefit if poultry manure were made the responsibility of the big chicken producers nationwide—now it is "owned" by individual growers.

Popular but expensive open space protection programs are in part a price we pay for bad government land-use policies. A proposal by Maryland’s Governor O’Malley to cut state subsidies for schools, roads, and wastewater where counties allow sprawl development could save billions.

Other environmentally beneficial savings worth scrutinizing range from low-cost commuter tolls (a subsidy to sprawl), to flood insurance and beach replacement (subsidies to development, often in some of our most sensitive natural areas).

From the other side of the equation, government accounting for economic progress needs to start valuing the nature we lose as well as the development that replaces it. Current indicators like GDP (gross domestic product), add the value of a parking lot but don’t subtract the value of the forest it felled.

Some might see in the above a danger of slowing growth; but if something can’t pay its way financially, and further creates pollution that costs to clean up, why on earth would we want more of it?

I think the possibilities of saving the Bay cheaper are large, and the politics for doing it are right. The Bay watershed has two Congressmen on the 12 member "Supercommittee" charged with coming up with deficit reductions.

Who wants to convene a conference to see what we can do?

 —Tom Horton

The above appeared in the Bay Journal News Service ( Tom Horton covered the Bay for 33 years for The Sun in Baltimore, and is author of six books about the Chesapeake. Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.