Why Drive When You Can Bike!

Bike3Photo by CBF Staff.

Tomorrow morning, thousands of workers across the country will hop on their bikes for Bike to Work Day! Now in its 56th year (can you believe it?!), this annual League of American Bicyclists’ event brings together all sorts of folks to celebrate a healthier, more sustainable way of life. To get you in the spirit for this national holiday, take a look at how last year’s event went down in Annapolis, and learn why biking is so much better for our waters and Bay. Also, check out our tips below for how to make this day a happy and safe one!  

Here are some tips for your riding experience:

  1. Ride like you drive (safely and cautiously…we hope!)
  2. Don’t worry about how fast you ride (remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare?)
  3. You don’t have to dress or look like Lance Armstrong in order to participate…just have fun!
  4. Don’t forget your water, helmet…and a bike buddy!
  5. Last but not least, take the pledge! Become a Cyclist for the Bay and help us save a national treasure! 

—Emmy Nicklin

Learn more about Bike to Work Day and other cycling events in YOUR area!

Photo by CBF Staff.

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.


Chesapeake News and Dos

Filling you in on the top stories of the week and letting you know how you can make a difference!

Photo courtesy John Rodenhausen and Beth McGee/CBF Staff

This week in the Watershed: Bikes, Beaches, Turtles, and Teachers!  

  • Two Chesapeake Bay Foundation employees will finish their three-week circumnavigation of the watershed via bicycle today.
  • Maryland’s cover crop program set a record for the number of acres  enrolled in the state’s upcoming winter cover crop program to hold sediment and nutrients on the field. Gov. Martin O’Malley said this is one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing pollution. (Baltimore Sun – MD)
  • The Baltimore Aquarium released three rescued Kemp’s ridley sea turtles back into the Bay. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the most endangered of all sea turtle species. (Baltimore Sun – MD)
  • Pennsylvania is mulling over the idea of allowing drilling under Pa. forest land. The head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development indicates state government could receive revenues of $60 billion in the next 30 years. (Pittsburg Post-Gazette - PA)
  • Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will reintroduce his septic tank ban for Maryland’s legislative session, which did not pass this year’s session. (WAMU – Washington, D.C.)
  • It is safe to return to the surf in Norfolk, where two beaches were closed on Tuesday due to elevated bacterial levels in the water. (Virginian-Pilot – VA)
  • Baltimore City teachers were out on a farm in Catonsville with the Chesapeake Classrooms program, learning how to incorporate the environment into their classrooms.  (ABC 2 News – MD)
  • The Washington Post Editorial Board opines about the high value of EPA’s “pollution diet” and reminds all that while the cleanup effort may be costly those costs must be measured against the Bay’s economic importance and even greater costs of continued inaction. (Washington Post – D.C.) 


Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities in the Bay

August 20 

  • Join the Cyclist for the Bay crew in Virginia as they complete a team ride in the area. They will start in Ashland, VA at 7 a.m.!
  • This weekend, volunteer oyster gardeners in Virginia will return their grown oysters and get a new batch of baby oysters (called “spat”) to grow for next year. To learn how to become an oyster gardener in Virginia and help Save the Bay, please visit our website. If you live in Maryland and want to be a gardener, go here

August 22


  • Become a watershed steward! Take part in a program that will teach you how to make a difference in your home and your community. On Monday at 6:30 p.m. in Millersville, MD, there will be informational session about this unique program.
  • Volunteers are needed for oyster shell shaking at CBF's Oyster Restoration Center on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Contact Carmera Thomas for details: cthomas@cbf.org 


August 25

  • Volunteers needed to help CBF pick up 1,200 bags of baby "spat" for our oyster gardening program in Cambridge, MD. Interested? Please contact Carmera Thomas for details:

September 17

  • Do you want to speak on behalf of the Bay? Do you enjoy talking to people and sharing your passion for our national treasure? Sign-up to become a CBF Speaker and Fairs and Festivals volunteer. This is a great way to teach the public about why it’s vital to care for the Chesapeake. Please see the event page for more details and to sign up! 

Adam Wickline


DSC_0341-1 Adam is the Community Building Manager of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He works to inform and engage people across the watershed to take part in Saving the Bay. If you have an upcoming Bay-related restoration event and you need volunteers, please let us know: awickline@cbf.orgDo you enjoy working with fellow Bay Lovers to help save the Chesapeake? Become a CBF Volunteer to receive notifications about upcoming volunteer opportunities.  

Notes from the Field: Cultivate Your Own (Oyster) Garden

Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff

It’s a surprisingly cool Tuesday afternoon for the middle of June, and I’m on a small Boston Whaler with several drywall buckets brimming with oysters. No, we are not headed for an oyster roast, but rather a sunny spot in the middle of the Severn River, just below the Naval Academy Bridge and directly in front of the Severn River Inn in Annapolis.

There, just below the surface of muddied water, lies the beginnings of an oyster sanctuary reef, where thousands of oysters, who filter and clean the water, will be planted throughout the day. Today represents just one of eight Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) oyster gardening plantings taking place across our local waters from Solomon’s Island to St. Michaels to Annapolis.   

“This is hands-on…we’re actually doing it, and I can see the difference…these little guys are growing,” says local oyster gardener Susan Benac. “We’ve got more grasses out here; the water quality is slowly but surely improving. I feel like its little steps, but it has a big impact.” Benac is one of roughly 450 oyster gardeners in Maryland, who every year grows oysters in protective cages off her dock until returning them to CBF to plant on sanctuaries. Since 1998, CBF has offered this unique opportunity to those who want to tangibly get involved in doing something positive for the Bay.

Final numbers have yet to be tallied, but CBF Oyster Restoration Outreach Coordinator Meghan Hoffman estimates they’ve planted close to 100,000 oysters in all in the past few weeks, including the event this past Tuesday. “As an individual, you feel like you make a difference,” Hoffman, who originally started as an oyster gardener volunteer, says, “that’s why I started doing it. People feel like they really are connected to the cause."                                                                                        

—Emmy Nicklin

 For more information on how you can become a part of this innovative program, visit: http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=394. To read more about CBF’s oyster restoration efforts this season, visit: http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2011/06/12/chesapeake-bay-foundation-works-to-restore-oyster-population/ or http://www.hometownannapolis.com/news/env/2011/06/18-03/Our-Bay-Oyster-gardening-season-concludes.html?ne=1

Tripods in the Mud - Dragon Run

Following is an excerpt of a post by Justin Black, Executive Director of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP).

This summer, iLCP is conducting one of its trademark RAVEs (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the fight to pass the Chesapeake Clean Water Act. Justin's post, originally published on the iLCP blog June 12, 2010, refers to an assignment for The Nature Conservancy on Virginia's Dragon Run Swamp, in his words, "making it an interesting point of reference as iLCP prepares to launch a Chesapeake Bay RAVE in summer 2010."

Our thanks to Justin and iLCP for permission to reprint this excerpt.

The Dragon rippled as I slid the kayak out into the swamp’s caramel brown water. The still quiet of pre-dawn was broken only by the song of a prothonotary warbler, a croaking bullfrog, the sudden splash of a jumping sunfish. Gliding along on the glassy surface past lush swamp plants – arrow arum, water lilies, swamp rose, the lovely purple poker-like blooms of pickerelweed – and under the spreading branches of bald cypress, their conical “knees” emerging from the water in rows like the Dragon’s teeth, I felt completely removed from the Tidewater Virginia farmland that encircled me beyond the forest. Entering this place was like time-travel.

I had come to photograph the landscape of Dragon Run Swamp, the wild centerpiece Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, on assignment for the The Nature Conservancy which has recently protected the watershed in a Manhattan-sized conservancy, Virginia’s largest at 20,000 acres (80.9 km2). As one of the healthiest and cleanest wetlands in the Chesapeake region, this exceptional conservancy serves as a model for other watersheds around the Bay, making it an interesting point of reference as iLCP prepares to launch a Chesapeake Bay RAVE in summer 2010. This unique ecosystem has been ranked second in ecological significance among 232 areas investigated in a Smithsonian Institution study which covered 12,600 square miles of the Chesapeake Bay region. It’s easy to see why.

The water teems with fifty-five species of fish, including the young of several anadromous species – striped bass, American shad, alewife and blueback herring among others – that migrate here from the Bay or the Atlantic in the spring to spawn. Chain pickerel, warmouth sunfish, and white catfish are some of the native fish species that call the Dragon their year-round home. The watershed is a birder’s paradise as well, with various songbirds, bald eagles, osprey, heron, and egrets in abundance. It’s an important stop for migratory waterfowl as well, and shy wood ducks are particularly fond of the cover provided in the swamp. In the forest, wild turkeys are frequently seen… or only heard.

Ebony jewel-wing damselflies with bodies of metallic blue and green warm themselves in the sun’s first rays and then flit from leaf to leaf. Water beetles cruise narrow channels between green stems, and large crayfish take refuge in burrows scattered along the banks of the swamp.

Before me was a view that Captain John Smith could have seen in 1607, and it would have been essentially unchanged for millennia before. Today, on the east coast of the United States, landscapes like Dragon Run are not simply rare. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy, the Friends of Dragon Run, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Dragon Run watershed provides a unique window into the past, and one that – if we embrace its lessons – will help lead us on the path to a sustainable future.

To read Justin’s complete blog, visit the iLCP blog, EXPOSE. Watch the Chesapeake Bay Foundation blog for future posts by photographers during the Chesapeake Bay RAVE.

Conquering the Chesapeake in Virginia Beach

Tomorrow, May 14, a crew of 10 from the Naval Heritage Society will row/sail a restored 26' monomoy pulling vessel 16 miles, from Virginia Beach, VA to Cape Charles.

Conquerthechesapeake Why? The NHS wants to bring attention to the need for a cleaner, healthier Chesapeake Bay and inspire folks to sign up for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Clean the Bay Day on June 5th. And they want to put human muscle to the test! The volunteer crew will put historic seamanship skills and physical endurance to the challenge. They will need to overcome strong currents and shifting winds, and will navigate without GPS or other modern devices, strictly using time-tested seamanship skills and historic navigational practices. "Conquer the Chesapeake" also points out the Chesapeake Bay’s environmental issues, highlights two of Virginia’s beautiful coastal state parks, and the need to have clean shorelines and waterways.

The crew will launch at 7:00 p.m. Friday evening from First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, arriving at Kiptopeke State Park after midnight. On Saturday they will do their own pre-Clean the Bay Day shoreline litter cleanup at 7:30 a.m. then launch around 9:00 a.m. for the return trip to First Landing State Park around 3:30 in the afternoon.

If you have a chance to witness this event share your photos with us on our Facebook page. For more information about the event, visit the Naval Heritage Society website.

Speak Up for the Bay Tomorrow Night

Elected and appointed officials in Richmond and Washington, D.C. are making decisions about Bay restoration right now! They need to hear from you.

Please join CBF tomorrow evening for a Chesapeake Bay Town Hall meeting in Arlington, VA. Find out about progress on Bay restoration efforts—including the President’s Executive Order and upcoming legislation in the House and Senate.

Whether you have specific questions you’d like to get answered or simply want to hear the latest updates directly from the movers-and-shakers involved, your participation will help make the point that you want promises turned into actions! For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Guest Speaker:
Congressman Jim Moran, Virginia District 8

Panel Speakers:   
Chuck Fox, EPA Senior Advisor on the Chesapeake Bay
Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, Virginia District 31
Dr. Roger Mann, Director of Research and Advisory Services, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Roy Hoagland, Vice President, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Earth Science Week Leaves No Child Inside


The American Geological Institute has organized Earth Science Week since 1998. Last year, they added "No Child Left Inside Day" to the celebration as a way to get kids to experience earth science hands on. This year's nationwide celebration is scheduled for Tuesday, October 13th.

A full kit with media suggestions, activity guides, helpful hints for bringing on community partners, and classroom follow-up ideas is available on their website. Host your own NCLI event and invite your legislators to join you!

Check out all of the details here.

Learn more about No Child Left Inside at www.nclicoalition.org.

CBF Sanctuary Garden Open House

Aerial photo of CBF's Merrill Center. Photo by David Hartcorn

Come visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Sanctuary Garden at our headquarters in Annapolis, MD. This special open house will include a native seed propagation demonstration and an opportunity to purchase hard-to-find native plants.

The event will be held Saturday, October 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To register and for directions, please contact Sheila Gallagher at Sheila.Gallagher22@comcast.net or call 410-867-0113.