MRC Breaks Ground on Restoration and Stormwater Projects at Chesapeake College

On June 28, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and Chesapeake College jointly hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on the college’s Wye Mills campus. MRC has been leading an effort in collaboration with the college and funding partners to develop a comprehensive initiative to address major stormwater challenges on the campus. A suite of 14 projects will materially improve water quality in the Wye River. The projects include a wetland restoration, bioretention facilities that filter stormwater, and a stream restoration that will reduce erosion and treat pollutants coming off hard surfaces and the agriculture fields surrounding the campus.

Kristin Junkin, director of operations for MRC, led the ceremony by describing the projects and the valuable partnerships with both Chesapeake College and the funders that are supporting the work. These funders include Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Queen Anne’s County. She thanked all of these partners and emphasized the importance and necessity of local leaders taking responsibility for restoring and protecting our rivers and Chesapeake Bay.

Photo: Pictured at the groundbreaking ceremony are (left to right) Rob Gunter (Queens Anne’s County Planning & Zoning), Ben Hutzell (Resource Restoration Group), Michael Mulligan (Chesapeake College), Sarah Hilderbrandt (Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources), Steve & Julie Burleson (MRC Advisory Committee), Barbara Viniar (former Chesapeake College president), Jim Moran (Queen Anne’s County Commissioner), Kristin Junkin (MRC Director of Operations), Evan Blessing (Blessings Environmental Concepts), Greg Farley (Chesapeake College), Bill Anderson (MRC Board), Timothy Jones (Chesapeake College), Michael Wiznosky (Queen Anne’s County Planning & Zoning), Dr. Clayton Railey (Chesapeake College), Lucie Hughes (Chesapeake College), Chris Oakes and Jess Lister (Environmental Concern), Tim Junkin (MRC founder) and Gus (Tim’s puppy). 

The college’s vice president of finance, Tim Jones,thanked MRC and all of the funder partners, saying,“Chesapeake College’s mission is to educate the residents of our five county region. Not only will these watershed projects allow us to enhance our classroom programs, they will also allow the college to serve as a working model of best practices for all residents on the Eastern Shore. The college is very appreciative of our partners on these projects. It is through partnerships like these that the college has become a nationally recognized leader in sustainability.”

Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran applauded the well-organized and thoughtful proposal MRC brought to the county, adding that,“Queen Anne’s County is ready to do our part in cleaning up our waterways. We are delighted to work with MRC and we look forward to more projects down the road.”

The attendees at the ceremony had the unique opportunity to explore with the contractors the keystone project in the group, a Regenerative Step Pool Stormwater Conveyance. This project uses shallow pools to slow down and treat runoff from the college’s hard surfaces and surrounding agricultural fields before the water empties into the headwaters of the Wye East River. Attendees got a behind-the-scenes tour on how these types of projects are engineered and constructed.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust funded MRC’s Wye River Assessment that identified the project opportunities, Queen Anne’s County and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funded the design work, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Queen Anne’s County are funding the construction. All of these projects are scheduled for completion by 2018.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and celebration of the watersheds of the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Miles River, and Wye River. For more information on these projects, contact Kristin Junkin at kristin@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443-385-0511.

Midshore Riverkeepers & Oakland View Farms Win U.S. Sustainability Award

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and Oakland View Farms in Ridgely, Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay, were recently awarded the national Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy for their collaboration focused on cleaning up our local waters. The award was given during the annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards in Chicago, Illinois this past June.Timothy Rosen, MRC’s watershed scientist, Matt Pluta, its Choptank Riverkeeper, and Dick and Jan Edward, owners of Oakland View Farms, accepted this prestigious prize.

Pictured (L-R) are Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, Jan and Dick Edwards from Oakland View Farms, Watershed Scientist Tim Rosen and Matt Nuckols, emcee for the awards ceremony.

The partnership between MRC and Oakview Farms began in 2010 and culminated in the construction of the first denitrifying bioreactor in Maryland. The partnership reflected another important achievement as it signified a continuing shift in Riverkeeper-farmer relations in the Delmarva region. Previous to this partnership, relations between the environmental and agriculture communities had often been strained. Eschewing traditional contentious paths such as litigation or combative legislation, the parties decided to work cooperatively. The partnership began with the design and installation of the bioreactor, and progressed as the parties began working together on research to quantify nitrogen removal from bioreactors. This led to opportunities for an approved nitrogen removal efficiency in the Chesapeake Bay Model, potential phosphorus removal technologies for slurry (manure wastewater), and a conservation drainage program. As a result of this successful partnership, MRC has been able to successfully collaborate with seven more farmers and has designed, developed, and installed nine more projects, including the first bioreactor in Delaware.

Since its installation in 2013, the initial bioreactor has reduced nitrate concentrations of water being treated through the system by nearly 100 percent, which helps prevent water quality issues like algae blooms.

“Sustainability in agriculture is about partnering with organizations in our area and contributing to bettering our community,” said Richard Edwards, owner of Oakland View Farms. “We’ve seen a lot of great results, which help us stay in business longer. We’re excited about the future of ag and are always looking for new technology that will help us become better, more sustainable farmers down the road.”

“Oakland View Farms’ partnership with Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy to restore and protect the waterways of Maryland’s Eastern Shore serves as a model for others across the country,” said Chad Frahm, senior vice president, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “Their use of woodchip bioreactors to mitigate nitrogen runoff from manure is both practical and effective.”

Each of MRC’s watersheds is approximately 60% agricultural. “It is imperative that we work hand in hand with the agricultural community to bring smart solutions to nonpoint source pollution,” said Rosen. “MRC is proud of our partnership with Oakland View Farms and their willingness to work with us to solve some of the toughest pollution issues in our watersheds.”

For more information, contact Tim Rosen at trosen@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443.385.0511.

Midshore Riverkeeper Erect Waterfront Signs

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC), in partnership with Talbot County, has installed informational waterfront signs at Oak Creek Landing, Bellevue Landing & Marina, and Neavitt Landing. The attractive signs are an outreach tool to help readers understand current threats to clean water and ways to take action to improve local water quality.

Sign(s) and location map.

“Talbot County and the Eastern Shore have some of the most beautiful rivers and waterfront in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” says Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta. “Because these rivers are such valuable natural resources, we all need to work together to protect and preserve them. These water quality signs are a great way to remind the public about the value of our rivers—socially, economically, and environmentally—while encouraging the reader to take specific actions that make a difference.”

Local vendors produced the signs, with design by Joanne Shipley Graphic Design, printing by Sharper Image, and frames constructed by Warren Woodworks.The project was partially funded by Chesapeake Bay Trust.

For more information, contact Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta at matt@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443.385.0511.

MRC and RBC Blue Water Day

On June 15, the Easton branch of RBC Wealth Management and Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) took to Rails to Trails for a morning of beautification. The team picked up 15 bags of trash. The event was in coordination with RBC Wealth Management’s annual Blue Water Day, a time for RBC employees around the globe to come together to protect their local water sources through “Makeovers” such as clean ups, plantings and awareness-raising. Pictured (left to right) are employees, supporters, and furry friends of Easton RBC Wealth Management, (back row) Phil Russell, “Trippe,” Dennis Comey, Megan Gabrielian, Aaron Gabrielian, Kevin Nolan, John Northrop, Alex Fritzsche, Heather Jessee, MRC Development Director Sarah Boynton, (front row) Samantha Jessee, Jennifer Edgell, and Karen Kruse.

Paddle Jam on June 24

Talbot County Young Professionals and Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy through a grant from Toyota SPLASH Event Series will present Paddle Jam on Saturday, June 24, 2017.  Paddle Jam is a community event on the Tred Avon River with post paddling festivities at Easton Point Marina. Supporters and sponsors making this event possible include: Easton Point Marina, Wahe SUP, Bay Imprint, National Premium, Shore United Bank, Tawney Accounting Group, Pixel Post & Print, CBIZ, Avery Hall Benefit Solutions, Green Eyes LLC, Easton Economic Development Corp, Konsyl Pharmaceuticals, M&T Bank and What’s Up Magazine.

This six-mile paddling event will leave from and return to Easton Point Marina. Paddle Jam is scheduled to take place rain or shine.  Launch will begin at 10:30 a.m. Following the six-mile Tred Avon River paddle, there will be a community event at Easton Point Marina until 6 p.m. with food and drink vendors and live music by the Justin Ryan Band.

The Paddle Jam will include a poker run, where participants can pick up poker cards from designated boats along the river, and at the end participants can turn in their hand for a chance to win a prize. The grand prize is Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 foot Kayak that comes with a paddle!

Registration fee for Paddle Jam is $35 in advance. People who wish to register the day of will pay $40, and to just attend the after party without participating in the paddle will cost $5 per person. People who are registered for the entire event will receive an event T-shirt.  Register for Paddle Jam at www.talbotchamber.org or call the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce at 410.822.4653.

Don’t have a vessel to paddle, no problem. Rental may be reserved and waiting for you at Paddle Jam:
• Wahe SUP – (410) 924-0919 or easternshoreyoga@gmail.com
• Easton Point Marina – (410) 822-2355
• Easton Cycle and Sport – Call (410) 822-7433 or visit www.eastoncycleandsport.com

Paddle Jam is still looking for sponsors, prizes and participant goodie bag items.  Please call, 410.822.4653, or email, khanna@talbotchamber.org, if you would like to support.

 

Riverkeepers and Cambridge-South Dorchester High School Dedicate Outdoor Classroom

On June 2, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and 9th graders at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School (CSDHS) held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new outdoor classroom and meadow they created on campus. MRC has been working with 9th graders in Dorchester County Public Schools throughout the school year, providing a Meaningful Watershed Education Experience through MRC’s Students for Streams initiative, a sustained program of study that is part of Maryland’s environmental literacy graduation requirement.

Funded in Dorchester County by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Students for Streams is MRC’s high school environmental education program. This yearlong program includes multiple in-class lessons led by MRC education staff, field trips to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, and a student-led action project focusing on local water quality.

Students, educators, and dignitaries at the ribbon cutting of the Cambridge South Dorchester High School Outdoor Classroom and Meadow.

As part of the program, students proposed a project to improve local water quality. For their action project, the 9th grade environmental science classes at CSDHS created an outdoor classroom and meadow. Students researched native plants, constructed benches and bird boxes for the outdoor classroom, installed an outdoor whiteboard for classes, designed and painted pavers to create a walkway through the meadow, and planted native species that help with nutrient runoff and act as natural pollinators for butterflies and bees.

During the ribbon cutting ceremony, students welcomed everyone and explained the projects from start to finish to audience members, including Delegate Johnny Mautz, Delegate Chris Adams, Dorchester Chamber of Commerce Bill Thompson, Chamber of Commerce board members, MRC Founder Tim Junkin, and funders Britt Slattery and Amanda Sullivan from DNR.

Students explained that they selected this particular student-led action project because the meadow helps reduce the runoff coming from campus which feeds into Maple Dam Creek and ultimately Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. After submitting a proposal and gaining permission from Principal Bromwell, every 9th grade student played a role in accomplishing the project. The students were excited to share what they had learned during the Students for Streams program and to cut the ribbon on the new outdoor classroom and meadow.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and celebration of the waterways that comprise the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Miles River, and Wye River watersheds. For more information about Students for Streams, contact Elle O’Brien at elle@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443.385.0511.

St. Luke United Methodist Church Sets Environmental Example in Community

On May 30, volunteers and congregation members gathered at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Cambridge to plant 440 native flowers and grasses in a bioswale on their property. A bioswale is a drainage ditch filled with native plants that slow, collect, and filter pollution from rainwater before it enters local rivers. St. Luke planted its bioswale through Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy’s Stewards for Streams program. Stewards for Streams is a program that connects faith-based organizations of any denomination with environmental stewardship activities. St. Luke’s congregation members learned about stormwater runoff and the benefits of their bioswale. They were inspired to pursue further projects to “green” their campus, including planting native trees and a rain garden.

Members of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Cambridge recently planted 440 native flowers and grasses in a bioswale on their property.

Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta noted the importance of the St. Luke project as it is applicable to many residential and business properties that have drainage ditches running through them. “It’s a model for what can be done,” he said. “On the Eastern Shore, many properties have ditches and swales that rush water away from a site as quickly as possible. All of the water ends up in local streams and carries trash, debris, and pollutants picked up along the way. With a simple retrofit—digging out clay soils, adding new soil, and planting native plants—a property can slow and treat water before it enters our streams, and will look great too!”

At the close of the planting, Reverend Jerome Tilghman of St. Luke led a blessing of the plants and volunteers and reminded his congregants of their obligation to take care of the planet they are blessed to be a part of.

Stewards for Streams has also partnered with Waugh Chapel in Cambridge and Grace Lutheran in Easton to install rain gardens. Stewards for Streams not only offers restoration and planting opportunities, but environmental education for youth and adults, faith-environmental workshops, rain barrel installations, and youth day trips on local rivers. Stewards for Streams is funded by a Chesapeake Bay Foundation Community Outreach and Restoration Grant. For more information or to involve your congregation, contact Suzanne at Suzanne@midshoreriverkeeper.org or call 443.385.0511.

Riverkeepers Named St Michaels Middle High School Partner of the Year

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) was recognized as St. Michaels Middle High School Partner of the Year at the Talbot County Public Schools (TCPS) partnership celebration on May 24, 2017. MRC has been working with TCPS for the past five years on a robust and engaging environmental education program, Students for Streams. This past year, MRC educators provided multiple in-class and outdoor lessons teaching students about local watersheds, how the school may impact local rivers, and how students can help to improve local water quality.

MRC obtained a Chesapeake Bay Trust grant to promote healthy waterways by working with students in environmental science classes as part of the Students for Streams program across the entire Midshore. Since last August, MRC educators Elle O’Brien and Suzanne Sullivan brought programing to each school once or twice a month. Activities included planting native plants, oyster dissections, schoolyard assessments, and field trips to Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge. MRC helped students understand the connection between human actions and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. They led students in creating action projects that will have a positive impact on local water quality.

Pictured (L-R) are SMMHS Principal Tracy Elzey, MRC Education & Outreach Coordinator Elle O’Brien, MRC board member Meta Boyd, and TCPS Superintendent of Schools Kelly Griffith. Photo courtesy of TCPS.

St. Michaels Middle High School (SMMHS) became a leader in student-led action projects, installing over 200 native plant species, painting a beautiful Chesapeake-themed storm drain mural, and reinvigorating the school’s recycling and waste management programs. Perhaps the largest accomplishment is being awarded the national recognition of becoming a Maryland Green School.

“We choose Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy for our Community Partner Award this year because of their quality programing and commitment in my classroom,” says SMMHS science teacher Lauren Greer. “Their education team is great to work with and extremely supportive of the projects in the classroom. They have a natural ability to work with students and know how to motivate every student. Because of their support with students’ action projects, the St. Michaels Middle High School campus was able to become a Green School.”

MRC Education & Outreach Coordinator Elle O’Brien says, “The students at St. Michaels Middle High School and all of our partner schools are incredibly creative, inquisitive, and enthusiastic to get their hands dirty and work toward a healthier Chesapeake Bay. MRC thanks the dedicated teachers in this program and their commitment to educating future environmental stewards.”

MRC is pleased to announce that Students for Streams is expanding to work with every 9th grader in Talbot County in the 2017-2018 school year through continued funding from Chesapeake Bay Trust.

To learn more about Students for Streams, please contact Elle O’Brien at elle@midshoreriverkeeper.org, 443-385-0511.

Riverkeepers Seek Volunteer Creekwatchers

Creekwatcher Dick Bemis uses a YSI meter to measure water quality parameters.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) is seeking volunteers to join our Creekwatchers program on the Wye River, Cox Creek, Crab Alley, and Harris Creek. Creekwatcher teams conduct water quality monitoring at approximately 115 sites on nine rivers and Eastern Bay. Volunteers measure salinity, temperature, water clarity, and dissolved oxygen, and test for nitrogen, phosphorus, and chlorophyll a concentrations. MRC provides all equipment and training necessary for volunteers to collect the samples. The only requirement of volunteers is access to a boat.

Data collected by Creekwatchers is a vital component in producing MRC’s annual State of the Midshore Rivers Report Card. The data is also shared with other agencies to help monitor trends in water quality.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and celebration of the waterways that comprise the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Miles River, and Wye River watersheds. For more information, visit midshoreriverkeeper.org.

Interested Creekwatcher volunteers may contact Tasha at keitasha@midshoreriverkeeper.org or call 443-385-0511 to learn more about the program.

Stewards for Streams Seeks Volunteers for Cambridge Church Planting

Waugh Chapel in Cambridge also worked with Stewards for Streams to plant a native rain garden.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and St. Luke United Methodist Church in Cambridge are seeking volunteers to help plant over 400 native flowers and grasses on Tuesday, May 30 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. Volunteers will be helping to plant a sloped ditched called a bio-swale that collects rain water draining into our rivers. Native species help filter and clean rain water, thus reducing pollution before it reaches our rivers, all the while beautifying the church grounds. Native species to be planted include black-eyed Susans, seashore mallow, and switchgrass. St. Luke is planting their bio-swale as a part of the Stewards for Streams: Faith Based Conservation program, funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Stewards for Streams works with congregations of any denomination to connect faith with environmental stewardship action.St. Luke is located at 712 Bradley Avenue. If you would like to volunteer please contact Suzanne at Suzanne@midshoreriverkeeper.org or call 443-385-0511. Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is also looking for more congregations to join the Stewards for Streams movement and spread environmental stewardship actions throughout local communities. Please contact Suzanne if you would like to get your congregation involved.