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.

Pickering Creek Audubon Hosts Toast & Taste at Historic Harleigh

On Saturday, June 10 Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s Tour, Toast & Taste will be held at Chip and Sally Akridge’s Harleigh on Oxford Rd. The event will afford guests a rare look inside Harleigh and a great opportunity to socialize and add culinary adventures to their social calendars for the upcoming year.

Each year, Pickering Creek selects one of Easton’s finest estates to host its largest fundraiser of the year. The event includes a home tour, food, drink, entertainment, live and silent auction and an opportunity to purchase seats at unique events held throughout the year. In 2017, the Tour, Toast & Taste committee is extremely excited to have Harleigh join the list of other magnificent properties to have hosted this spectacular event including Hope House, Forrest Landing, Myrtle Grove, Wye House, and Knightly.

Fronting a tranquil Eastern Shore tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, the property’s original clapboard farmhouse dates to the mid-1800s. But it wasn’t until 2007, that the couple initiated an extensive renovation with the Baltimore architectural and design firm Johnson/Berman.

The team lavished equal attention on the estate’s grounds, which swelled as the Akridges acquired surrounding agricultural parcels that had been destined for high-density residential development. These days, a stroll around the property reveals areas of horticultural identity that are distinct and yet expertly play off of each other to create one of the most enchanting residential gardens of the Chesapeake region.

Under Sally’s direction, the English-style formal garden the beds are resplendent with hostas, roses, and stunning ornamental onion blooms that suggest an explosion of purple summertime fireworks. “This whole place is a canvas for almost any kind of expression,” Sally says. “We like to honor those who were here before us, because we’re just custodians for a while.”

On the opposite side of the house, Chip has modeled a huge kitchen garden and perennial bed after the ones tended by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Starting uphill and sloping toward the water, twenty-nine raised beds sprout strawberries, sweet peas, collards, okra, heirloom tomatoes, and Chip’s favorite—popping corn. “When I was growing up, my grandparents were big garden folks,” Chip says. “We always canned vegetables and it stayed with me.”

Beyond the vegetables are swaths of red poppies and chamomile in four small wildflower meadows, a transitional zone to the estate’s less-manicured environs. The Akridges have turned two-thirds of the commercial agricultural acreage back into wildlife habitat, providing terrific food and shelter for ducks, geese, songbirds, wild turkeys and quail, and bird watching opportunities for local wildlife enthusiasts.

Chip & Sally’s appreciation for wildlife and the need to improve habitat, which they have demonstrated along Oxford Road makes Harleigh a terrific location to celebrate Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s work to reconnect people with nature and their own role in stewarding the Chesapeake regions natural resources.

The evening of June 10th will begin with a guided first floor tour of the home, where docents will discuss the history of the home and the notable renovations and improvements the Akridges have made to make it the outstanding place it is today. Both Chip and Sally will be on hand to answer questions.

At the conclusion of the tour, guests will move to the spacious green behind the home overlooking the Tred Avon River to enjoy cocktails and heavy hors d’oeuvres while signing up and purchasing seats at a wide variety of dinners and events that will be held throughout the year. Dinners and events ranging from gourmet meals to themed ethnic dinners, local and historical specialty dinners, brunches, and Crab Feasts will be available for purchase. There is something for everyone, and they all benefit the conservation education conducted daily at Pickering Creek.

Naturalist and friend of the Center, Mike Callahan will conclude the evening with a special presentation of live raptors of Maryland. Callahan is an expert on barn owls and raptors and introduces the public to them through his work with Southern Maryland Audubon Society and Charles County Public Schools. Guests will have an opportunity to learn about the birds and see them up close.

This year’s Tour, Toast and Taste is generously sponsored by Chip and Sally Akridge, the Dock Street Foundation, the Frederick Richmond Foundation, Shore Bancshares, The Wilford Nagel Group at Morgan Stanley, Bruce Wiltsie and Bill Davenport, Chesapeake Audubon Society, Bill and Mary Griffin, Cheryl Tritt and Philip Walker, Richard and Beverly Tilghman, Jo Storey, the Star Democrat, Colin Walsh and Carolyn Williams, Bartlett, Griffin and Vermilye, The Hill Group at Morgan Stanley, Clay Railey and Don Wooters, George and Cemmy Peterson, Wye Gardens, LLC, Wayne and Jodi Shaner, and many others.

For over 30 years, Pickering Creek Audubon Center has provided environmental education opportunities to students of the Eastern Shore, moving them from awareness of their watershed to conservation action in their communities. Since establishing a well-reputed elementary education program in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools 25 years ago, Audubon has added meaningful watershed experiences for middle and high school students to our continuum of education along with community outreach education about our regions unique saltmarshes. Pickering Creek reaches the people of the Eastern Shore throughout their academic careers outdoor learning experiences that encourage them to continue interacting with the outdoors frequently.
Tickets can be purchased online and more information can be found at www.pcacevents.org. For more information call the Center at 410-822-4903.

For more information:
Mark Scallion
For more information on the event:

‘Envision the Choptank’ Offers Free BMP Workshop for Talbot County Residents

Live in the town of Easton, St. Michaels, or McDaniel and interested in the health of the Chesapeake Bay? If you answered “YES”, then the Envision the Choptank initiative has an opportunity for you!

Come to the Eastern Shore Conservation Center (114 South Washington St., Easton) on May 17 or May 22 from 5:30-7:30pm for an informational workshop and walking tour to learn how to reduce flooding and control runoff in your own backyard. Refreshments will be provided as residents learn a little bit about some best management techniques for your home.

Those in attendance will also go on a short walking tour to see techniques first hand and speak with homeowners who are already helping to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Everyone who attends will get a free soil test and recommendations for lawn care. A rain barrel will also be raffled off each night.

Please RSVP by e-mail to Nicole Barth (nbarth@eslc.org) or by phone to Michelle Funches 410-690-4603 ext. 169 by May 15!

Envision the Choptank is a collaborative initiative that engages communities, nonprofits, and government agencies in developing joint solutions to improve the health and productivity of native oysters and support a fishable, swimmable Choptank.

Op-Ed: Chesapeake Bay Foundation Says Teamwork is Needed

“We are stronger together than alone.” It’s an idea that can benefit many people and situations – even those who serve us in government.

In today’s political climate, it’s hard to imagine government officials standing together in unity on much of anything.

Yet just this week representatives of six local jurisdictions on Maryland’s Eastern Shore signed off on a proposal to work collaboratively to control polluted runoff – one of the few sources of Bay pollution that’s increasing.

The collaborative comes out of the Healthy Waters Round Table – a network of county and town officials on the Shore that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and partners helped launch in 2015. The network helps participating communities share resources to keep pollution out of local rivers and streams.

County and town collaboration is a win-win idea. Under the Clean Water Blueprint, Maryland’s local governments are partners in the multi-state commitment to get projects in place by 2025 that will collectively meet water quality standards for the Bay. The problem is that most rural communities like those on the Shore have limited resources at their disposal to contribute to the effort.

Leaders of some jurisdictions are charging new fees to help fund pollution control. Salisbury, for example, assesses homeowners about $20 per year to pay for street sweeping, new plants and trees, and other practices that filter and treat runoff near its source.

But even with this extra effort, Salisbury finds it difficult to get the necessary work done to protect local water quality. That’s why it recently joined Cambridge, Easton, Oxford, Queen Anne’s and Talbot in the new partnership to try share resources. (Round Table partners including Caroline, Cecil, Chestertown and Kent declined to participate.)

The time and effort it takes to bring a municipal or county pollution control project from conception to completion is not insignificant. Scoping out projects, ushering them through design and approval, and managing construction, can sometimes slow projects almost to a halt.

With CBF’s help, county and town partners agreed to work collectively to try to get through this bottleneck. For instance, localities this week partnered on a grant application to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to bring in new technical support staff and funding that can speed up project delivery.

If the proposal is approved, a “Regional Service Provider” will be hired who helps locals plan, prioritize and invest grant dollars in high-value projects. The process also will ensure that pollution reduction efforts get results, and that local governments get credit.

The Hogan Administration likes the idea. State agencies under the Governor’s purview have pledged resources of their own that together with cash contributions from participating local governments will provide some significant horsepower to get work done. If awarded, the three-year initiative would begin as soon as this August.

On the Shore, limited resources are a major impediment to county and town progress on controlling polluted runoff. The new collaborative may be just what’s needed here to get communities what they need to help them do their share to finish the job of restoring the Bay to health.

by Alan Girard

Alan Girard is the director of the Eastern Shore Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

AAM and MidShore Riverkeeper Conservancy Host eARTh Arts Extravaganza

Pictured are participants of eARTh Arts Extravaganza, which celebrated Earth Day at the Museum making recycled art projects.

For the second year in a row, the Academy Art Museum teamed up with the MidShore Riverkeeper Conservancy to host an eARTh Arts Extravaganza to celebrate Earth Day.  Children, parents, mentors and friends attended the event at the Museum where they were able to choose from a large variety of materials, such as cans, paper towel rolls, empty dental floss containers, corks, bottle caps, odd bits of paper, yarn, wire etc. to create recycled art projects.  Projects included castles, signs, collages, dolls, a basket of crabs, and a 3-D flower worthy of Dr. Seuss.

The eARTh Arts Extravaganza is part of the Museum’s pARTicipate!  program that encourages full family participation and offers intergenerational participants the possibility of working on art projects together or creating art side by side. Studies have shown that when adults honor children’s creativity by collaborating with them and/or taking an active interest in what they are doing, bonds are strengthened and inventiveness flourishes.

The Museum will be offering two more family art projects this spring: one in the Travel the World series and one to commemorate Juneteenth.  On Saturday, May 13, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., participants will “travel” to Ghana.  They will make hanging art pieces inspired by the famous Ghanian artist, El Anatsui.  On Saturday, June 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., attendees will be making quilt squares based on designs used by African Americans during the years of the Underground Railroad.  Both programs are free.  Pre-registration is encouraged. Visit academyartmuseum.org or call 410-822-2787 for more information. 

Disney Movie Night by IWL Chapter

The Izaak Walton League’s Mid-Shore Chapter is having its first ever Family Movie Night on Saturday, May 20. Bring your children and join the chapter for this special evening. The meet-and-greet starts at 5:30. Dinner, from Roberto’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant in Easton, will be at 6 p.m. The “Earth” movie and popcorn will follow.  All of this will take place in the chapter’s covered, open-air pavilion situated on 55 beautiful wooded acres at 2665 Money Make Road in Trappe.

Produced by DisneyNature and narrated by James Earl Jones, “Earth” brings you a remarkable story of adventure, starring some of the most magnificent and courageous creatures alive. You will see animal families of polar bears, elephants, and humpback whales go on an epic journey across our planet. This is a film that truly will amaze children and adults alike.

A polar bear mother and two of her cubs set out across the icy sea at sunset.

The cost is $10 for each adult, $5 for children 5 and up, free for children 4 and under.  Reservations are required. To make a reservation, please send a check along with the names of the adults and your phone number to Joanne Hart, 3829 Marvel Drive, Trappe MD 21673. Reservations must be received by Monday, May 15. If you have questions, please contact Joanne at jlhart988@verizon.net or 410.476.3244.

The Izaak Walton League is a long-standing national organization dedicated to the conservation of our natural resources including soil, air, woods, waters and wildlife. The Mid-Shore Chapter offers scholarships to college-bound students who expect to work in the conservation field. The chapter promotes recycling; offers archery instruction; makes its facilities available to scout groups, nature organizations, and schools; performs road-side trash pick-up; has kayaks available to members for exploring Bolingbroke Creek; maintains marked walking trails on the property; holds monthly chapter events at the pavilion; and invites you to join us for some fun and to support our important mission.

Riverkeepers Present 2016 Report Card at State of the Rivers Party

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) will host its annual Cambridge State of the Rivers Report Card Party on Thursday, May 25 at 6 pm at the Cambridge Yacht Club, located at 1 Mill Street, next to Long Wharf Park. Light fare and drinks will be served.The event is free and open to the public.

MRC is excited to partner again with the Cambridge Yacht Club for the evening. The yacht club also participates in MRC’s Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program.

During the State of the Rivers Party, MRC Riverkeepers will release the results of the 2016 State of the Rivers Report Card. Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, along with other experts and educators from MRC’s staff, will explain and interpret results from last year when scientists and MRC’s 50+ Creekwatcher volunteers collected water quality samples at over 115 sites.

The City of Cambridge is located on the shores of the Choptank River, which will be the focus of this presentation. Special guest speakers for the evening will be partners from the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee, including Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth, Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, City of Cambridge, and University of Maryland Extension. Each partner will give a short update about various initiatives underway in the region.

The 2016 Report Card results will reveal whether grades improved over the past year and how specific testing parameters contributed to overall scores.Production and presentation of the Report Card was supported by a grant from Chesapeake Bay Trust.

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, email matt@midshoreriverkeeper.org or call 443.385.0511.

New People Bring Fresh Perspectives to Waterfowl Chesapeake and Festival

Waterfowl Chesapeake (WC), the parent organization of the annual Waterfowl Festival, is thrilled announce two new staff joining its team. 

Leslie Milby of Cordova comes on board as WC’s new Festival and Events Manager.  Milby will be coordinating and managing the annual Waterfowl Festival and helping with new events as Waterfowl Chesapeake works to expand its community and conservation outreach.

As part of a family who goose hunts together even before presents on Christmas morning, Milby is excited to be a part of an organization focused on preserving both the land and traditions of the Eastern Shore.  As a Waterfowl Festival-goer for many years, she’s excited about seeing how all the and volunteer committees bring all “nooks and crannies” together to orchestrate this big-time, small-town event.  She also is thrilled to have the chance to help build out future programs in support of local communities and waterfowl conservation.

“Our family loves strolling together around the Festival, eating oysters for breakfast and supporting our cousin in the Dock Dogs competition. When we can leave the kids at home, my husband and I come back to try the sweet and local wines in the wine tent, catch up with friends around town, and take in all the amazing paintings we’d like to buy when our kids are less expensive,” she says with a laugh. Milby and her husband, Logan, who works for Maryland Environmental Service, reside on “Puddle Jump Farm” with their children, Landon (3) and Lucy (3 months).

Milby is looking forward to working with staff and volunteers to enhance the current offerings of the Festival and its appeal to both locals and guests, as well as growing the event as it nears its 50th year in 2020. “The Festival’s exposure to the Eastern Shore lifestyle is excellent, and I always tell my friends and family that it’s a great time to come in for a visit!”

In addition, Easton resident Heather Grant has joined the staff as the part-time Waterfowl Festival Marketing Manager. In this position, Grant is responsible for the development and execution of all marketing and communication campaigns, including print and digital advertising, web development, marketing collateral, social media, and public relations relating to the Festival.

Grant, who is originally from Connecticut, has been a resident of the Eastern Shore and a Festival-goer since 2003. She has a Masters in Publication Design from the University of Baltimore and a BA in Journalism from the University of New Hampshire. With over 20 years of marketing, communications graphic and web design experience, she brings experience and talent to the WF promotional team. With social media and the web at the forefront of current marketing practices, Grant will look to increase the Festival’s presence in those realms, while continuing to work with traditional media outlets like print, TV and radio.

“I’ve been attending the Festival regularly since I moved here,” Grant explains.  “It’s the highlight of the Fall in Easton. Since the kids are off from school, we’ve enjoyed attending the retrieving and Dock Dogs competitions and just wandering around town enjoying all the Festival has to offer. When we first started coming, we used to spend a lot of time at the middle school where my father-in-law was a carving exhibitor. I really gained an appreciation for the time it took him to create his decoys and that they were truly works of art. It’s part of the fabric of the Eastern Shore and I am excited to be involved in promoting it to a new generation of fans.”

“We couldn’t be happier to find such great professionals right her in our local area who also support our community and conservation mission,” says Executive Director Margaret Enloe.

With a focus on communities, stewardship and the waterfowl-related resources and heritage on Delmarva, Waterfowl Chesapeake: connects financial resources from the Festival and environmental needs in communities, serves as a neutral convener for events, forums and discussions leading to solutions, and engages and educates communities about the benefits of healthy waterfowl populations and habitats.

Midshore Project Clean Stream Volunteers Collect Over 10,000 Pounds of Trash

Starting Saturday April 1 and continuing throughout the spring, Midshore residents and community groups took to streams, shorelines, streets and woodlands along local rivers to volunteer to remove debris and litter as a part of the Chesapeake-wide Project Clean Stream. Started by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Project Clean Stream is a concerted regional effort that engages community members in a hands-on opportunity to improve local water quality through litter pick-up. Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) spearheads the effort locally as the Project Clean Stream coordinator for the Midshore region, including the Choptank, Miles and Wye Rivers.

Photo by Bart Merrick

The results of this clean-up provide a snapshot of the amount of trash and debris that, if not removed, could make it into our waterways and degrade local water quality and habitat for fish, crabs and oysters. Approximately 250 volunteers from Caroline, Talbot, and Dorchester Counties worked at 15 different locations to clean up local streams. They collected over 10,800 pounds of trash, with the most common items being plastic bottles and plastic bags. Unusual items included a car exhaust, upholstery, a cell phone, crab pots, televisions, shopping carts, oil drums, car parts and household wall insulation.

This clean-up effort is a great way to build awareness and to encourage the community to get involved in cleaning up debris left behind after winter and before spring showers wash it into local waterways.

“Project Clean Stream is an opportunity to create awareness and encourage action,” says Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta. “I urge everyone to join this effort, not just in the spring but every day, by not littering and by picking up unsightly trash throughout your day. We all enjoy the outdoors—whether boating on our rivers, fishing, or walking at our parks. Let’s continue to work together to keep these areas clean and inviting for everyone to enjoy.”

Photo by Dave Harp

Participating groups included Cambridge Association of Neighborhoods, Cambridge Main Street, Cambridge Multi-Sport, Cambridge Sail and Power Squadron, Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth, Nick Carter Team, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, The Country School 2nd Graders, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Easton High School Environmental Club, 4H Busy Beavers, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake, Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, Phillips Wharf Environmental Center, Saints Peter and Paul High School, residents of Secretary, Third Haven Friends Meeting, and Y-Guides.

MRC extends appreciation to the amazing volunteers who gave up a few hours of their time to clean our streams and beautify the rivers of the Eastern Shore. A special thanks also goes to the Town of Easton, the Town of Greensboro, City of Cambridge, and Talbot, Caroline, and Dorchester County Departments of Public Works for collecting and disposing of the trash.

There is still time to get involved in Project Clean Stream. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to participate in a Project Clean Stream event at Pickering Creek Audubon Center on Saturday, May 20 from 9am-12pm. Explore and restore a section of the Audubon Center not generally open to the public as volunteers remove trash from a wet woodland. Gloves and boot will be available to borrow. Call Samantha at 410.822.4903 or email spitts@audubon.org to sign up by May 15.

For more information about Project Clean Stream or to start your own cleanup, contact Suzanne at suzanne@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443.385.0511.