Easton Port Street Project Focus on Affordable Housing in May

PLACE, a non-profit community builder which acts as a nonprofit developer for cities and other municipal or nonprofit entities, will conduct a preliminary feasibility analysis of the affordable and innovation housing portions of the Port Street Small Area Master Plan in May.

Working with a steering committee formed by the Easton Economic Development Corporation, PLACE will involve key stakeholders in a series of host meetings and focus groups between May 9 and 11, 2017 in Easton.  The focus groups will address financial, quality of life, and housing and environment and will involve community leaders, elected officials and business representatives from each of the three areas. A Public Forum will be held on May 10 at 6 p.m. for the entire community to discuss the vision for the project, provide examples of similar developments around the country and describe the economic impact and other beneficial outcomes.  PLACE will then present their findings from the visit to the stakeholders on the next day.  A further goal is for PLACE to determine its capacity and appropriateness to provide development services for the Port Street Small Area Master Plan affordable housing and innovation pieces.

Through the Port Street Small Area Master Planning process, the community has identified the retention and development of affordable housing on Port Street to be a key priority.  Easton is currently generally underserved in affordable housing.  Affordable housing currently available on Port Street is in disrepair and will require significant investment in the short term.  The community has also been very vocal in their requests for supportive retail, environmentally sensitive development and healthy food options created through a market and/or gardens.

The Port Street Small Area Master Plan also calls for live/work spaces that would appeal to creative professionals and millennials.  The PLACE team has extensive experience in developing new models for urban neighborhoods that demonstrate radical innovation in environmental design, live/work hubs for creatives and creative businesses, job creation through retail and manufacturing, affordable workforce housing, and supportive housing for the most economically distressed.

According to Tracy Ward, “The Easton Economic Development Corporation has identified the development of affordable housing as a priority project that could advance the overall goals of redeveloping Port Street and Easton Point due to the potential to harness market forces and the availability of existing infrastructure.  The economic impact of this project to the Town of Easton would exceed $20 million.”

For further information about the Public Forum on May 10, 2017, 6 p.m. at the Easton Firehouse on Creamery Lane, contact Tracy Ward at (410) 708-6932.

Meaningful Change for Ourselves and the World

We live in a world where millions of people are striving to make change for the better. So, in a world seeking positive change, how do we make sure that such change actually happens? Speaker Mark McCurties says, “We all have a natural desire to improve ourselves and the world around us.  In my own life I’ve found that letting God, divine Love, guide and direct my efforts brings permanent and meaningful results.”

McCurties, a practitioner of Christian Science healing, will present a Free Talk titled, How God’s love can change your life and the world” on Tuesday, May 2 at 7:00 pm at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Van Lennep Auditorium, 213 N. Talbot Street, St. Michaels, MD.

“The desire to change ourselves, to improve our character, our relationships, our life prospects can also go beyond just the boundary of our own lives and the four walls of our home. Many men and women around the world have a sincere yearning to improve the collective experience of mankind,” says McCurties. “In this lecture, I will explain how God’s loving and saving power is the greatest agent for change, and that through a right understanding of God, His power can be seen and felt right here and now, bringing health and peace to the world.”

The ideas in this lecture are based on the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Bible, and as discussed in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy.

McCurties has had a life-long love of the Bible and its inspiring message of individual triumph over adversity. After graduating from college he spent a number of years in the field of education where he worked as a camp director, experiential educator, resident counselor, and athletics coach. While working with young people, he had many opportunities to witness the healing power of God, and these inspiring experiences eventually led him into the full-time public practice of Christian Science.

Mark McCurties is a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship. He travels from his home in Boston, Massachusetts.

This talk is sponsored by the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Easton, 501 S. Washington Street. For more information, please visit: www.cseaston.org

Party in Your PJs for Habitat Choptank

On Friday, May 5, 2017, Habitat for Humanity Choptank is inviting the community to wear their pajamas in support of affordable home ownership in Dorchester and Talbot Counties. Plans are now being made for Habitat Choptank’s 25th anniversary later this year. With this milestone approaching, Habitat is taking a break from its traditional spring fundraising event, bypassing the finger food and centerpieces, to simply ask for support – with a fun twist. Supporters are invited to Party in Your PJs, spending a night at home with friends and family, and donating the money they would spend on an event to directly benefit Habitat’s local work.

Community members are invited to Party in Your PJS and spend a night at home in support of Habitat Choptank. Friends of Habitat show how it works. From L-R, Wendy Palmer, Matt Spence, Jesse Hallum, Richard Slaughter, and Christine DuFour. Photo by Melissa Grimes-Guy.

“Six homes are currently underway between Easton, Cambridge and Hurlock,” explains Nancy Andrew, Habitat Choptank’s executive director. These are a mix of new construction and rehab projects. The nonprofit builder has plans to start at least six more houses in these three communities over the coming year if the funds can be raised. Construction on a multi-home project in St. Michaels is also on the horizon.

“While we’re taking a year off from organizing and hosting an event, the need for our mission continues,” notes Andrew. “In just the last three quarters, we’ve seen a 55% increase in inquiries from working individuals and families right here in our communities who are burdened by their housing and who reach out to see if they can qualify to buy a home with us.” Donors who make a contribution to the ‘no-show’ fundraiser will be invited to a complimentary after party on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at Latitude 38° Bistro and Spirits.

Since 1992, Habitat Choptank has made home ownership possible for 72 families and currently partners with eight local home buyers. Income qualifying individuals and families are offered access to affordable mortgage financing in order to purchase a new construction or rehabbed home from the nonprofit’s project inventory of durable and energy efficient houses.  After completing “sweat equity” hours, attending pre-homeownership classes, and meeting debt reduction and savings goals, these individuals and families will purchase homes that they helped construct and assume the full responsibilities of home ownership including maintaining their home, paying property taxes and repaying their mortgage over 30 to 33 years. Habitat accepts applications for its home ownership program throughout the year.

For information or to make a donation, call 410-476-3204 or visit www.habitatchoptank.org/party-in-pjs/.

Registration Now Open for Free Swimming Lessons

 

Free swimming lessons are available this summer for children 18 months to 15 years old at two Talbot County pools, thanks to SOS Sink or Swim and the St. Michaels Community Center.

This is the fourth summer SOS is offering these free lessons. This year’s goal is to teach 1,000 local children to swim and be safe in the water.

“Talbot County is surrounded by 600 miles of water, and it is vital that our children know how to swim, for their safety and for fun,” SOS President Elizabeth C. Moose said. “Swimming is a lifetime skill that can save a life.”

Three, two-week swimming sessions will be held at the George Murphy Community Pool in Easton and at the Bay Hundred Community Pool in St. Michaels. Lessons are free, but registration is required, with an initial deadline of June 12. Deadlines for the second two sessions are July 3 and July 17. Registration forms can be found at www.sossinkorswim.org, at the St. Michaels Community Center or through the Talbot County Parks and Recreation Department.

For more information, contact the St. Michaels Community Center at 410-745-6073. All applications must be mailed to the St. Michaels Community Center, P.O. Box 354, St. Michaels, Maryland 21663.

SOS recently re-structured, with the non-profit Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum coming aboard as its fiscal sponsor. To help fund SOS’s mission to teach children how to swim and be safe in the water, go to www.sossinkorswim.org and click “SUPPORT,” or send a check to SOS Sink or Swim, 606A North Talbot Street, Suite 109, St. Michaels, MD, 21663.

Survey Finds Bay Crab Population Strong with Record Number Of Females

Boosted in part by a record number of female blue crabs, the Bay’s crab population remained strong through the winter — something scientists say bodes well both for the crustaceans and those who catch and love to eat them.

Overall, the annual winter dredge survey conducted by Maryland and Virginia estimated that the Bay held 455 million crabs, a decrease from last year’s tally of 553 million. Most of the drop was attributed to a falloff in juvenile crab numbers, which are both more variable and harder to survey.

But survey results released Wednesday showed that the number of female crabs — which have been the focus of conservation efforts for nearly a decade — reached 254 million, a 31 percent increase over last year, and their highest level in the survey’s 28-year history.

As a result, fishery managers expect solid harvests this spring and into early summer, buoyed by the large number of adult crabs from last year. But they warn that the low number of juveniles “recruiting” into the overall population may require some harvest restrictions when the young crabs start reaching market size later this year.

“I’m pretty confident the stock is solid,” said Rom Lipcius, of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who helps oversee the annual survey. “But we need to be careful. We can’t just open up the fishery and stuff, especially with what appears to be lower recruitment.”

The survey, conducted in the winter when crabs are normally dormant on the bottom, is a closely watched indicator of the status of the Bay’s most valuable fishery. State fishery managers typically tweak catch levels, both up and down, based on the results compiled by VIMS and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

For instance, the states imposed catch restrictions to reduce the Baywide harvest 10 percent in 2014, when the survey revealed the number of females had sharply dropped. But managers have also eased restrictions when the crabs are found to be more plentiful, as they did last year.

While there have been ups and downs from year to year, survey data show that blue crab abundance has trended upward overall since 2008, when scientists warned the population was dangerously close to collapse. Maryland and Virginia acted together then to impose harvest limits on female crabs, allowing more to survive and reproduce.

Though the total number of crabs was down in this year’s survey, compared to last year, it was still the third highest since 2008.

Harvests have rebounded as well. An estimated 60 million crabs were caught Baywide last year, up from 50 million in 2015, and the record-low of 35 million a year earlier.

“I feel optimistic in the grand scheme of things,” said John M.R. Bull, commissioner of the Virginian Marine Resources Commission. “The trend line is that the stock has improved, and the harvest has improved at the same time.”

This year was the second time since 2008 when the number of female crabs exceeded the Bay target of 215 million recommended by scientists. It was only the third time in the history of the winter dredge survey that it had exceeded that mark.

“The good news is we’ve got a bunch of momma crabs out there,” said Robert T. Brown, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association. “Hopefully, they hatch out good.”

Watermen in some areas have been reporting catching a lot of female crabs, Brown said, to the point that some are shifting their gear to try to find more males.

One concern voiced by scientists and fishery managers was the relative dearth of young crabs in the survey. The 125 million baby crabs estimated this winter was the lowest since 2013, and the second lowest since 2007.

Scientists cautioned that the juvenile numbers have the highest level of uncertainty in the survey because the small crabs sometimes move into shallow water where they are hard to find.

Other factors can contribute to wide swings in juvenile numbers, Lipcius said. Juveniles spend the first several weeks of their lives drifting in the ocean after they are spawned, and weather conditions greatly affect the number that return to the Bay. Those that return can suffer heavy predation from fish, and even cannibalism from adult crabs.

“One low year of [juvenile] crabs is not by itself a danger sign,” said Tom Miller, a fisheries scientist and director of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. But, Miller cautioned, two years in a row of low numbers would be cause for concern.

Fishery managers in both states said they may consider action to protect seemingly sparse juveniles, perhaps by curbing catches later this fall and next spring when they reach market size. That would increase the chances that more of them would survive to reproduce and support future harvests.

“We need to be prepared for the challenges ahead of us as it relates to the juveniles,” said Mike Luisi, assistant director of fisheries and boating services with the Maryland DNR. “We want to make sure that we’re not overharvesting on that lower abundance.”

Matt Ogburn, a fisheries scientist who works with blue crabs at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD, said the fact that crab numbers have generally risen in recent years, along with harvests, offers “a good example of how fairly conservative management actions can actually lead to increases in the fishery.”

“As short-lived as they are, blue crab populations can decline very quickly if you’re not careful,” Ogburn said. “But they can also come back quickly if you are conservative about the management. And I think the last decade has proven that out.”

Nonetheless, those decisions can be difficult. A longtime crab manager with the Maryland DNR, Brenda Davis, was fired earlier this year after a group of Eastern Shore watermen complained about her unwillingness to ease crab harvest rules. The firing prompted outrage, and a legislative hearing in Annapolis.

“It’s almost more difficult, scientifically, to manage a rebounding fishery,” said Miller, “because it’s a question of how much is enough . . . if we change the regulations, how much is that going to impact the harvest?”

The winter dredge survey has been conducted annually since 1990 by scientists in Maryland and Virginia, who tally crabs dredged from the bottom at 1,500 sites across the Bay from December through March — when they are buried in mud and stationary. Historically, the survey has provided an accurate snapshot of crab abundance, and is the primary tool for assessing the health of the crab stock.

Karl Blankenship is editor of the Bay Journal and executive director of Chesapeake Media Service. He has served as editor of the Bay Journal since its inception in 1991.

Timothy B. Wheeler is managing editor and project writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for the Baltimore Sun and other media outlets.

Skipjack “Stanley Norman” Docks at CBMM Beginning April 28

Stanley Norman. Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The skipjack Stanley Norman can be seen at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md., from Friday, April 28, to Monday, May 8, 2017, with public tours available from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 5.

Built in 1902 in Salisbury, Md., the Stanley Norman, is a single-masted, Bay-built sailing vessel designed to harvest oysters with a pair of dredges that are dragged across the bottom of the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation acquired the Stanley Norman to play a unique and active role as CBF’s most distinctive “floating classroom.” The skipjack is a part of Bay history and a platform for students of all ages to learn about oysters, the life of a Chesapeake Bay waterman, and Bay-related issues of the past, present, and future.

Tours are free for CBMM members or with general admission, which is good for two days and is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $6 for children ages 6-17, and free for active military and children ages 5 and under.

For more information, or to learn about any of the vessels visiting CBMM’s waterfront campus, visit cbmm.org.

Bus Trip though the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Park

The Easton Branch of AAUW (American Association of University Women) is sponsoring a bus trip through the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Blackwater Refuge on Saturday, May 6, 2017.  Learn about the unique landscape of the Underground Railroad on the Eastern Shore and how Harriet Tubman, the Moses of her people, liberated so many.  The tour includes a bus ride along roads of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, introductory tour and ample free time to explore the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Park; a catered picnic lunch in the open-air picnic pavilion at the Tubman Park; and a ranger-led interpretive drive through the Blackwater Refuge with time at the Visitors Center.

The bus will leave Sailwinds Park, 200 Byrn St. in Cambridge, MD at 9:00 AM and return at 4:00 PM.  Contact Connie Wolfe at 808-276-8078 or corneliawolfe@gmail.com to reserve your space and indicate your luncheon choice.  The cost is $65.00.

The funds from this trip will fund our Mature Woman’s Grant which assists women over 25 years of age in the five counties of the mid shore who are returning to, or continuing, their college education.

AAUW is a national organization promoting equity for all women and girls, lifelong education and positive societal change. Founded in 1881 the AAUW is open to all graduates who hold an associate degree or equivalent, a baccalaureate, or higher degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Composed of women of all ethnicities, perspectives, backgrounds and professions, the AAUW also seeks to promote social change through involvement in Voter Education Campaigns, Programs for Women and Girls, Political Advocacy for Women, and by providing research, fellowships and grants.

Historically the AAUW has been a major influence in women’s civil rights issues. They championed the first legislative proposal for pay equity and fought for passage of Title IX, outlawing sex discrimination in education. Issues at the forefront are Human Trafficking and Pay Equity.  On an international level, in 1946 the AAUW was accorded permanent U.N. observer status after acting as an early and influential advocate for the United Nations. Both here and abroad the AAUW continues to make an impact on the world.

For membership information, call Janet Harford at 410-476-5961 or see our website at www.easton-mdAAUW.

Women are Invited to Join Habitat’s National Women Build Week

Habitat for Humanity Choptank and Lowe’s invite women to build alongside future homeowners during the 10th annual National Women Build Week, May 6 through 14. Habitat Choptank is one of 300 Habitat organizations nationwide hosting Women Build projects during the week with support from Lowe’s, a longtime partner in the event.

From the 2016 event, Habitat Choptank’s Neighborhood Revitalization Manager Rhodana Fields teaches Kristan Green how to use a circular saw.

In Dorchester and Talbot Counties, local volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in three unique projects. Wednesday, May 10, 2017 will mark the kick-off of Women on Wednesdays with a neighborhood revitalization project in Easton. In March 2017, Habitat Choptank celebrated the sale of its 72nd home also known as the Women Build House which was a women built and women funded project. The women volunteers enjoyed building together so much on that home that they will continue their weekly outreach each Wednesday. Additional volunteers are welcome to join.

On Friday, May 12th, volunteers can take part in a new construction build with a single family home on Port Street in Easton. Over in Cambridge, volunteers will work at a rehab house on Mace’s Lane that Saturday, May 13th. For each work day, there are a limited number of volunteer slots available to ensure work for all. Volunteers can sign up for morning or afternoons shifts. Lunch will be provided for volunteers from 12-12:30pm.

National Women Build Week brings together women to devote at least one day to building decent and affordable housing in their local communities. Nearly 100,000 women from all 50 states have volunteered in previous years.

During last year’s National Women Build Week event, volunteers worked with Habitat Choptank on framing the first floor deck on a new construction home in Easton.

“We are excited to participate in the 10th annual National Women Build Week,” said Nancy Andrew, executive director of Habitat Choptank. “This is a great opportunity for women of all skill levels to come together to help hardworking local families build and repair a decent and affordable place they can call home, and we are grateful to Lowe’s for their financial and volunteer support.”

Lowe’s helped launch National Women Build Week in 2008. Each year, the company provides the support of Lowe’s Heroes volunteers and conducts how-to clinics at stores to teach volunteers construction skills. This year, Lowe’s contributed nearly $2 million to National Women Build Week. Since its partnership began in 2003, Lowe’s has committed more than $63 million to Habitat and helped nearly 6,500 families improve their living conditions.

No construction skills are necessary to participate in this year’s project. To volunteer or donate, call 410-476-3204 or email info@habitatchoptank.org. For more information on National Women Build Week, visit Habitat.org/wb

About Habitat for Humanity Choptank

Since 1992, Habitat Choptank has made home ownership possible for 72 families and currently partners with eight local home buyers. Six homes are under construction at this time with plans to start at least six more over the coming year. Income qualifying home buyers are offered access to affordable mortgage financing in order to purchase a new construction or rehabbed home from the nonprofit’s project inventory of durable and energy efficient homes.  After completing “sweat equity” hours, attending pre-homeownership classes, and meeting debt reduction and savings goals, these individuals and families will purchase homes that they helped construct and assume the full responsibilities of home ownership including maintaining their home, paying property taxes and repaying their mortgage over 30 to 33 years. Habitat accepts applications for its home ownership program throughout the year.

About Habitat for Humanity International

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in nearly 1,400 communities throughout the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.

About Lowe’s in the Community

Lowe’s, a FORTUNE® 50 home improvement company, has a 50-year legacy of supporting the communities it serves through programs that focus on K-12 public education and community improvement projects. Since 2007, Lowe’s and the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation together have contributed more than $250 million to these efforts, and for more than two decades Lowe’s Heroes employee volunteers have donated their time to make our communities better places to live. To learn more, visit Lowe’s Open House digital newsroom or follow @LowesMedia on Twitter.

SOS Invites Contributors to Stay Home

In the middle of the busy spring social season on the Eastern Shore, SOS Sink or Swim, the local charity dedicated to teaching children how to swim and be safe in the water, wants you to stay home and relax. SOS is not holding a fundraising event this year, so all donations can go straight to teaching more life-saving skills to children.

“For the last few years, we have raised money by inviting people to dinners and holding auctions,” said SOS Development Chair Bev Pratt. “This year, rather than paying for dinner and an event, all of the donations we receive will go into the pool with the children. As one of our 7-year-old swim graduates so smartly reminded us, ‘If you swim, you don’t drown.’”

Since it was founded in 2014, SOS, working with its administrative partner, the St. Michaels Community Center, has taught more than 1,400 local children how to swim. The goal this year is to teach another 1,000 children. Three, two-week sessions will again offer swimming lessons for children aged 18 months through 15 years at the George Murphy Community Pool in Easton and the Bay Hundred Community Pool in St. Michaels. Lessons are open to all, but registration is required. Registration forms are available for download at www.sossinkorswim.org.

SOS recently re-structured, with the non-profit Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum coming aboard as is its fiscal sponsor. To donate to SOS, visit www.sossinkorswim.org or send a check to: SOS Sink or Swim, 606A N. Talbot Street, Ste 109, St. Michaels, MD 21663.

Cyclists to Participate at the Six Pillars Century Blackwater Tour

Cyclists from as far away as Hawaii have signed up for the 9th Six Pillars Century 2017 Blackwater Tour on Saturday, May 6, rain or shine; a fund raising event that benefits Character Counts Mid Shore, Inc.

Three flat courses through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in beautiful Dorchester County, Maryland are offered including the 37 mile; the 56 mile Ironman 70.3 Eagleman and the 100 mile Century.Registration is open on Active.com.

Proceeds benefit 8,200 students who receive character lessons based on the Six Pillars of Character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship; at no cost to the schools or taxpayers.

Volunteers are needed for set up at Great Marsh Park on Friday, May 5 from noon until 4:00 and on event day for traffic control and food service.  If you are interested in lending a helping hand, please contact Character Counts at 410-819-0386 or email sixpillarscentury@gmail.com.