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Bay survey measures community role - September 26, 2013

Do you use rain barrels? How often do you apply fertilizer to your lawn? Have you thought about building a rain garden? What’s your approach to dealing with dog droppings?

These are the type of questions that would be nice to have answers to when working as a community to protect and restore the health of coastal waterways. Personal actions such as building rain gardens and reducing lawn fertilizer are known as best management practices, and the more members of the community that participate in them, the better off our coastal bays will be.

But how do we know who is doing what and where our weaknesses are? When organizations such as the Maryland Coastal Bays Program reach out to the community on these issues, are they providing a value added or simply singing to the choir? How do we know if we are targeting the right behaviors, or instead missing a golden opportunity to improve our community?

The University of Maryland is helping to resolve these big questions via a community survey of best management practices. The Bay Survey — found at http://baysurvey.org is a short and easy questionnaire aimed at gathering information on how our local citizens are interacting with the coastal bays. The survey is targeted at actions every one of us can implement at our homes, farms, businesses and other properties. When implemented, these practices serve to either help clean water on its way towards the bays, or to reduce harmful pollutants and excessive nutrients that poison bay waters.

The online survey is funded through the Chesapeake Bay Trust and measures seven key behaviors that impact water quality here on the coastal bays: Cover crops, buffer vegetation, impervious surface, pet waste, rain barrels, rain gardens and lawn fertilizer. Survey results will help groups such as the Maryland Coastal Bays Program work with the community to take action to help the bays. The more we know about what local citizens are already doing, the more we can focus on potential problem areas that continue to stress our coastal paradise.

The Bay Survey is also designed to gather information on the larger Chesapeake Bay watershed. The same actions that help the coastal bays are also of benefit to the Chesapeake and other estuaries, so are good ideas to consider regardless of where you call home. If you happen to be reading this during a visit to beach, but you live someplace like Washington, D.C., Baltimore or Annapolis, we invite you to still take the survey and add your voice to our broader understanding of stewardship values throughout our mid-Atlantic region.

And for those of us who live year-round here in the Coastal Bays watershed, your participation in this survey is invaluable. Even if some or all of these actions are things that you feel you might never consider doing, we’d still love to hear from you. After all, if there are obstacles that prevent our community from working together toward the health of the Coastal Bays, this would be good information to know. However, we’re hoping you agree that many of the actions good for the bays, are fun, easy, and also good for your homes and properties. They make sense, look nice and feel good.

Please join us in taking the Bay Survey at http://BaySurvey.org
 

Arlo Hemphill is the watershed coordinator at the Maryland Coastal Bays Program


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