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Top 12 ways we're saving our coastal bays - December 6, 2012

’Tis the season of merriment and giving, so once again The Maryland Coastal Bays Program hopes you will consider joining us for another year of projects to protect our wonderful coastal bays.

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is a nonprofit organization that works with many local, state and federal partners to help protect our coastal bays. We work year round to not only protect and monitor the health of the bays, but also educate visitors and residents and work within our local communities.

Because we are a nonprofit we are always looking for donations. While money is always appreciated, we also encourage people to volunteer their time and energy in helping us preserve these wonderful wetlands and bays.

Thanks to the funding we received this year, we were able to accomplish many projects; our Top 12 for this year were:

Skimmer Island Restoration: Skimmer Island is located in Isle of Wight bay, behind Hoopers restaurant and next to the Route 50 bridge. It is an important nesting site for a variety of colonial nesting waterbirds, including royal terns and black skimmers. Both the black skimmer and the royal tern are listed by the state of Maryland as endangered species; we had both species nesting on the island this past summer. The island received a large amount of sand from the Ocean City harbor dredging project, which was used to extend the sandy, low-lying areas of the island that are essential for royal tern nesting, thanks to a partnership with Ocean City Fishing Center, Hi-Tide Marine, Worcester County, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Lewis Road Kayak Launch Opening: In August, we officially opened the kayak launch for public use. It allows access for kayaks, canoes and paddleboards to explore Ayers Creek and the Holly Grove Swamp area. The kayak launch was built on an old municipal landfill owned by the town of Ocean City; it is toxin-free and safe for public use. The kayak launch was made possible through grants from the State Highway Administration and DNR, along with work done by the Ocean City Department of Public Works and volunteers from the community.

Plantings at Lizard Hill: A Maryland SHA project, Lizard Hill is a completed 30-acre restoration of abandoned gravel mine located in Bishopville. This site employs the technique of a sand seepage wetland for water quality purposes. Volunteers, the MCBP, DNR, Underwood and Associates, and the SHA helped plant approximately 6,220 Atlantic white cedars along with a combination of more than 600 loblolly pines, black gums, sweet-bay magnolia, water oaks, northern and southern red oaks, American hollies and blueberry bushes in an effort to restore a quickly disappearing ecosystem in this area.

Plantings at Greys Creek: The MCBP, along with volunteers and the DNR, converted more than 700 feet of bulkhead shoreline into a living shoreline on county property at Greys Creek Nature Park off Disharoon Road across the bay from Northside Park.

“Keep Seals Safe — Give them their Space”: Starting this month, MCBP has partnered with the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program on a two year Seal program. Within the past few years, our bays have been host to several seal groups that winter with us. This will be the first year we will be studying these groups. We encourage you to help us by reporting sightings and help to educate safe seal viewings so we can keep our visitors happy. Seals are semi-aquatic animals, which means they often spend a portion of their day on land. This is called haul out. Seals need to haul out for a variety of reasons and need to be left alone. They may be cute but the closer you get, the more harm you will do.

Coastal Stewards: The Coastal Stewards program is an outdoor summer employment opportunity for high school and college students on Delmarva, aimed at increasing diversity and youth employment in the environmental field. The program is a partnership between the MCBP, the Maryland State Park Service and Assateague Island National Seashore. It’s funded largely by the US Environmental Protection Agency. This year we were able to hire 16 stewards who participated in a variety of restoration projects and helped conduct education and outreach programs throughout the coastal bays watershed, reaching more than 15,000 residents and visitors.

Environmental Literacy: In the past year, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program has worked with multiple partners to incorporate experiences designed to increase students’ environmental literacy. Working with the Maryland State Department of Education and local boards of education, we are helping educators develop and implement environmental literacy plans that will ensure every child develops a connection to and an understanding of our local natural resources.

At the local, state, and national level, MCBP has also been involved in building environmental education capacity. As defined by the leadership team out of Cornell University, the EECapacity Project “is designed to enhance environmental quality by diversifying and strengthening the environmental education field and promoting innovation through networking and learning.”EE capacity emphasizes support for educators and promotes networking and communication among diverse groups.

Terp Blitz: The MCBP, along with the Terrapin Work Group and dedicated volunteers, conducted diamondback terrapin counts and surveys this past year in the coastal bays, creeks and rivers. The counts were done on land and on the water and help give us more comprehensive information on this important brackish water turtle.

Horseshoe Crab, Colonial Nesting Bird, and Water Quality Surveys: Since 2002, MCBP has conducted horsheshoe crab surveys with volunteers to assess the current and long-term population status of Atlantic horseshoe crabs. The program has done the same for colonial nesting birds, like herons and egrets, since 2006. Since 1997 the MCBP has conducted water quality surveys with major assistance from volunteers to help monitor our coastal bays water quality.

Coming in 2013:

Bishopville Dam: The MCBP is working with multiple partners in coordinating a plan to remove the Bishopville Dam. This project will provide fish passage at the dam site and open up seven miles of stream habitat for anadromous fish, like herring and white perch, along with improving water quality

While the MCBP staff does great work year round, it would be impossible without the donations and dedicated support of our fantastic members. With the support of our local communities, volunteers, friends and family, we have been able to do so much this year and hopefully with your help we can do more next year.
 

Harrison Jackson is the Coastal Stewards coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.


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