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News and Resources

A Great Community Loss - October 7, 2010

 

 

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is saddened by the loss of Berlin resident Tom Patton, an excellent friend of the community and the coastal bays. Less than a year ago, Tom was awarded the Maryland Coastal Bays’ prestigious Golden Osprey Award in recognition of his outstanding and life-long achievement toward protecting the coastal bays. Previously, the Golden Osprey had only been awarded three times in the history of the Coastal Bays Program.

“Tom Patton was the kind of person who could always look beyond himself for the common good,” noted Dave Wilson, Executive Director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

 

Patton was truly in tune with our natural resources, progging for clams, dipping soft shell crabs, hunting and fervently preserving our natural and cultural heritage through action, advocacy, and commitment for decades.


A graduate of Princeton University, Patton helped the Coastal Bays Program a great deal over the years, serving on the Coastal Bays Fisheries Advisory Committee, and assisting with blue crab issues and development and growth-related concerns. He was one of the driving forces behind the original and two subsequent conferences on the Coastal Bays. It was the first conference that directly led to the state and Worcester County seeking Maryland Coastal Bays Program’s acceptance into the National Estuary Program.

His volunteer experience included work with the Maryland Historical Society, the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council, St. Martin's Church Preservation Foundation, and with political advocacy and community association issues.


Tom’s commitment to our natural environment dates back to the 1960s, when he was instrumental in lobbying Congress to create the Assateague Island National Seashore. He was an early participant in the Committee to Preserve Assateague Island – now ACT - and was the driving force behind relocating that group from Baltimore to Berlin. He was instrumental in changing the focus of ACT to include the entire coastal bays watershed. Patton also played an integral role in the revitalization of downtown Berlin and the formation of the Berlin Farmer’s Market.

In 2005 Patton published the book Listen to the Voices, Follow the Trails - Discovering Maryland's Seaside Heritage, an insightful account of the unique natural and cultural history of Maryland's seacoast. The book captures the rapidly-disappearing oral traditions of past generations, and urges readers to explore Worcester County's many wonderful rural byways, historical sites, and its abundant natural heritage.

In 2004, Patton created the nonprofit Rackliffe House Trust with the goal to restore the former plantation house once owned by his ancestors. That same year, he leased the house and three acres of the 100-acre parcel for 50 years from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The house is located adjacent to the Sinepuxent Bay, near the new National Seashore Barrier Island Visitor Center. He devoted himself to the proper restoration of Rackliffe House with the goal to transform it into a coastal heritage museum. This past Sunday, friends and family gathered at the Rackliffe site to celebrate this coastal treasure and Tom.

Patton made a significant difference in the health of our watershed through his dedication and volunteer service. As previous Osprey winner and MCBP Foundation Board member Carolyn Cummins puts it, “Tom embodied the role of citizen involvement.”

A celebration of Tom’s life will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Berlin. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Rackliffe House Trust, P.O. Box 578, Berlin, Md. 21811 or St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 429, Berlin, Md. 21811.

 

Carrie Samis is the Education Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

 


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