It’s time to be selfish for the Bay

Fathers Day started out fine. I received phone calls from children and my wife said I could do what I wanted and to forget about the honey-do list for the day. So we headed for our boat to enjoy a day on the water.

We were motoring around Smith Creek and my wife mentioned how green the water was that day. Out in the Potomac, everything seemed fine.

After a morning out on the water, though, we decided to drive down to Point Lookout to check out the fishing pier. This is what ruined my day.

Just before the entrance to Point Lookout State Park was one of those large moving message signs one sees near road construction that tells you when the road will be closed etc. Only this sign’s message was “Advise No Swimming, High Bacteria Count.”

We entered the park and drove down to the lighthouse. It is hard to imagine a problem exists when you see the expanse of the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. There are no large cities or industrial sites anywhere close to Point Lookout, but still there is a problem.

The picnic groves were full of people and despite the warnings, there were people in the water. Now an aging baby boomer, I have lived most of my life near water: Cape Cod growing up, the Jersey Shore, and now for the past 10 years in St. Mary’s County.

My grandson caught his first fish the weekend before Fathers Day and I don’t know who was happier, him or I.

It may be selfish of me, but I want a clean Bay. Selfish may be the way to appeal to people get action to help restore the Bay.

Community betterment is a great idea, but showing someone that a clean Bay is in their personal best interest will probably go further.

Here is an old quote that I deem as extremely appropriate: “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” (Thomas Fuller, “Gnomologia,” 1732).

I hope we act in time so my grandchildren will be able to take their grandchildren fishing one day.

Mark Seastrand
Hollywood, MD

Bay has had enough!

Jan Eliassen’s excellent commentary, How much is enough and when will we have had enough? (June 2007) first speaks about population pressure on the Chesapeake Bay and then goes on to argue that better development could partially ameliorate the impact of excessive population growth.

Since the late 1960s, I have been a student of the Chesapeake Bay from the water, primarily in a sailboat. In 40 years, the population in the watershed has doubled as the Bay continues to sink into environmental decay.

The Bay Journal has chronicled the brave attempts by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, state governments and local governments to stem the onslaught of poor development policies.

It seems that all that has been politically possible only keeps the Bay from massive deterioration. If a great deal more power is not applied to the problem, like Sisyphus, the stone will stop and roll back down over us, squashing all the good effort to date.

It would be a monumental achievement to return the Bay to its state of health in the 1960s. I remember sailing around Bloody Point Lighthouse and seeing the bottom in 30 feet of water!

But this can’t happen unless two goals are accomplished. First, development needs to be better designed and concentrated at higher densities.

Second, the population in the Bay’s watershed needs to be controlled. With the estimated 3 million to 4 million people walking across the nation’s southern border every year, and with 2 million legal immigrants added to the population each year, not to mention the natural increase in population, it can be concluded that our country has no population policy, let alone a rational homeland security policy.

There is such a thing as “holding capacity” for all systems, especially natural and urban systems. It can be further concluded that politically, we will see no restraint on population in the Bay’s watershed.

In sum, this means that the efforts at cleaning up the Chesapeake will be hugely successful and heroic if the Bay gets no worse as population continues to swell in the watershed. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to all those engaged in this noble task!

Thank you Mr. Eliassen for reminding us that enough is enough.

Michael Barker
Warren, VT

Let’s not love nature to death

First let me say that I appreciate the Bay Journal. It’s the only place I know that really puts the facts on the line, even when they are painful and alarming. As was pointed in the article, Chesapeake Bay Report Card’s goal is to challenge regions to strive harder,” (May 2007) the Chesapeake Bay is unwell.

I agree that it is important that people, including children, become enamored of nature by forging a personal relationship. But we are at a state when nature cannot be treated as a mere playground.

In the commentary, Streams the perfect opportunity for a walk on the wild side (May 2007), the writer encouraged people to “know which rock to turn over” but neglected to say to return it to the same place gently.

A few sentences later, the author advocated holding salamanders.

The EPA, in its publication, “An Introduction to Mid-Atlantic Seasonal Pools,” states that “Handling of fauna should be avoided unless absolutely necessary for identification and photo documentation” and then lists practices for safely handling and reducing disturbances to amphibians—which includes not disturbing nesting or mating animals and not holding them in our hands, especially if they have any remnant of insect repellent or moisturizing lotions.

These creatures are increasingly endangered; they are far more fragile than we thought. Research has shown that butterflies die from being touched by humans.

Recently, I have seen even ecology instructors ripping up salamander and frog egg masses from their grass anchors, cupping them in their hands to show their students and encouraging them to touch the eggs. I have even seen ecology instructors touching and shaking the eggs of wild geese.

I would expect the Bay Journal to teach better practices.

Anne Outwater
Baltimore, MD