You're in a watershed no matter where you are

Heading east on U.S. Route 50 toward Ocean City this spring, motorists will again encounter a sign which reads, "Leaving the Chesapeake Bay Watershed" near the U.S. Route 113 intersection a few miles outside the resort. What these innocent vacationers may not know is that they are entering another watershed with the same problems but with far less fanfare than the Chesapeake.

In other words, the boundary marker should not serve as a license to finally get rid of that fast food bag or the barrel of mercury waiting to be tossed, but more as a reminder  that despite all of mankind's needs to bracket the earth into watershed and municipalities, all of the natural world will always be vulnerable to the intellectual and moral deficiencies of humans.

Among Maryland's coastal bays and the Chesapeake and between those who seek to protect them, there are far more commonalities than differences.

Nutrient loading, chemical contamination and habitat loss from development are the primary problems in the Assawoman, Sinepuxent, Isle of Wight and Chincoteague coastal bays, just as they are in the Chesapeake.

Like those involved in the Chesapeake's cleanup efforts those trying to protect the coastal bays, too, are dedicated to the proposition that aside from all of the economic benefits of protecting their watershed, preserving what is intrinsically valuable in these special places is perhaps the most rewarding.

Similar to the Chesapeake Bay alliance, the EPA's Maryland Coastal Bays Program is seeking communitywide support in drafting a management plan that will protect the environment and the economy in the coastal bays' 175-square-mile watershed by Assateague and Ocean City in eastern Worcester County.

Part of the acclaimed National Estuary Program, the Coastal Bays Program is uniting representatives from the agriculture, development, tourism, golf and fishing industries with scientists from a host of state and federal agencies to come up with a plan everyone and it is hoped, everything, can live with.

In June 1996, when Gov. Parris Glendening, the Worcester County Commissioners, the EPA and the mayors of Ocean City and Berlin signed the program into existence, what was at stake in the coastal bays was abundantly clear. The county's $2.3 billion resource-based tourism industry, reliant on clean water and natural land for swimming, water-skiing, fishing, crabbing, hiking, birdwatching, or even pleasant meals in any of Ocean City's bayside restaurants, lies at the heart of the program.

But just as the Chesapeake and coastal bays are driving forces in the state's economy, so too, are these places two of the most ecologically significant regions of the East Coast. The Chesapeake's states' coastal bays and watershed have greater numbers and a greater diversity of bird and reptile species than the rest of Maryland and most of the Eastern Seaboard.

A major stopover for migratory songbirds, waterfowl and raptors, the coastal bays are host to nearly 360 bird species in the fall and winter.

Despite a projected doubling in population in the watershed by 2025, the coastal bays have no critical areas laws and they don't have billions of dollars pouring in to help them. What Marylanders should know is besides their treasured Chesapeake, there is another gem in Maryland that deserves equal protection and, with collective wisdom and foresight, can cope with the demands of the 21st century along with its much larger, more highly celebrated cousin to the west.

Dave Wilson, Jr.
Public Outreach Coordinator
Maryland Coastal Bays Program

Please preserve Chapman's Landing!

Upon reading the March 1998 issue of the Bay Journal, I was stirred to write to you on an issue that is important to me and I believe to the majority of citizens of both Maryland and Virginia.

As a child, I was blessed to have lived on Gunston Cove on the Mason Neck Peninsula, which is directly across the Potomac from the proposed construction on Chapman's Landing. My father was a waterman, and I went with him on many trips to what he called Chapman's Bar to "haul seine."

From the Virginia side, this lovely piece of landscape is priceless. The pristine beauty is a treasure to the state of Maryland and an envy to those that reside on the opposite shore. This quiet shoreline is to be held with reverence and appreciation.

To slice through its sloping banks and shove the soil into a marshland is not a responsible thing to do. Such actions do not benefit the state of Maryland and will create a severe environmental impact that will reach into the next generations. I somehow imagine this beautiful area as being attacked by a "pit bull" that is reluctant to let go.

Surely, there is some sanity remaining among those in authority that would prompt the local and state governments to take control of this issue and preserve Chapman's Landing for what it is, an irreplaceable jewel to be cherished by ourselves and revered by our descendents. For this reason, I want to encourage Gov. Parris Glendening of Maryland to exercise any and all methods of acquiring this property. Also, to any environmental or conservation group that may be able to assist in this worthy preservation: Please act now!

The assessed value of this property was declared to be around $12 million.

What would the future generations pay to retrieve this stolen landmark?

Lelia Blackwell
Lorton, VA