Bay Journal

Rona Kobell is a former writer for the Bay Journal and Baltimore Sun.

Raising awareness about the Bay

First annual week of activities and events focused on the Chesapeake nears conclusion this weekend

  • June 10, 2016
Skipjacks under sail. Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week features a week of events and activities intended to inform and engage the public about the estuary's past, present and future.  (Dave Harp)

The calendar is chock-full of weeks designated to honor teachers, secretaries, nurses and firefighters; other weeks have been set aside to raise awareness about everything from air quality to the zika virus. But when some Chesapeake Bay region lawmakers discovered there was no official week for North America’s largest estuary, they sought to change that.

This year, the legislatures of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia have declared June 4 - 12 to be Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week. The week began with Virginia’s Clean the Bay Day on June 4 and is set to end on the second Saturday in June, with the annual Patuxent River Wade-in, begun decades ago by Bernie Fowler, former Maryland state senator and longtime Bay advocate.

The idea for the week came from the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state, bipartisan legislative group focused on recommending policies for preserving and restoring the Bay.

Ann Swanson, the commission’s executive director, said Virginia Del. Scott Lingamfelter, the group’s chairman last year, came up with the idea. When told the states didn’t have a Bay Awareness Week, he offered to put in legislation for one in his state. Maryland Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton and Del. Maggie McIntosh made the same offer for Maryland, and Pennsylvania’s Reps. Garth Everett and Mike Sturla took up the cause in the Keystone State.

The week is about attention-raising events, but also about action, Swanson said. She likened it to Earth Day - it’s not the only time for thinking about the planet’s environment, but an opportunity to reflect and commit to sustained action. 

In Virginia, Sen. Emmett Hanger teamed up with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to show farmers how to exclude livestock from streams, a major priority for the commission.

Sturla introduced legislation to raise funds for improving water quality in Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams, by charging a fee for all water withdrawn by industrial and commercial entities. Everett has put in a resolution to study the issue. 

Several commission members, including Fowler, wrote op-eds for publication in regional newspapers about actions that could help the Chesapeake. Maryland Public Television ran a program on the Chesapeake that featured Swanson, and in the D.C. metro area both Greenbelt and Fairfax County passed resolutions acknowledging the importance of a clean Bay and the effect residents had on its health.

Finally, Bay Journal staffers Dave Harp and Tom Horton screened their film, Beautiful Swimmers Revisited, at Maryland Hall in Annapolis. Directed by Sandy Cannon-Brown and produced by the Bay Journal, the film looks back at William Warner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about crabbing in Maryland.

“It’s just a week designed to do what you can, say what you can and think what you can to help the Chesapeake Bay,” Swanson said. “The number of things that were done with just a few weeks’ notice is incredible to me.”

On Saturday, the Waterfront Partnership’s First Annual Floatilla for a Healthy Harbor begins at 8 a.m. from Canton Waterfront Park. More than 250 kayakers are expected to be in the water by the Maryland Science Center for a rally at 10 a.m.

On Sunday, Fowler leads another Patuxent Wade-in. You can read more about him and the event here.

The timing is fortuitous, as recent news about the Bay’s health has been good. More grass beds, more crabs, more juvenile fish, and even seahorses. (Check out the Bay Journal Facebook page for photos of these.) It may not last, but we’re glad to see it.

To see a full list of Bay Awareness Week activities, go here.

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About Rona Kobell

Rona Kobell is a former writer for the Bay Journal and Baltimore Sun.

Read more articles by Rona Kobell


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