Chesapeake wade-in season begins

By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer


By Joshua McKerrow - The Capital Measuring at the wade in at Weems Creek are, from left Mike Christman and his son Teague Christman 2, and Corinne Irwin.
Twenty years ago, an environmentally minded state senator named Bernie Fowler convinced a bunch of people to come down to Calvert County and wade into the Patuxent River until they could no longer see their shoes. That rough demonstration of water clarity (or lack of it) struck a chord with environmentalists.

Now wade-ins are held throughout Maryland's part of the Chesapeake Bay each May and June.

They're sometimes criticized as being unscientific - something supporters don't dispute.

But they get people out in the water, thinking about how clean and clear it is, or isn't. And that, supporters say, is what it's all about.

"It's a very informal exercise," Mr. Fowler said. "It does focus attention on the water quality in the river. While it is less than scientific, it has a magnetic appeal for people. We get to reinvigorate people on the cleanup."

Mr. Fowler said he wishes more people would take time to learn about the bay's many problems.

"One of the serious inadequacies is we've failed to communicate the gravity of the situation to people," he said. "One of the most important things people can do is educate themselves, and there are lots of ways to do it."

And one way to do that is to join in on the Bernie Fowler-inspired wade-ins.

This year's wade-in season begins tomorrow with West and Rhode river events in Edgewater.

"I think it's a great thing to be the first, to start the process of reconnecting people with the water after a long winter," said Bob Gallagher, the West/Rhode Riverkeeper. "It's sort of a gentle way - not beating them over the head - to remind them that the rivers aren't healthy and we need to work on their recovery."

Most are co-sponsored by local groups and the state's tributary teams, which help to devise ways to improve the rivers.

West River/Rhode River: Activities start with a kayak race and fun paddle tomorrow morning. The wade-in is at 11 a.m. during the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's open house. Buses run from Central Middle School in Edgewater. For information, go to www.serc.si.edu or www.westrhoderiverkeeper.org.

Patapsco River: The event is at Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena at 11 a.m. May 20. The park is waiving admission fees during the event. For more information, call Joe Stewart at 410-767-1354.

Prospect Bay: The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center in Grasonville holds a wade-in as part of a festival on June 2. Events run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the wade-in at 1:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.bayrestoration.org.

Patuxent River: The Patuxent wade-in takes place on June 10 down at Broomes Island in Calvert County, where Mr. Fowler originated the concept. The Patuxent Riverkeeper Program will run a shuttle from College Park, though it's asking for a $5 contribution to pay for gas. To reserve a seat, e-mail fred@paxriverkeeper.org.

South River: The South River Federation hosts a sojourn and wade-in on June 23. Kayakers meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Best Buy on Defense Highway in Parole. The wade-in is at 1 p.m. at Edgewater Beach. RSVP by calling 443-482-2155.

Magothy River: The Magothy River Association usually holds its wade-in during its annual picnic in late summer. Look for information at www.magothyriver.org.

Published May 11, 2007, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

(Revised May 2007)