Wade-ins test creek clarity

Event is more about awareness than science

By SHANTEE WOODARDS, Staff Writer Burnell Vincent was grateful his wife didn't call until after he completed his civic duty yesterday morning. Mr. Vincent was among about 30 volunteers who braved Back Creek for the annual wade-in.

During the event, volunteers test water clarity by seeing how far they can walk until the murkiness makes their white shoes disappear.

The official total was 30.5 inches, which reached right around the pockets of Mr. Vincent's shorts, which was where he had his cell phone wrapped in plastic.

This was the fourth year Mr. Vincent participated in the event and he said participation has improved each year.

"This is an opportunity for like-minded folks to get together," said Mr. Vincent, a volunteer with the Spa Creek Conservancy. "People are surprised and pleased when they see what we catch. This is a good way to raise the awareness level."

The wade-ins started a decade ago when waterman and former State Senator Bernie Fowler conducted the first one in the Patuxent River. At that time, the waterway was so clear that Mr. Fowler was still able to see his feet while he was up to his shoulders in water.

Yesterday's wade-ins were held at three locations - College Creek measured 22.5 inches at Calvary Methodist Church, Spa Creek was at 25 inches at Truxtun Park and Back Creek reached 30.5 inches at the Annapolis Maritime Museum.

Participants said this year's counts were fine, considering Friday night's thunderstorms. Five species of fish also were recovered.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer attended the Back Creek event, which is where the results were tabulated.

Volunteers Jim Martin and Zora Lathan handled the College Creek area.

"We had a big storm event last night, so this is not bad. I thought it would be worse than it is," Mr. Martin said. "This shows that runoff is under more control than it has been."

One of the challenges has been having construction projects near waterways. Mr. Martin said people have to be diligent about building silt fences, which prevent debris from entering the water. The use of rain gardens, which are designed to take excess rainwater from houses or buildings, also helps, officials said.

Louise Olsen, vice president of the Back Creek Conservancy, said events like this help people learn about everyday things that impact their environment.

Recently, the group held an event at the Eastport Shopping Center encouraging the use of rain barrels, which collect rain water to be used to water plants and grass. It was held at the same time as another event in the area, so several passersby stopped there because they were curious about what was going on.

The group distributed about 500 brochures that day.

"The water gods were with us that day," Ms. Olsen said. "You need to give everyone a sense of ownership. That's what's great about wade-ins. You grab people who are not involved in a conservancy and they say, 'hey, what are you doing?' "

Published June 10, 2007, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

(Revised June 2007)