Wetlands Nursery Advocates Advantages Of Living Shorelines

Published: November 1, 2018

Putting up a wall to create a barrier has received a lot of press recently. As a visual symbol it looks like a quick perfect solution. But on a closer look and with a more scientific approach it may not be the best alternative.

Suzanne Pittenger-Slear, president of Environmental Concern, has taken that closer look, not where country meets country, but where land meets our waterways.

As a result, she has dedicated her life and business to the view that living shorelines are a far superior way to combat erosion than relying on retaining walls, bulkheads and other hard barriers.

She explained the many values of living shorelines during the monthly Educational Series meeting that the Severn River Association (SRA) sponsors at Union Jack’s Pub in Parole.

According to Pittenger-Slear, our shorelines are only 5 percent of our land area, yet they are habitat and breeding ground to 36 percent of all our native plants and animals.

Stormwater is by far, the #1 source of water pollution in the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay.  The deep-rooted shore grasses that live in the tidal areas of a living shoreline filter are the most cost-efficient way to filter that runoff and keep the pollution out of our waters.

And for sustainability of property and property value, studies after Hurricane Isabel in 2013 revealed that living shorelines survived very well in tact. Hardened structures repeatedly failed.

Bulkheads and other rock-based structures do not survive major storms like Isabel because water during the storm surge comes over and behind a hard surface, breaks it down and scatters the rock or wood. However, the native grasses of a living shoreline remain in place and recover.

Job #1: Mimic Nature

Environmental Concern has restored over 35 miles of living shoreline and hundreds of acres of wetlands including large projects at the confluence of the Sassafras River and Muddy Creek and Whitehouse Farm in Chestertown.

Pittenger-Slear says her team’s core belief is that to create living shorelines, one must first “learn to mimic nature” and to create the geographic features and rely on native plants that promote thriving marshes and wetlands.

As well as crusading for living shorelines, Pittengear-Slear is an advocate of using native plants because they not only grow better, but they provide native wildlife with seeds, berries and habitat.

For example, planting milkweed and yellow sneezeweed to attract butterflies and adding mistflower for its purple blue blooms for insects.

EC Nursery publishes a Wholesale Catalog of Native Wetland Plants and the 2019 edition will be available shortly.

It is a wealth of information on the nursery operations and the two retail open houses held annually — one in the Spring and one in the Fall – and extensive information on each plant including water and salinity tolerance, light needs, spread rates, heights and wildlife attraction.

For more information: http://www.wetland.org/nursery_home.htm

— By Karen Nygren Wright, SRA member