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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

That’s what we want in stories — and libraries

For sharks like Mary Lee, the great white star of this week’s Creature Feature, mobility is the law of life. Though even she can’t be two places at once — despite a suggestive reading from her satellite transmitter that she was swimming toward Chesapeake Beach on May 29.
    For others of us, it’s hard to be anywhere but where we are. Though firmly rooted creatures like trees and oysters broadcast their seeds in uncountable abundance to transcend their immobility.
    Like Mary Lee, some of us are citizens of the world. Where are you from? is a question that means little to the child of a military family. But live in a place a while and you put down roots, sipping up through them the terroir of our lands and waters. So it’s with a satisfying sense of affinity that I welcome sister St. Louisan Kristen Minogue as a Bay Weekly writer this week. By way of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, science writer Minogue finds herself transplanted to Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, off Muddy Creek Road deep in woods that barely look like Edgewater.
    At Smithsonian, a big part of her job is bringing research into the language and experience of people who don’t speak science.
    “I’m very glad to see a new generation committed to good science journalism,” the director there, Anson ‘Tuck’ Hines, told me “to translate science for the general public, including resource manager and politicians.”
    In this week’s feature story, Minogue tells another story learned from evidence, highlighting people who came before the scientists in the 3,000-year history of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center land. Even for people rooted in a place, seeing through time takes specialized vision. Read it and you may feel, as I did, the mobility of a traveler through time.
    We do more time traveling this week in Diane Burt’s profile of baseball fan Ray Cox, whose appreciation of the Nationals rises from his teenage association with The Senators, a batboy on the field as history was made.
    Where are you from? From what place do your ­stories rise? We want to know.

A Library of Another Place — and Another Color
    In the ordinary way of things, I’m stuck in place like an oyster. But over the weekend, I adopted the mobility of a shark for a quick trip to San Antonio. Libraries were still on my mind from last week’s paper, and in my luggage to share with the editors of that city’s daily newspaper, the Express News. So the central San Antonio Public Library popped my eyes open wide. A six-story stack of red-earth and burnt-sienna rectangles highlighted in purple and silhouetted against a true blue sky, the 20-year-old Central Library encloses 240,000 square feet of space and 580,300 books plus all the other media and services that make a modern library.
    That $28 million bond purchase — plus $10 million to equip and furnish — has paid off, as a place defining its city while serving a system of 24 libraries and a county of 1.8 million people.
    Out of the debate over Anne Arundel County libraries, I hope we build places that, inside and out, reflect us as well. Budgeting decisions are only a week away. Now’s the time to share your vision with your elected representatives, your county executive and councilmen at www.aacounty.org.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

No matter which county issued your card, you can use any library in Maryland

Libraries are this week’s feature story, specifically Anne Arundel public libraries, which have come to the fork in the road and must, as Yogi Berra said, take it.
    Wherever you live, this story of one county’s conflict touches you. For there’s magic in your Maryland library card. No matter what library issued it, your card opens the door to every public library in the state. Wherever you roam, whatever special collections you want to browse, you’re a welcome visitor.
    For me and many South Arundel readers, as well as Calvert Countians, the Calvert County library system is close to home and heart.
    Calvert County’s 90,613 people have four libraries, all within 10 miles of every address. Like Anne Arundel libraries, Calvert’s run a full schedule of events. Most larger events are held at the Central Library and easily draw visitors from more than 20 miles. The four libraries, constructed between 1981 and 2006, encompass 47,140 square feet. The general recommendation for public libraries is a square foot per county resident. By this measure, Library Director Carrie Plymire tells us, Calvert Library is half the size that it should be to best serve the community.
    By the way, no Maryland library lives up to that standard. Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt comes the closest, at .0924. Anne Arundel’s system offers only .0481, the lowest of the nine central Maryland counties.
    Back to Calvert: The county’s central library is Prince Frederick, which moved in 2006 into a newly constructed building: “At 28,000 airy square feet, it doubled our space,” said Patricia Hofmann, the library director in charge of its creation. “There is plenty of room for information in all forms, 27 well-used computers, teaching and get-togethers, even a café.” The cost, 10 years ago, was $8 million.
    Since 2006, Calvert Library Prince Frederick has added another 20 public computers. The meeting rooms are used every day for library programming and community organizations and businesses. Plymire, who replaced Hofmann, says she “often wishes for another 5,000 square feet to accommodate more meeting rooms, a technology lab, creative space for audio and video production and other flexible spaces that would enable Calvert Library to better serve its community.”
    Two more of Calvert’s libraries are upgrading. In 2013, Southern library moved from 3,250 square feet in Lusby to an interim location in Solomons, 9,200 square feet of the old Woodburns grocery store The county spent a little under $1 million, and the Calvert Library Foundation added another $233,000 for additional windows, technology and furniture. A new 16,000-square-foot library for the southern part of the county is slated for land acquisition in fiscal year 2021.
    Twin Beaches branch is currently operating in 4,240 square feet of leased space in Chesapeake Beach. Staff are very creative with their programming — often borrowing space in neighboring senior centers or fire stations — as there aren’t any meeting rooms or dedicated storytime space in the branch. Twin Beaches is slated for a new 16,000-square-foot branch with architecture and engineering to begin in fiscal year 2019. That project is expected to cost approximately $7 million.
    The fourth branch, Fairview, has its feet solidly in the past, looking pretty much the same as when I first used it nearly three decades ago. At 5,200 square feet it is, Plymire says, “a very busy branch right on Route 4 that serves much of the commuting population.”
    With Maryland’s rare magic library card, they’re all yours.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

New mascot replaces PFD Panda

Going to the dogs is under reconstruction. In the olden days, going to the dogs described degeneration, as in another old saw: If you lie down with dogs, expect to get fleas.
    No more. Today’s dogs are superior beings offering the unconditional love that seems to be scarce elsewhere. From Haiti to Katmandu, they perform superhuman rescues. Closer to home, kids improve their reading with dogs as listeners.
    Now Maryland Department of Natural Resources is going to the dogs with Splash the Water Safety Dog — a handsome Chesapeake Bay retriever — replacing PFD Panda.
    “We decided there are no pandas in Maryland,” said Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candus Thomson. “We’re going homegrown with a mascot more in keeping with Maryland tradition.”
    PFD Panda came off the mascot shelf. Splash is unique, created by a one of-a-kind mascot maker.
    PFD Panda’s retirement was tearful, but the 20-year-mascot held no hard feelings, giving his replacement a new orange life jacket. The six-foot-tall Chessie now always wears the life jacket; except for a hat, it’s the new mascot’s only garment.
    Splash debuts tonight at Camden Yards when the Orioles face the Seattle Mariners during National Safe Boating Week. Look for Splash in the concourse behind home plate. Stop by to welcome Splash and, if you’re lucky, win a small plush replica.
    Hereafter, Splash will visit schools, fairs and other public events statewide to remind citizens that the best way to remain safe on the water is to wear a life jacket.
    Missing PFD Panda? See his farewell, with mascots from the Ravens, the U.S. Naval Academy, the Bowie Baysox, the Coast Guard, UMBC and Towson University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxQbQzzC22M&feature=youtu.be.
    There’s one more change to learn: With Panda goes the term PFD. Nowadays, we all wear lifejackets.

But first we must remember

With Memorial Day upon us, I know you’re as eager as I to slip into something more comfortable — like fewer clothes, bare ankles or the water of a just-opened swimming pool.
    But not just yet, for first I have a promise to keep.
    Never to forget the original meaning of Memorial Day. That’s what Bill Burton asked of me.
    Long before Burton became a newsman, before he became outdoors editor for the flourishing Baltimore Evening Sun, before the boredom of early retirement landed him on the pages of then six-week-old New Bay Times, Burton was a SeaBee. He joined up just out of high school, in the early days of World War II, and would have gone sooner had not his family held him back.
    Whatever his war stories, Bill never told them — though in explaining why he never went in the water he did cite a promise to swim no more if he should be delivered from a desperate plight about which, if more were asked, his answer was enough said.
    A reporter through and through, Bill told the stories of other veterans. Chief among them was Henry ­Beckwith …

    Henry Beckwith of Navy Air who went down over Great Britain in ’44. As we fished, studied and chased girls, we anxiously waited to join the fight against Tojo and Hitler. Several times the Navy turned us down; we weren’t yet 17.
    We had planned to serve together, but I wanted the SeaBees; Henry, Navy Air, so we parted when we joined up. I never saw him again, though often I have played tennis at the recreational center named in his honor.
    I have lived a full life while Hen was around only 19 years. He never had the time to marry, start a family, never enjoyed the pleasures of adult life, that first new car and house, grandchildren, the works.
    It isn’t only on Veterans and Memorial Day I think about those two carefree students, Hen and me, and wonder why it was he. Why was I the lucky one?
    The day I received a newspaper clipping telling about villagers in Ireland burying Hen in a field where his plane went down, aloud I promised him he would never be forgotten.
    Nor should any of the others be forgotten; it matters not what war, what place, what time. It matters only that they made the supreme sacrifice. Enough said.

    That moving tribute was written by Bill Burton 10 years ago, in 2005, about a month before he turned 79 — 60 years more than his friend ever had.
    So Bay Weekly honors Memorial Day, a commemoration begun to honor and decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with a story Bill Burton would have liked.
    This year’s Memorial Day story comes to us from contributing writer Sandra Lee Anderson, of St. Leonard, who excerpted from her Uncle Chuck Baird’s book The Blue of the Sky, his record of the feelings of a 19-year-old experiencing the death of comrades during battle and their burial at sea.
    The book is unpublished, but thanks to Anderson — whose mother was her brother’s helper in the book — The Blue of the Sky is in the collection of the United States Navy Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.
    In it Laird speaks only briefly of the dead. Instead he speaks for them, in the voice of a young sailor full of life, fear, determination and expectation whose life could have at any moment been cut short. Until the moment they were no more, their stories would have been much like his.
    Promise kept.
    Now, while we can, let’s live in the fullness of this summer — whose pleasures unfold before you in this year’s edition of our annual Summer Fun Guide, tucked in the pages of this week’s paper.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Open House givea us all a taste of the pleasures of camp life

Now I hardly go out there, but I’ve spent a lot of time on the Bay.
    You won’t read those words, the nostalgic second clause of Tuck Hines’ description of his early days as a marine ecologist at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, in the senior scientist’s conversation with Bay Weekly this week. There you’ll read the serious stuff, like whether we’re doing ourselves in on this planet. But, as Hines’ words suggest, there is more to being a scientist than the lessons you learn.
    Being a scientist can mean you get to spend a lot of time outdoors doing what kids go to camp to do. Playing in the water. Catching crabs and fish. Creating clever tools from what nature puts in your way. Stuff that’s called fun.
    Viewed in that way, the coincidence of Bay Weekly’s conversation with Hines and our Last-Minute Camp Guide this week isn’t so much coincidental and serendipitous. Serendipity is what we call it when things come together in a way that makes opportunity. In this case, serendipity brings me a cure for the envy that always hits when I read about all the fun awaiting kids at summer camp.
    Nature, water, creativity and creatures: The things kids find at camp, while getting out and active, are the things many scientists spend a lifetime doing. Unless, like Hines, you climb the ladder into administration, which means staying indoors and leaving much of the fun behind.
    I sure hope you help your kids make that connection, as it opens the door to a lifetime of summer fun.
    It’s too late for me, I sigh, imagining how different a life I might have had had it occurred to me to be in nature rather than writing about it.
    But it’s not too late. Not for you or me. All of us, all ages including the kids, will find an open door to science at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s 50th Anniversary Open House this Saturday, May 16.
    From 10am to 3pm that promising May day — a high of 78 is predicted, with some cloud shelter from the sun — all of us can act like scientists. We can roam woods and fields, ride and wade the water, try to pull up a catch, climb a giant tower, all in the company of people who look at nature in a way to make sense of it while enjoying it.
    In such a place and in such company, kids might find a career to keep them playful and happy their whole lives long.
    Even us already grownups can swerve into a new avocation. Citizen scientists are welcomed to the Smithsonian team.
    “We’ve had dozens of citizen scientists over the years. We’ve been very blessed to have a great group,” Hines told me. “Much of our mapping and measuring has been done by scientists along with volunteer scientists. We’re now building citizen scientists into a program so it’s not just one project but a collection of programmatic approaches to use volunteers who are not scientists most effectively.”
    If you, like me, are nostalgic for the pleasures of camp, you might rediscover them at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Use May 16’s Open House as your tryout; reservations give you free parking and tickets for river cruises: www.serc.si.edu.
    Sunscreen and your hat, closed shoes, a water bottle and a bug bracelet would be good companions for your day at camp.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

I read the epic of motherhood in the comfort of home

Motherhood in her full span lives in my neighborhood.    
    In the eyes of eight-month-old Alexander Ehecatl Groves, Ana Dorates is queen of the universe. She is our Madonna, mother adored. But she is only one chapter of an ageless story.
    The women of Fairhaven Cliffs span the whole story in its many stages. We are — to borrow the seven stages of the Finnish mythology of the ­Kalevala — maiden, wife, mother, crone, sage, warrior and healer. As we travel the womanly continuum, we do not abandon who we were before. Childless or childed, each woman is stirred by the baby, the role Alexander will so briefly play. For the mothers among us, Ana awakens in each of us memories of our own babies in our arms.
    At the other end of the spectrum, no matter how young we are, we see in one another what we are becoming. Girls, mothers, grandmothers: we are one community; now and again, one family will span three, even four, generations. We have a whole community of women who have passed, still living in communal memory.
    Many among us are in life’s early chapter, the maidens. Nearly three decades ago, I moved into a Fairhaven popping with children, many of them girls: Ariel and Emelia, Stephanie, Sarah and Mary, Maureen, Megan and Lisa, Betty Elizabeth, Leslie, Maggie and Colleen, Alex and Katie Lee, Anastasia, Lily … In this age of marrying late, many remain their own women in their 20s and beyond, making their way in the world before taking on the responsibility of making a home and ­family. They are wonders, thrilling and inspiring those of us who remember when fewer women could become what they dreamed. They are poets, dancers, scientists, dreamers, teachers, world travelers and beauties as well. One is a warrior, a Marine Naval Academy graduate.
    Marriage is calling some of the maidens. Mary and Leslie are soon to be wives, with Leslie’s wedding planned on our little Fairhaven Beach on June 13.
    Leslie’s sister-in-law, Kelly, is soon to enter the next stage, growing with her baby.
    Stephanie, who has moved away, is the mother of two school-age boys, Jason and Ethan, and has plumbed the depths of dread when her younger was found to have a brain tumor at only six. He is winning his battle.
    Other mothers have lost children in untimely twists of fate. Those tragedies surely make them sages.
    With time we bear that least desirable of title: crones. But the long perspective of the Kalevala takes the sting out of the word, defining crone as wise woman and elder. We step into that role as our children step out of our lives into their own. Now our goal, says the ­Kalevala, is “to achieve true knowledge through experience and to be able to retain, apply and transmit it.” That’s a role I’ve watched us all grow into.
    It was to gain their wisdom that we begged our sages to tell us their stories. Many have been shy to claim any wisdom, but that’s still the girl in them speaking. We who asked knew its truth.
    Healers? I wonder about that role. Perhaps it’s in our leaving we achieve that role. Motherless we all become, sooner or later. Bearing that role among us now is Debra Gingell. Long of Fairhaven, her mother, Jean VanHoose, left this world on April 24, six days shy of her 91st birthday. For Debra — and perhaps us all — healing is part of the grieving: “Throughout my life I hope for her to be proud of me,” Debra wrote in memoriam. “The words she wrote in my Easter card gave me peace in knowing that held true.”

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

More ups and downs

Will 101 million spawning-age females produce a sustainable future for Chesapeake Bay’s blue crabs?
    That’s the $64,000 question raised by this year’s Winter Dredge Survey, Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ census of crabs asleep in the mud of the Bay.
    The population is well — more than half — below the target female population of 215 million. This year shows an uptick. But the survey’s 24-year history has been consistently up and down. Only two years — 2010 and 2011 — have surpassed the target. Four — including 2014 — have fallen to or below the much lower threshold of 70,000, meaning a depleted population. On the chart, this year is average below average.
    Crab fishery managers use the Dredge Survey results to determine how many crabs can be harvested. This year, commercial female catch is allowed but regulated. Recreational crabbers must return females to the water.
    Better news is the rising total of crabs living in the Bay: 411 million, despite the hard winter. Only 10 years of the survey have found higher numbers, and seven of those years were in the 1990s. The other three highs coincided with or followed the boom female years of 2010 and 2011.
    That, said DNR Secretary Mark Belton, “is good news for the crabs and for Marylanders who enjoy them all summer long.”
    Read the full survey at http://tiny.cc/lgsjxx.

Before you answer it, think safety

A glimpse of a small boat under full sail sets my heart racing.
    Back to the Water is a season all its own in Chesapeake Country, aligned with spring but serving separate pleasures.
    We expect less warmth of Back to the Water. Winds are often gusty, giving sailors some fun, and water temperatures in the mid 50s mean a cold bath that could do you harm. Air temperatures could be colder or much warmer on a day on the water, which is all in the day. If you’re one of those people who the water’s pull affects like the tides, the weather won’t keep you on land.
    For fishing people, the pull of their prey is irresistible. For boaters, it’s the call of the wild: reunion with the elements, timelessness, freedom. Sailboaters work the elements to their purpose or try themselves against them. Motorboaters command horsepower and ride the thrill of speed.
    Hailing from parts of the Midwest where cornfields were the biggest open spaces and rivers the waterways, I know how lucky we are to live here, where water is ours for the taking — in sizes from ponds and creeks to the ocean.
    Plenty of us out here have the boats to get us on the water. But you don’t have to own the boat — or a big boat — to have its pleasure. Kayaks — a bandwagon barely moving when New Bay Times began — are as common and affordable (or pricey) as bikes. If you haven’t gotten one of your own yet, you can paddle for minimal rental costs, even free, all over Chesapeake Country. Any day now, you’ll be seeing opportunities in our 8 Days a Week calendar of events.
    Getting out on the water on bigger boats, sail and motor, is no problem, either. Find options of both sorts in a range of prices at City Dock Annapolis and on historic boats at Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons.
    Not even disabilities need keep a water lover landlocked. Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating offers free sailing excursions and lessons at Sandy Point State Park: www.crabsailing.org.
    When you’re out on the water with a professional captain or guide, safety will be your first lesson. Make safety your first priority when you’re on your own, and you’ll vastly improve your chances of returning home after a beautiful voyage on the water.
    The bad luck boating stories in my collection are not all funny; there’s major mishap among them, and far too much tragedy.
    Last year, Maryland Natural Resources Police investigated 23 water-related deaths, 17 involving boats. Nationally, nearly 85 percent of all drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.
    In the excitement of splashing your boat for the first time this season, Col. George F. Johnson IV, superintendent of NRP, warns boaters “may overlook some things that will keep them out of harm’s way. We urge everyone to take 15 minutes or so to do a stem-to-stern equipment check. If you get stopped on the water, our officers will conduct a safety inspection and may issue a citation or require you to return to shore.”
    No-penalty safety inspections are also offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary: http://cgaux.org/vsc.
    To make yourself and your passengers (even your dog) as safe as your boat, buy a new, comfortable lifejacket and wear it. Modern inflatable life jackets and vests are a world away from the old cumbersome Mae Wests. They’re even stylish, and stay flat until you need them.
    “People think that in an accident they will have time to grab their life jacket and put it on,” warns Johnson. “In reality, bad things often happen in the blink of an eye. And once you’re in the water, it may be too late. Life jackets only work when you wear them.”
    One more thing: Please, if you haven’t yet, take the Maryland Safe Boating Class. It’s life-saving and very accessible with online (www.boat-ed.com/maryland‎) as well as instructed options (again, watch 8 Days a week).

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

From heirlooms to exotics

You’re never too young to garden, as Leigh Glenn writes in this week’s feature story.
    Nor too old. No doubt some devout urbanists can ignore the call of spring. But don’t you want to get your hands in the dirt to feel life stirring?
    I do!
    So I’m tracking the arrival of the season’s plant sales, especially sales of native plants adapted to our changeable climate and thereby hardier — even in my imperfect handling. Natives also benefit wildlife, having evolved in companionship.
    The next three weekends are the high season of plant sales. Here’s what’s up. (Did we miss yours? Let me know at editor@bayweekly.com)
    Experienced gardeners are often on hand to guide you in choosing plants that suit your place and plan. Check websites before you go for special opportunities and offerings, including lists of plants for sale.

National Arboretum Garden Fair: 3501 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. Fri. April 24, 1pm-4pm; Sat. April 25, 9am-4pm: fona.org/gardenfair

Bowie Crofton Garden Club: Bowie Library, 15210 Annapolis Rd. Sat. April 25, 8am-noon: bcgardenclub.org

Southern High School Future Farmers of America: Southern High, Rt. 2: Harwood. Sat. April 25, 8am-noon: facebook.com/SouthernHighFFA

Calvert Garden Club Plant Sale: Historic Linden House: 70 Church St., Prince Frederick. Sat. April 25, 9am-noon: calvertgardenclub.com

Audubon Society of Central Maryland’s Native Plant Sale: Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary, Frederick County. Sat. April 25, 9am-1pm: centralmdaudubon.org

Sotterley Garden Guild Plant Sale: Sotterley Plantation, St. Mary’s County. Sat. April 25, 9am-2pm; Sun. April 26, noon-3pm: sotterley.org

Adkins Arboretum Native Plant Sale: Caroline County. Sat. April 25, 10am-4pm; Sun. April 26, noon-4pm: adkinsarboretum.org
Four Rivers Garden Club May Mart: Market House at City Dock: Annapolis. Fri. May 1, 8am-2pm: ­http://gardenclubofannapolis.com

Calvert County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale: 30 Duke St., Prince Frederick. Sat. May 2, 8am-noon: facebook.com/calvertcountymastergardeners

Southern High School Future Farmers of America: Southern High, Rt. 2: Harwood. Sat. May 2, 8am-noon: facebook.com/SouthernHighFFA

Historic London Town and Gardens Annual Spring Plant Sale: Edgewater. Sat. May 2, 8am-2pm: ­londontown@historiclondontown.org

Centro Ashe Plant Sale: Charles County. Sat. May 2, 10am-2pm: rsvp: ­www.centroashe.org

Alice Ferguson Foundation Spring Farm Festival: Hard Bargain Farm, Accokeek, Charles County. Sat. May 2, 11am-4pm: $5/car: http://fergusonfoundation.org

Chesapeake Garden Club Outdoor Spring Plants and More Sale: Friendship. Sat. May 2, 8am-5pm; Sun. May 3, 11am-3pm: chesapeakegardenclub.org

Chesapeake Beach Garden Club Plant Sale: Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum. Sat. May 9, 9am-noon: facebook.com/ChesapeakeGardenClub

Mid Atlantic Community Church Maryland-Grown Plant Sale: 2485 Davidsonville Rd. Sat. May 2, 8am-noon: http://the macc.org/plantsale

Southern High School Future Farmers of America: Southern High, Rt. 2: Harwood. Sat. May 9, 8am-noon: facebook.com/SouthernHighFFA

Paca Plant Sale: William Paca Garden, Annapolis.
Sat. May 9 & Sun. May 10, 10am-4pm: annapolis.org

Annapolis Horticulture Society Plant Sale: Riva Road Farmers Market, Annapolis. Sat. May 16,
7am-noon: annapolishorticulture.org

Cape St. Claire Garden Club’s 36th Annual Plant Sale, Annapolis. Sat. May 16, 8am-2pm: ­capegardenclub.wordpress.com.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Let us count the ways

A couple of tried, true and trite figures of speech can help you understand the week’s layered news on the health of the Bay.
    Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? Practicing that feat of coordination will prepare you to understand the new Chesapeake Bay Program take on how we’re doing in cleaning up the Bay we all say we love.
    The good news is the Bay diet is working.
    We’re actually cutting back the fast-food diet of nutrients and sediment streaming into our Bay.
    Except for a two percent rise in nitrogen and sediments between 2013 and 2014.
    Got that?
    In 2009, the EPA set the equivalent of a strict calorie limit on how much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment the Bay could swallow. By 2014, nitrogen loads dropped six percent (15.83 million pounds). Phosphorus dropped 18 percent (3.40 million pounds). Sediment dropped four percent (327 million pounds).
    All this is happening because of pollution controls put in place over the last five years by Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District.
    But our poor Bay’s calorie intake is enormous: 282 million pounds of nitrogen a year; 19 million pounds of phosphorus; almost nine billion pounds of sediment a year.
    So you won’t be surprised that there’s still a long way to go before the Bay gets to its ideal nutritional balance by 2025. For nitrogen that’s 217 million pounds, 14 million pounds of phosphorus and seven billion pounds of sediment.
    Just what is the Bay’s junk food? Agricultural runoff is tops, followed by wastewater and sewer overflow, fallout of airborne pollutants, urban runoff and septic systems (for nitrogen).
    A walk in the park, understanding that, isn’t it? Now let’s add chewing gum.
    How does that two percent rise in nitrogen and sediment fit into those millions of lost pounds?
    The “slight increase,” the Bay Program report notes, “is due in part to a short-term shift in agricultural commodities.” Higher prices for corn spurred in large measure by ethanol meant more corn was planted. Corn craves “nitrogen-rich fertilizer that can leach off the ground and into local waterways.”
    Find the full report — including methodology — at chesapeakebay.net/presscenter/release/22587.
    If you’ve managed to walk while chewing gum, you’ll have figured out that you’ve got a part to play in reducing the Bay’s junk food diet.
    Hence our next truism: Put your money where your mouth is.
    To get the Bay to it best nutritional balance, that’s what we’ve all got to do. The Flush Tax is reducing nitrogen from our plumbing in water purification plants and septic systems. But given the resistance to controlling our stormwater runoff — with its junk-food load of nitrogen and sediment — you’d think robbers were knocking at the door.
    That paranoia helped elect Gov. Larry Hogan and Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh. Now it’s feeding revision of laws already passed in the General Assembly and in the Anne Arundel County Council. On April 6, the council upheld the fee (lacking a better alternative) and principle of putting our money where our protestations are.
    Calvert citizens, you can keep your money. This fee is special to your 10 biggest neighbors. (On the other hand, they’ve got curbside county pickup of trash and recycling.)
    At the same time, newly agreed on Phosphorus Management Tools and timelines will help cut down on animal manure reaching the Bay from farm fields.
    We lawn growers — turf grass is the largest crop in the Chesapeake watershed — can mind our own fertilizer Ps and Qs. Learn the full story at www.mda.maryland/fertilizer. Consider hiring a pro like Blades of Green (who described the right way in last week’s Home and Garden Guide) to do a lawn-friendly and Bay-saving job.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com