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A Giant Step into the Future

For Annapolis Maritime Museum, a giant step across the creek

With the flourish of a pen, Annapolis Maritime Museum took a giant step into the future. From two-thirds of an acre — its Eastport campus on Back Creek — the 26-year-old environmental education center grew to almost 13 acres.
    Like a small snake swallowing an elephant, the Museum made the ambitious expansion in a single bite. That bite is the Ellen Moyer Nature Park.
    Twelve acres of potential is what board chairman Eric Rubin saw on a chance walk through the city’s old waterworks property, since dedicated as a park in honor of the mayor (2001-2009) whose legacy is the greening of Annapolis.
    “We’d grown out of our space,” Rubin recounted.
    Beginning in the tiny 600-foot Barge House as the Eastport Historical Committee, the museum expanded tenfold into the former McNasby’s Oyster Company. Leased from the City of Annapolis, the 17,000-foot building became the museum proper, with exhibition, office and event space. On Back Creek, the Cap’n Herbie Sadler Park, a paddle-launch beach, piers and a living shoreline brought visitors to the water.
    Hurricane Isabel flooded the museum, testing and strengthening its resolve. It was reborn with a stronger  educational mission: connecting students to the Bay.
    Six thousand students a year visit. With concerts, lectures, art exhibits, weddings and events swelling the total to 40,000 visits, two-thirds of an acre was just too small.
    From “no idea how to expand,” Rubin saw the future on that walk.
    There were “great spaces” — the Back Creek waterfront, a constructed beaver pond, 19 sites demonstrating stormwater management, trails, a paddling launch, the original waterworks building, parking.
    There was also proximity, as the Moyer Nature Park was a stone’s throw across Back Creek from the museum. On the road, however, the distance is three-and-a-half heavily traveled miles.
    To see the future, Rubin had to look past the present.
    In the quarter-century since the land’s dedication as a park, its development and use had been fitful. Invasive plants overran the property. The old waterworks building had been left to weather and age.
    Rubin also had to convince executive director Alice Estrada to share his vision. That, Rubin told Bay Weekly, was easy: “It doesn’t take much to convince Alice when she sees opportunity.”
    The opportunity she saw was bringing the park back to life as a classroom in “urban ecology.”

It’s Official
    As of October 25, 2016, opportunity was at hand.
    On that autumn day etched in shadow and light, Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides signed the 20-year lease authorizing the Annapolis Maritime Museum to manage Ellen Moyer Nature Park. Estrada and Rubin added their names.
    The authorization was priceless. The transformation will not be.
    “It will take a million for that alone,” Rubin said of the old brick waterworks, whose next stage is now being studied by Annapolis architect Jeffrey Halpern.
    Over the rest, Rubin shook his head. The pieces in that puzzle are being assembled by landscape architect Vernon Hustead as the park masterplan. It is, he said, “a great platform for environmental literacy.”
    Revitalization will happen in stages, by “lots of projects, lots of grants,” says board secretary Elvia Thompson, organizer of Annapolis Green.
    Board and staff are undaunted at that giant fix-up project.
    “We have a hidden jewel here,” Estrada said, “and we want to polish it.”
    Join in polishing the jewel: Thursday November 10 is the first spruce-up day, 9am-2pm with refreshments served: 410-295-0104.