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Bernie Fowler Wades into It

92 and never, never, never giving up

Each year since 1987, retired state senator Bernie Fowler has waded into the Patuxent to highlight the river’s plight and to guage its clarity as measured on his overalls. <<photo by Bill Lambrecht>>

Wind-driven waves roiled the river into a sandy soup for Bernie Fowler’s 29th annual Patuxent River Wade In June 12.
    “It feels like the surf in Ocean City,” laughed a wader bound hand-in-hand to every other in the long line radiating out from the 92-year-old retired state senator and Patuxent River champion.
    Thirty-one inches in, Bernie Fowler lost sight of his white sneakers. That’s the inch mark measured on the leg of his extra-long coveralls by his old friend Steny Hoyer, minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives.
    This year’s Sneaker Index set no records for clarity in the river where as a young man Fowler could wade shoulder-deep and still see his feet. Nor did he expect it.
    “In my home river, water quality has not improved very much despite our best efforts,” he wrote in Bay Weekly in anticipation of this year’s Wade In. “In 29 years of wading in, I haven’t gotten much beyond my waist. In my opinion, we are not doing enough to reduce pollution on this river.”
    As Bay restoration inches forward decade after decade he feels energy flagging, he told the 100-some Fowler Followers — politicians, officials and Bay-minded citizens — ready to get wet once again this year.
    “We cannot rest on our laurels,” he admonished. “We must accelerate and make more good things happen.”
    Speaker after speaker promised that we would.
    None more resoundingly than Kelton Clark, director of Morgan State University’s Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory on the grounds of Jefferson Patterson Park, which succeeded Broomes Island as the home of the Wade In.
    “Stand up. Stand up for him, who stands up for you,” Clark urged the “choir” to whom he was preaching. “Say it after me. Loud! We will never, never, never give up!”