Volume XI, Issue 25 ~ June 19-25, 2003

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Bay Reflections

Leaving Chesapeake Country
by Martha Blume

In a few short days my family is moving from Chesapeake Bay country to the Connecticut shore.

Here is what I won’t miss: traffic, sniper attacks, tiger mosquitoes, traffic, terrorist alerts, traffic and subdivision covenants that prevent me from hanging a clothesline.

Here is what I will miss: the view of the Naval Academy from the Old Severn River Bridge, Arnold Elementary School, historic Annapolis, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, the Capitol Steps at Ram’s Head Tavern and writing for Bay Weekly. Its owner, editors, publishers and writers never refrain — in the face of political or social pressure — from telling the truth about the Bay and those who, for better of worse, influence its health.

There have been times in my life when speaking up for, teaching about or writing about environmental issues has seemed either futile or like preaching to the choir. In my life as a coastguardsman’s wife, I’ve seen a lot of bodies of water come and go: Puget Sound, Delaware Bay, the Gulf of Alaska, Narragansett Bay, the Gulf of Maine and now the Chesapeake. I have taught or written about and lobbied for the health of water in all of those places.

Often only those who already have a vested interest seem to care. And the problems can seem insurmountable.

Like its tides that ebb and flow, the health of the Chesapeake moves forward and back. At times it feels easier to give up than to keep fighting for its restoration. But one way or another, all our lives depend on the ongoing battle — from the fishermen whose paychecks are threatened by species decline, to recreational boaters, to homeowners whose real estate values depend on the Bay, to naturalists who appreciate it for its place as a home to other creatures, to those who simply feel that the world is a more beautiful place because this Bay exists.

In moving from Maryland to Connecticut, we trade one beautiful and threatened estuary for another. Long Island Sound — the most densely populated and least pristine of all our country’s estuarine systems — may be beyond the brink of salvation.

Even some environmentalists concede that restoration of Long Island Sound may be only a pipedream. The Sound has been a marine highway, garbage dump, playground and fishery for so long that it’s difficult to determine what its pristine condition should look like. It is tempting to throw up one’s hands and look the other way in the face of industrial and political opposition.

As with the Chesapeake, it’s handfuls of people, citizens and neighbors who fight many little battles and who take matters into their own hands — by planting eelgrass and by patrolling the shoreline — that keep the Sound alive.

The Sound and the Bay need all of our voices, all of our hands. The responsibility rests on those of us who care. No one else is going to step in. Even if we are preaching to the choir, it’s those of us in the choir who need the support of the other singers to keep the song alive.

So I’ll hang my clothesline in Connecticut and lift my pen in defense of the Sound. And I’ll rest assured knowing that people like Sandra Martin, Bill Lambrecht, Alex Knoll and all the writers and readers of Bay Weekly are doing their part here in Maryland.

When my daughter Phoebe was four years old, we moved by ferry and car from Anchorage, Alaska, to Kingston, Rhode Island. Somewhere in the high plains of the Dakotas, she looked wistfully out the window and said, “Mama, our country is beautiful.”

I owe it to her to keep it that way.


© COPYRIGHT 2003 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated June 19, 2003 @ 3:22am