Volume 14, Issue 9 ~ March 2 - March 8, 2006

Sowing Change

Annapolitans gather to grow a better city

by Carrie Steele

Seeds of change are germinating as dozens of groups research, debate and sketch out how Annapolis can grow into a better place to live. Bay Weekly caught up with two of the groups — Mayor Ellen Moyer’s Let’s Talk discussions and the Spa Creek Conservancy — to find out what’s in it for us.

Whether you’re looking for a creek you can swim in or more parking downtown, now you can help make it happen.

Let’s Talk about Annapolis 2010

Late afternoon sun streamed in tall City Hall windows as the buzz began.

You’re the brains behind the new 10-year comprehensive plan the city’s writing. So they need you to join the talk. A lot will be said in six months, as Mayor Ellen Moyer’s Let’s Talk initiative recruits civic organizations, business groups and citizens to hash out ideas on improving Annapolis.

Big themes are what Annapolis should become over the next decade; how to protect and improve quality of life; and how to build a unified community. Traffic, environment, housing and violence are on the agenda. So is anything on your mind.

Talkers can sign up to attend, host or facilitate ruminative gatherings.

“We want people to talk about quality of life in Annapolis,” says Daria Hardin of the Mayor’s Office. “Then we want them to ask themselves what’s one thing they would like to do.”

Citizens have always found ways to shape their town.

“We’ve gotten a lot of different ideas,” over the years, says Moyer. One citizen saw that the grass planted on a landfill wasn’t right for the purpose and suggested another type. Another suggested building osprey nests on old telephone poles.

Let’s Talk wants to step up the momentum, turning a few good ideas into an avalanche. Moyer expects the Let’s Talk conversations to continue for two years as the comprehensive plan takes shape. Today’s words will shape the way Annapolis grows.

“Who knows where an idea will end up,” Moyer told Bay Weekly.

New Eastportorican Nick Berry jumped in on the first night of the Let’s Talk.

“A city fair would be terrific,” says Berry, who also wants to keep the city’s list of community-wide activities like festivals and farmers’ markets growing.

He’ll be one of hundreds of citizens joining in talk that will be summed up in writing and eventually submitted as an outline for change to the Let’s Talk committee. In August, the committee begins shaping the 10-year plan, which should be in place by the end of 2007.

For now, Moyer urges Let’s Talk groups to start broad before narrowing their focus to one substantive issue.

“Some say talk is cheap,” Moyer said. “But it’s the most valuable currency we have.”

Giving Spa Creek a Fresh Start

It’s been used, misused and forgotten, but Spa Creek — which bisects Annapolis — can refresh a city entering its fifth century.

That’s the vision the Spa Creek Conservancy is touting to mobilize Annapolitans as advocates for their town waterway.

Parts of the creek are littered with skeletons of old ringer-washers and tires eroded out of the old city dump. Upland reaches are as likely to be paved as green. On surviving green verges, pet wastes run into the stream.

A creek runs through Annapolis, but in it citizens can’t swim, fish or — in some sections — even find a minnow in it.

“Spa and Back Creek are unique because they’re urban,” says Mel Wilkins, a Spa Creek clean-up volunteer whose restoration projects have become legendary.

Cleaning a whole creek takes a plan.

“We’re trying to establish a baseline for what’s there,” says Julie Tasillo of the Center for Watershed Protection, an advocacy group hired by the Conservancy with a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tasillo’s team walked the banks of the creek and its feeder streams to map erosion, trash, spillouts and other problems.

Still worse are pollution hotspots, Wilkins says, like a place where car fluids run into the drain.

Cleaning up one such hotspot is the project of city staffer Harry Sandrouni, who’s secured funds to clean up a city garage that’s fouling the creek. City property is easier to clean, he says. Private properties are harder because the owners have to be motivated to get involved. Rallying a community takes time, he said. “People are skeptical.”

Not this summer but before too long, Annapolitans may cool off in the clear waters of Spa Creek.

Want more information?

• Let’s Talk: www.Annapolis.gov.

• Spa Creek Conservancy: www.spacreek.org.

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