Three years ago, six jurisdictions on the Eastern Shore teamed up with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to develop a system to increase their ability to conduct Bay restoration work—and make priority environmental projects more attractive for grant funding.
In July, the new effort paid off when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a $300,000 grant award for projects throughout five of the jurisdictions. Property in Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties, the towns of Easton and Oxford, and the city of Cambridge will benefit from the grant, which was awarded through DNR’s Trust Fund. Salisbury, the sixth jurisdiction involved in the effort, did not receive funding through the DNR grant, but received funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to conduct a tree canopy study as part of the combined work.
The DNR grant will pay for 41 acres of trees and nine acres of meadow. About 20 acres of plantings will be in the Critical Area, land within 1,000 feet of tidal waters. These coastal areas serve as the last line of defense for filtering pollutants and stormwater before rain runoff flows into rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Ditches and swales will also receive new plantings to slow down and filter polluted runoff after it drains from roads and farm fields. Plantings scheduled to begin in September are on a fast track to be completed by December.
The award represents a major milestone for the “circuit rider” program supported by CBF Senior Regional Watershed Services Manager Tom Leigh, who worked closely with the Shore localities to identify environmental projects they needed funding to put in place. By working together, Leigh and the jurisdictions were able to use one application, one grant manager, and one contractor to apply for and plan the projects—a process that if done individually by each jurisdiction would have taken significantly more resources. This was the first time a circuit rider program like this one had been attempted anywhere in the state.
“These jurisdictions had several projects they wanted to put in the ground, but lacked the funding to do so,” Leigh said. “By working together, we were able to create efficiencies that enabled us to secure a sizable grant to plant trees, shrubs, and other vegetation that will help improve the region’s water quality long-term.”
“This is just the beginning. As Maryland works to accelerate effort to meet Bay restoration targets by 2025, public and private partners are looking at this pilot as a way to get the job done cheaply and effectively,” Leigh added. “This program enables the smaller jurisdictions to access grants that were typically being awarded to larger counties with more resources and staff at their disposal to handle the application and implementation process.”
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) provided funding to enable the creation of the partnership as well as capital to pursue opportunities such as the DNR grant. Matching contributions from the local jurisdictions, CBF, and MDE ensured the successful implementation of the circuit rider model.The new DNR grant deepens the impact of NFWF’s original investment, adding new resources that help advance locally important stormwater management goals. The contractor working on the projects funded by the DNR grant is Delmarva Resource Conservation & Development, a locally-owned nonprofit in Cambridge, MD.
“Working directly with Tom Leigh through the circuit rider program, Queen Anne’s County was able to realize stormwater reduction goals identified in its Watershed Implementation Plan,” said Michael Wisnosky, Queen Anne’s County Director of Planning and Zoning. “Without this partnership, the funding and ability to implement these best practices on public and private lands would not have occurred within the foreseeable future. Tom’s ability to assist the County to identify specific environmental projects and to pool resources between jurisdictions has been extremely valuable, and we look forward to continued opportunities to join forces.”
“The Town of Oxford is appreciative of the work of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in support of our community water quality improvement efforts and especially grateful for our Regional Watershed Services Manager, Tom Leigh,” said Cheryl Lewis, the Town of Oxford’s Administrator/Clerk-Treasurer. “Tom, acting as a circuit rider for multiple jurisdictions, has been instrumental in keeping us all on track, assisting us individually in defining the projects that will best serve our communities, and jointly pursuing funding for those projects.”
“We are overjoyed with the recent success of this collaboration’s application, which Tom took from an idea to a robust submittal to the DNR Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund on our behalf,” added Lewis. “The success of our multijurisdictional group is a remarkable feat, as demonstrated by the recent award from DNR, and one of which I am proud to say the Town of Oxford is a participant.”
As the grant-funded project moves to the construction phase, Leigh is working to secure other benefits, such as buying trees in bulk to reduce costs. He’ll also continue to evaluate the program’s effectiveness to determine how the projects fulfill the jurisdictions’ stormwater reduction requirements and Bay cleanup goals.
Queen Anne’s County
- Lining 12 acres along Price Creek in the Blue Heron Nature reserve with a grass buffer
- Planting trees near the entrance of the public Blue Heron Golf Course driving range
- Planting trees and shrubs around a portion of the perimeter of Grasonville Park
- Transforming turf grass areas in Whitemarsh Park with trees, shrubs, and meadows
- Adding a new meadow at Batts Neck Park near a stormwater pond overflow
- Adding trees and shrubs around the perimeter of Cordova Community Park
- Expanding a riparian forest buffer near the biosolids spray irrigation facility northeast of Easton
- Planting a newly created ditch near the recently expanded Goldsborough Neck Road with shrubbery to reduce runoff to Goldsborough Creek
- Planting trees, shrubs, and meadows at Moton Park and RTC Park
- Adding seven acres of new meadow next to the Easton Airport
- Using reclaimed sediment to create a large berm that will be graded into an outdoor amphitheater at Oxford Central Park. The area will also be planted with trees, shrubs, and meadow and new bioretention areas will be created.
- Planting trees in Great Marsh Park to reduce flooding during high water events that have become more frequent
Note: Funding provided to CBF by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction program includes funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its funding sources. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government, or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding sources.