A late fall groundbreaking is underway at 13 sites in six jurisdictions on Maryland’s Eastern Shore as part of work to add more than 50 acres of new trees, shrubs, and meadows to improve water quality.
The ongoing construction is happening due to collaboration between six Eastern Shore local jurisdictions, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), and others to identify environmental improvement projects and provide the support needed to fund and install the projects.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) provided a grant to kickstart the partnership, which enabled CBF to hire a staffer, known as a “circuit rider” to work on behalf of the localities. The staffer prioritized the jurisdictions’ potential projects and then sought out funding for them.
“The goal of this program is to help local governments grow the capacity they need to achieve the 2025 pollution reduction goals,” said Alan Girard, CBF’s Eastern Shore Director. “This collaboration empowers Eastern Shore counties, cities, and towns to put more projects in the ground at reduced cost to local governments. It demonstrates a cost-effective way to stop polluted runoff from entering streams, rivers, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.”
Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources subsequently awarded $300,000 this summer to the collaboration to pay for the initial projects. Tom Leigh, the circuit rider, is now working with the contractor, Cambridge-based Delmarva RC&D, to install the vegetation, trees, and other projects that improve water quality.
The long-term goal is to build the collaboration to continue to reduce costs and time related to staffing and grant applications. By working together, Leigh and the jurisdictions were able to use one application, one grant manager, and one contractor to apply and plan for the projects—a process that if done individually by each jurisdiction would have taken significantly more resources.
“This ground-breaking circuit rider strategy is a great way to protect the Bay at the local grass roots level, greening and growing strong partnerships with communities through teamwork, trust, and technical assistance,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. The Maryland Department of the Environment matched funding provided by participating counties and towns and NFWF to get the partnership underway.
Few of these models have been attempted in the region, but the effort builds on increasing interest in working across traditional boundaries to clean up the Bay. The projects being installed now help the jurisdictions reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution, which is required as part of Maryland’s commitment to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The Blueprint is the multi-state effort to reduce pollution across the Bay watershed by 2025. Trees and other vegetation planted near farm fields and along streams are among the most cost-effect practices to filter and reduce Bay pollutants. Pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus fuel agal blooms in the Bay, which reduce water clarity and lower dissolved oxygen levels that fish and crabs need to survive.
During a virtual press conference Tuesday, several elected and government officials discussed the value of the circuit rider effort.
“This really is a win-win for the Eastern Shore,” said Talbot County Councilmember Pete Lesher. “By working together Talbot County and its neighbors will have more trees, meadows, and other vegetation throughout the landscape. The new additions will beautify our communities and help improve the Bay’s health.”
The circuit rider collaboration was one outcome of the Healthy Waters Round Table, which in 2015 first brought together Eastern Shore government officials and environmental organizations to identify shared restoration needs and how to address them.
The following projects are now being constructed or are in the pipeline through the circuit rider collaborative effort:
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
- Undertaking an urban tree canopy study to assess and recommend ways to increase the city’s tree cover
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.