Turning Bay Water to Green

By Sandra Zunino
Majestic views, haven for water sports, habitat for area wildlife: the Chesapeake Bay is many things. Unfortunately, due to pollution, landscape changes and erosion the health of the bay has been declining at an alarming rate.

Although diligent, efforts to restore the bay have not produced the desired results. That’s why the Shore Land Stewardship Council (SLSC), an initiative of Adkins Arboretum, started the First Stop Campaign with the goal of positively impacting water quality and bay health.

This campaign encourages property owners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area to contact local planning offices first before commencing any landscape changes or shoreline alterations. “The idea is to help homeowners make the best decisions for their property to help protect and preserve the bay,” says Amy Steward, SLSC member.

There are many recent changes to critical area laws, originally instituted in the mid 80s, such as regulating the amount of impervious surfaces allowed on a property, according to Amy. Something as simply as putting in a driveway can affect the bay. Planning offices in Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Kent and Caroline Counties have guidelines for property owners to better inform them of the new regulations.

Property owners within a thousand feet of the bay or her tidal tributaries may be in critical area. As the Chesapeake is the largest estuary in the U.S., that covers a lot of land. Planning offices can help homeowners define if they are in the critical zones.

“The Green Book for the Bay”, prepared and published by Adkins Arboretum using guidance from the SLSC, is a free guidebook available to property owners. This illustrated guidebook is available through the four  County Planning offices, Adkins Arboretum and can be downloaded in PDF form from the First Stop for the Bay website. Funding assistance for the book was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Town Creek Foundation and Chesapeake Bay Trust.

The Green Book covers types of shoreline protection that are best for the bay, such as the use of grasses and plant material to help serve as filters opposed to hard surfaces.  Additionally, the overuse of lawn fertilizers, due to run off, causes nutrient pollution which fuels the growth of algae, negatively impacting water quality and aquatic life.

“The book is designed with a good, better, best approach,” explains Amy, “giving a tiered approach from the minimal to the best contributions a homeowner can make.”

“The best thing I think in the book in addition to the good, better, best approach is the list of 10 things you can do to help the bay,” she adds. “These are things every person who owns property can be doing.”

Additionally, through its First Stop for the Bay Speakers Bureau, the SLSC if offering free presentations to the region’s environmental organizations, watershed groups, homeowners associations, garden clubs, realtors and other industry professionals to share more about what can be done to care for properties in the critical area.

“We are trying to get people to be good stewards,” says Amy. “If we each take some responsibility we can make a difference.”

For more information on the First Stop Campaign, the SLSC or to download a free copy of “The Green Book for the Bay”, go to www.firststopforthebay.org. To schedule a presentation, contact Adkins Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext 0, or info@adkinsarboretum.org.