Are you Chesapeake Bay aware?
By Nissa Dean and Liz Chodoba
In 2016, the Legislatures of each of the Chesapeake Bay watershed commonwealths and states designated the second week of June as Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week. This designation urges all Chesapeake Bay residents “to commemorate the Week with events, activities, and educational programs designed to raise awareness of the importance of the Chesapeake Bay” to each jurisdiction as well as to the region, and the United States.
The goal of Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week is to highlight the importance of this national and natural treasure and to celebrate the region’s successes in reducing nutrient and sediment pollution to the Bay and its rivers, while raising awareness of the challenges ahead and the opportunities for all residents to play an important role in the restoration process.
This goal will be accomplished through a series of local and regional events host by a partnership of organizations throughout the Bay Watershed from June 3rd to June 10th. During this week-long Bay Awareness initiative, we will promote stream litter clean ups, rain barrel workshops, sales of native plants for landscaping , tree planting workshops, water monitoring demonstrations, and other Bay-related activities for all ages throughout the Chesapeake watershed. In Virginia, Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week will culminate with a signature Back to the Bay event.
The inaugural Back to the Bay event will be held on Saturday, June 10th at Mason Neck State Park in Northern Virginia. The event will showcase the importance of the Chesapeake Bay to our quality of life and economy in Virginia, and to engage a broader base of the public in taking action.
For decades, Bay states have been working hard to reduce nutrient pollution to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration goals for two key deadlines, 2017 and 2015. Virginia has been successful in attaining its 2017 nutrient reduction goals, mainly through reducing pollution from point sources like wastewater treatment plants and industry, and through making progress in agriculture. However, we still have a long way to go to reach the 2025 goals.
To reach the 2025 goals non-point source pollution must be the focus –the pollution running off urban and suburban lands and farms. This work will need to take place throughout the watershed, and every resident must play a role. The truth is that we all live “upstream”. To recognize this fact, the Back to the Bay event will begin with a symbolic visual call to action where everyone physically turns their back to the Bay to look upstream into the vast watershed where so much future work needs to be done.
Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week and the Back to the Bay event encourages people to think about the challenges we face, and then ask themselves how can I help? What can I do on my property, in my neighborhood or in my community to make a difference? We believe that providing the public with practical strategies, ways they can volunteer, and actions they can take at home, will make a difference.
Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s Virginia Delegation said, “It’s time for the public to move beyond being only bumper sticker deep in understanding the challenge we face and the necessity that requires us to do this work.”
Back to the Bay will also showcase the commitments of local businesses in restoring our streams and the Chesapeake Bay as more and more Virginia businesses respond to their employees and customers’ calls for greater sustainability and responsibility. Through Businesses for the Bay, a partnership of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the business community, businesses are being encouraged to find measurable ways they can improve water quality. Back to the Bay will offer local businesses the opportunity to increase awareness among the public on their businesses role and commitment to restoring the Bay.
Back to the Bay will showcase educational resources from a variety of local, state and nonprofit partners that illustrate our connections to the Chesapeake Bay and the issues and challenges to progress. The event will also offer residents, families, students and educators hands on demonstration of how to make a difference. And for fun, people will also have the opportunity to explore the park, participate in activities on the water, try delicious local food (including Virginia oysters), and enjoy live entertainment!
Mason Neck State Park offers a wide variety ways to interact with nature through hiking trails, wetlands, forests, open water, paved multi-use trails, a large picnic area, a playground, and a visitor center. Canoeing and kayaking will be offered by Mason Neck State Staff.
Back to the Bay is possible through a public/private partnership involving the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Commonwealth of Virginia, localities, agriculture and other businesses, private-sector and non-profit organizations working together to highlight our connection with the Bay and its rivers and to celebrate our shared enjoyment of the environment.
For more information about Back to the Bay, visit http://www.vcnva.org/back-to-the-bay/ or follow Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week on Facebook. Look for our future calendar of events for Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week at www.allianceforthebay.org. Let’s all make a promise to be more “Chesapeake Bay aware” this year!
Nissa Dean is Virginia State Director and Liz Chodoba is Water Quality Program manager in the Richmond, VA office of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay