County organizations celebrate water quality improvement
— As the usual boaters and beachgoers trickled into Elk Neck State Park on Saturday afternoon, most were probably not thinking about the qual-
ity of the water they were about to go swimming in.
But in the parking lot next to the beach area was a group of people who spend a lot of time doing just that. They had gathered at the park for the seventh annual Cecil County Wade-In, an event that brings together people and organizations from all over the county to measure water quality with the “sneaker index.”
This measurement tool
was created by former Maryland State Sen. Bernie Fowler, who measured water quality by seeing how far he could wade in before losing sight of his sneakers, said Sean McCandless, a stormwater inspector with the county Department of Public Works.
“That’s why we’re here today. We’re going to get in touch with our Chesapeake Bay, the mouth of the Northeast River,” he told the crowd. “We’re going to wade in.”
This year’s wade-in found a sneaker index of 27.5 inches, an inch and a half improvement over last year’s measurement of 26 inches.
But those weren’t the only numbers being shared at the event. Scott Flanigan, the county’s director of public works, announced that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has awarded the county a $900,000 grant from the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund to construct stormwater management projects at North East and Perryville high schools.
At North East High School, the projects will include bio-retention basins and stream restoration. The Perryville projects will also include bio-retention basins as well as converting an existing stormwater pond to a wetland, Flanigan said.
Many people criticize the state for it’s stormwater requirements, but Flanigan said he’s glad to see the state step up and support counties trying to fulfill those requirements.
“To me, this is an example Kids help put out a seine net during the Cecil County Wade-In.
where the state of Maryland is putting its money where its mouth is, so to speak, and helping the county with meeting its stormwater requirements,” he said.
Flanigan also congratulated Cecil Land Trust for receiving a DNR grant that it will put toward a publicprivate partnership with
Ecosystem Investment Partners to restore more than 1.5 miles of degraded streams and create 20 acres of riparian buffer in the Principio Creek watershed.
The projects at the high schools as well as the one at Principio Creek will also help with wade-in’s goal of educating the public about county watersheds and stormwater management. Prior to the wade-in, many local organizations set up information tables in the parking lot were people could learn about watersheds and stormwater management.
Acoustic guitar player Don Shappelle also played music for the crowd leading up to the wade-in.
The continued public education about stormwater as well as the slowly improving water quality are good signs for longtime river watchers such as Chuck Foster, president of the Friends of the Bohemia. Foster’s parents bought a “1-acre slice of heaven” on the Bohemia River when he was a child that sparked his love of that river, he said.
He recalled those days of crystal clear water, aquatic vegetation and plenty of fish and crabs, a state of health he hopes the river will someday achieve again. But though the water quality has changed since he was a child, Fowler’s passion for the river hasn’t.
“I’m here because, probably like you, I love that water,” he told the crowd. “I love it.”
Volunteers keep an eye on their shoes as they wade into the Northeast River at the seventh annual Cecil County Wade-In.
Director of Public Works Scott Flanigan announced that Cecil County had received a $900,000 grant for stormwater management during the wade-in.