The Maryland Coastal Bays Program report card was released at an interesting venue in Ocean City in late afternoon, June 30. Macky’s Barside & Grill on 54th Street in Ocean City provided a bayside venue for the release with perfect weather. Jet skis and motorboats were buzzing in and out of the canal, a roosting colony of laughing gulls in the marsh and the babble of dinner guests eating in the sandy beach provided a lively backdrop to the proceedings. Dave Wilson, the Executive Director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program was the emcee of the program. He introduced the report card and had a couple of young Coastal Stewards unveil the poster with report card scores. Just at the moment of unveiling, a laughing gull perched on the pole overhead and let out a raucous laugh. We wondered if the C+ overall grade was the subject of derisive laughter.
I explained the breakout of the scores, with Newport Bay (D+) receiving the worst score, followed by St. Martin River (D+). The modest improvements in the northern Bays, in particular, the improvement in Assawoman Bay from a C in 2008 to a C+ in 2009. The two best scores again were Chincoteague (B-) and Sinepuxent (B) Bays, although the degradation in these Bays, particularly water quality in southern Chincoteague Bay over the past few years is of concern. But the really good news in the report card was the submerged aquatic vegetation recovery. A 25% increase in area coverage was noted since the previous year. This is a demonstration of the resilience of Chincoteague Bay aquatic grasses as a response to the broad scale dieback that occurred in 2005 due to a heat stress event.
Following the report card overview, Bruce Michael from Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) talked about the state of Maryland initiatives to help groups like the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. Dave Wilson highlighted a few of the ‘gold star’ projects associated with the report card release. Dave invited a few partners to make some informal remarks. Bob Church from the Worchester County Commission, Maryland State Delegate Jim Mathias, and Gee Williams, Mayor of Berlin all spoke passionately about the efforts that they were making on behalf of the Coastal Bays. These speakers spoke highly of their positive interactions with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program staff, and all expressed a desire to improve the report card score to an A. There were no gulls around to laugh at these statements.
The report card event attracted lots of friends of the Coastal Bays, including Maryland Secretary of Planning Rich Hall, former Executive Director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program Dave Blazer, National Park Service staff, including Carl Zimmerman and Courtney Schupp, and Dr. Tom Jones, Salisbury University. The living shorelines project on site at Macky’s was a great example of good environmental stewardship.
Of the many report card events I have attended, the venue and atmosphere for this report card release was the best. Instead of looking for a place to celebrate the release, following the event, we were able to combine the event with the celebration. It was a festive occasion and Ann and Macky Stansell who own and run Macky’s were wonderful hosts. Many of the attendees lingered afterward, including a contingent who ate dinner and watched sunset over the Coastal Bays (which Macky’s accompanies with Kate Smith’s God Bless America).