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30 Years of Sanctuary

Jug Bay protects the Bay and its creatures big and small

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian is one of those treasures we sometimes forget in our jewelry box of Chesapeake natural wonders. More than just one park and beyond typical county offerings, its ever-expanding boundary lines encompass more than 1,700 acres of wetlands, marsh, upland forests and meadows. The park includes the main sanctuary, the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve, the Patuxent Wetland Park and Wootens Landing.
    On a gorgeous September afternoon, I sit at a picnic table with a view of the wild rice floating in the river, with Patricia Delgado, park superintendent, and Al Tucker, president of the Friends of Jug Bay. The air is warm, and the songbirds are busily eating at a cluster of feeders.
    The birds are reminders of the breadth of wildlife research on the property. Jug Bay wetlands are an important stopover for a variety of migrators. Thus, the sanctuary is one of the oldest continuously operating bird-banding stations in the nationwide Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Program. Volunteers and researchers have netted and banded more than 2,500 birds since 1990.
    Volunteers come out every season for banding, counting and observation of birds ranging from brilliant scarlet tanagers to secretive rails and bitterns.
    “At the turn of the century,” Tucker says, the Sora Rail was a prized delicacy. They would hunt them from this area and send them up to Baltimore’s fine restaurants.”
    In a dedicated garden in the Glendening Preserve, a 10-year study of 12 species of butterflies began in 2013.
    Many species of fish, reptiles, insects and amphibians are monitored around the Patuxent and its tributaries. Eastern box turtles are tracked and their habitats mapped. Even the invasive snakehead has its scholars.
    Beyond the wildlife, weather and climate change in forests and wetland ecology are Jug Bay studies.
    “I wish people knew how interesting mud and its bacteria are,” says Tucker. “I learn something every time I come out here.”

Al Tucker and Patricia Delgado look out on Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary from the park’s raised boardwalk.

    Delgado, a native of Costa Rico, is a wetlands ecologist with a passion for her job. Before coming to Jug Bay, she was the director for the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Maryland’s research program.
    “We can’t underestimate the important part the wetlands play in our ecology nor the roles the forest, the meadows and the vernal pools play,” Delgado says. “It’s important that we continue to talk about climate change and invasive species, and we can do that here.”
    Jug Bay radiates relaxation and peace; sanctuary is a fitting name.
    “The sanctuary has evolved into something larger than the original vision we had for it,” Tucker says.
    Tucker should know. He’s been an active supporter of the park since 1970s’ battles over making the land a recreational campground.
    “This land is very fragile,” Tucker says. “It has also played an important part in our history. The culture that lived along these riverbanks, we are still learning about it.”
    The legal fight ended in 1980 when the county bought the property; in 1985, the park opened.
    “We are unique in the county,” Tucker says. Jug Bay is managed by the Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks, but it has the focus of a state or federal park.
    Jug Bay offers a new kind of recreation, Delgado explains.