Dock of the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 16
April 20-26, 2000
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Maryland Minted:
A Billion Quarters Celebrate ‘Old Line State’

In line at a grocery checkout counter, you notice the shopper in front of you scrutinizing coins in her purse before handing over change to the cashier. At the gas station, a motorist singles out coins on his palm as he settles his gasoline tab. Even at fast-food counters, where donation canisters of every kind are common fixtures beside cash registers, hungry patrons with generous hearts look at their minted money before dropping in a coin or two.

What’s going on?

Behind this spring’s case of coin fever is the Maryland quarter, the newest commemorative coin in the U.S. Mint’s 50 State Quarters Program. Released into circulation a few weeks ago by Federal Reserve banks, the coin has turned the young and old alike into amateur numismatists.

On the quarter’s reverse side, Maryland’s State House dome is surrounded by the moniker ‘The Old Line State’ and balanced on both sides by oak leaf clusters. According to historians, George Washington bestowed the title ‘The Old Line State’ on Maryland as a tribute to the Maryland line: The troops who courageously served in many Revolutionary War battles.

“It’s fantastic that my home state now has its own quarter. I will definitely save some for posterity. Who knows, the value of these coins might increase in the future,” says Gloria Bridges of Huntingtown.

Jean Gross of Dunkirk plans to save not just the Maryland quarter but those of other states as well. “I think they are beautiful. I will keep as many as I can,” she says. Eleanor Palemine of Lusby declares the 50 State Quarters “a perfect gift for my grandchildren.”

She’s not alone. A company called Authentic American Collectibles has realized the potential business of overnight numismatists. Since last year, it has marketed a specially configured map of the United States to house the commemorative coins. Available for $20 each, the 17-inch by 28-inch map allots a space for each new quarter over the actual location of the state on the map. The Mint sells its own version of this topographical state map of America.

When coins are hoarded, shortages can ensue. Last year a penny shortfall alarmed banks and businesses, forcing some financial institutions to offer a dollar for every 95 cents worth of pennies turned in. The problem? Almost every household maintains a filled-to-the-brim penny jar. Will these new quarters suffer the fate of their copper kin?

Not to worry, counsels Mint spokesperson Michael White. “The quarter is the workhorse of all coins. You need them for parking meters, laundry and vending machines and other services. People will just collect a couple of them and start spending the rest.”

The Mint initially introduced one billion of these quarters and will produce more as the need arises. “There’s enough for everyone,” White quips.

The new coins are minted in honor of the 50 states and are released in the order the states became part of the Union or ratified the Constitution. Each year from 1999 to 2008, the Mint will introduce five new commemorative quarters with reverse designs celebrating the heritage of the state.

Maryland’s quarter is the seventh to be minted. The other six in circulation are Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The South Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia commemorative quarters will be released later this year.

—John Viado

In Season:
First Communion
by Audrey Y. Scharmen

In the dim light, the little girl slipped quietly as a cat from her bed, her small brown feet padding across the cold linoleum to the closet where hung her first new Easter dress. A sleeveless lilac dotted Swiss organdy, it had long black grosgrain ribbon streamers that hung from the gathered bodice all the way to the hem. She felt a shiver of delight as she slipped the silky frock over her naked skin. She was forbidden to wear it for play, but today she simply must.

She opened the screen door, taking care not to squeak it, and sat down on the porch step in the rose-streaked dawn. There was the soft sweet moaning sound she knew intuitively to be that of birds, so familiar she might have heard it first on the morning of her birth. Not really a song but rather a kind of liturgical lament. (It was unlikely she would have known the meaning of such words at her tender age, but who can say for sure?)

The yard was abrim with daffodils and violets not yet fully abloom, awaiting hesitantly the sun. Their fragrance was everywhere, mingling with the mounting sob of the mourning doves. She hugged her knees to her chest, the wonderful full skirt of her dress enveloping her legs.

Throughout childhood, she would hear in the constant voices of doves an echo of that first encounter. It was there in a snowfall of perfect flakes. In her secret oasis of green grass beneath flowering boughs of a sapling peach, new and unblemished as she. And in the boughs of a very old cherry tree where she gathered summer’s fruit. It was an awareness that compelled her to scribble tributes to her small world in her very first journals which, alas, were lost as she grew older.

It was then she began to take such moments for granted as life overtook her and priorities of adulthood demanded precedence. But a subtle nuance of nature permeated everything she wrote throughout those years.

And there came, long after, another Easter, in another place far removed from that of her childhood. There she found again, in a humble little garden beside the blue Chesapeake where she had come to stay, the essence of that time long past.

She discovered it at dawn in a newborn poppy with a broken bud shell cupped in pink petals still wrinkled from sleep. In the gnarled boughs of an ancient and ailing crabapple tree where tiny tips of magenta spoke of resurrection. And in the soft, sweet litanies of doves.

There she reaffirmed her vows in the first of many odes to the gentle side of nature. She saw, she listened, and she has never ceased.

For her columns in Bay Weekly, Scharmen, of Lusby, has taken first prizes two years running in the Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Press Association editorial competition.

That’s a Wrap

Boating season is back: hooray. So are Chesapeake Country’s annual mountains of shrink wrap: Ugh.

Not to worry this Earth Week.

The shrink-wrap recycling program is also back.

To combat the estimated 40 tons of shrink-wrap waste throughout Chesapeake Country, the Anne Arundel Marine Trades Association and county Public Works, Chesapeake Bay Trust, Giant Foods Inc. and Manner Resins again join forces to collect discarded wrappers.

Shrink-wrap is a low-density polyethylene cocoon used to protect boats during the winter.

Rather than discarding miles of bulky shrink-wrap into landfills, the county decided on a more practical, environmentally sound solution: Recycle it.

For the second spring, dumpsters marked “Shrink-wrap Recycling” appeared at county marinas.

Full dumpsters are hauled to Giant Foods in Jessup, where the shrink-wrap is bundled into 1,200-pound bails. The bails are then collected by Manner Resins of Annapolis and recycled into garden edging or plastic lumber.

“Last year we collected more than 10,000 pounds of material,” said Ted Ruegg, president of Anne Arundel Marine Trades Association. “This year we have lengthened the amount of time the dumpsters are available, so I hope we can double the amount collected.”

But that’s not enough.

For that goal to be reached, you’ll have to help. With dumpsters at only three of Anne Arundel County’s 200 marinas, to be earth friendly you may have to go out of your way. Haul your own plastic (check for hours) or make sure your back-to-the-water contractor does.

Find recycling dumpsters through May 26 at —

  • Pasadena Boatel; 2010 Knollview Rd.; Pasadena: 410/437-6926;
  • Port Annapolis Marina; 7074 Bembe Beach Rd.; Annapolis: 410/269-1990;
  • Herrington Harbour North; 389 Deale Rd.; Tracys Landing: 410/867-4343.

—Matthew Thomas Pugh

First Person:
If I’d Been Born Yesterday, College Would Be a Bargain

At 19, I’m forever telling people I wasn’t born yesterday.

But when I look at my college bill, I wish I were only a day old.

That way, I would have time to plan and save some money. A lot of money.

My personal college debt won’t be too bad. I’ve spent the last two years at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio — a public, four-year university with relatively low in-state tuition. All my college costs last year added up to about $10,000. This year, I spent only fall quarter before leaving for an internship, so I only paid $5,000.

But that’s about to change. When I arrived in Washington in January, I fell in love with the energy and vitality of the area. Having to go back to boring Ohio felt like a death sentence. So I’m transferring to the University of Maryland to finish my journalism degree. That means paying out-of-state tuition. My mom and dad say they’re OK with paying $16,000 a year for me to finish my last two years of college, but I know it will put a dent in all our bank accounts.

Like many parents, my mom and dad didn’t set aside money for college: They couldn’t afford to. Even with my dad working two jobs and saving every penny, my parents sometimes could hardly afford to heat our house, let alone support a savings account. But it was always understood that my two brothers and I would go to college. We would just find a way to pay for it.

Now, with my transfer, my parents will pay for half of my tuition, and I have to take care of the rest. At Ohio University, that wasn’t too hard. I was valedictorian of my high school class and a National Merit Scholar, so my first year I got $4,500 in scholarships. That’s about half the tuition. Maryland will be a bit more difficult to manage.

But it would be easier if neither my parents nor I had to worry about paying for college. No, I’m not talking about scholarships or grants or free college. I’m talking about prepaid tuition plans. Ohio has one and so does Maryland. In fact, 22 states in the United States have prepaid tuition plans, allowing families to pay for college ahead of time.

When I first found out about prepaid tuition, I thought it was a fabulous idea. The Maryland Prepaid College Trust — created in 1998 — invites parents to pay for college in a variety of ways. They can pay all at once, every year or every month — whatever works best with their budget.

The best part of these plans is that parents pay today’s prices for tomorrow’s education. In other words, an infant enrolled in Maryland today will pay about $17,000 into the program to get $65,000 worth of education. And that’s not a bad deal. I wish my parents could have done it.

While the program in Maryland is new, other states with older plans have seen a great deal of success. Florida started the Prepaid College Program in 1988; today one in six students is prepaying college tuition.

Another benefit of programs like this is that as more children are enrolled, the number of college students applying for financial aid drops. Students figure that the education is already paid for, so they don’t need a loan or a grant.

I know that it is too late for my family. We are going to have to keep paying for college out-of-pocket. But when I have children, they will be enrolled as soon as possible. That way they can graduate debt-free — and I won’t have to worry about paying off college loans in my retirement.

— Special to Bay Weekly by Lacy Papai
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

Mosquito Watch: Larvae ‘Eliminated’

As spring rains hasten mosquito problem, efforts are underway to lower the bloodsucker’s summer count.

In Anne Arundel County, helicopters and planes took to the air late March, in Deale, Churchton, Shady Side — including Cedarhurst, Columbia Beach — Rose Haven and Holland Point, spraying marshy areas where unhatched larvae dwell.

They think they got ’em.

“We were successful at eliminating larvae,” says Department of Agriculture’s Anne Arundel county mosquito control program supervisor Patricia Ferrao.

Holdout larvae are attacked by footsoldiers equipped with backpack sprayers.

By air or foot, Anne Arundel Country sprays the human-safe insecticide Bacillus thuringienris israelensis. Ingested by mosquito larvae, Bt has a toxic effect.

In Calvert County, where portions of the upper marshlands north of North Beach were sprayed by air last month, mosquito watch is underway.

“We have three monitoring traps set up, and there’s no activity,” says Calvert County mosquito program coordinator Wilson Freeland.

Calvert’s attack on larvae is a little different than Anne Arundel’s. “We use a little more metheprene,” explains Freeland.

Metheprene, an insect growth regulator that’s only toxic to larvae, is sprayed by hand and foot on storm-water ponds, tires and containers. Once absorbed, it prevents maturation.

Come June, when adult survivors swarm, spray trucks carrying the more broadly toxic permethrin will roll through Anne Arundel and Calvert communities that request spraying.

—Darcey Dodd

Way Downstream …

In Washington, a federal appeals court last week upheld the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to award Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby a new operating license without the public safety hearing sought by environmental advocates …

In Alaska, beachcombers soon may encounter an unnerving site — hundreds of heads. Good thing they’re only heads of Rugrat dolls, part of an order that spilled from a Mattel ship in the Pacific, the Anchorage Daily News reports. Things like this have happened before: A few years ago, a shipment of rubber duckies washed up in southeastern Alaska …

In Mexico, a jailed peasant is $125,000 richer. Rodolfo Montiel, a crusader for trees, is a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, it was announced this week. He has been imprisoned for 11 months for leading a revolt against clearcutting in the state of Guerrero …

In Washington, the World Resources Institute has a sobering Earth Day report for us. Detailing studies of nearly 200 scientists, the environmental think-tank says that in the 20th century, the world lost half its wetlands, dams fragmented 60 percent of the world’s rivers and 20 percent of the world’s freshwater fish species have disappeared from the earth or shortly will become extinct …

Our Creature Feature comes from Los Angeles County, where a strange saga is unfolding with bullfrogs, suckers and humans. Last week, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Santa Ana sucker, a fish, as a threatened species after scientists showed it was all but gone from its southern California habitat.

Part of the reason is the bullfrog, a non-native predator that love-suckers for lunch. Believe it or not, officials are preparing to deploy “frog hit men” with spear guns to start evening out the competition. That solution doesn’t appeal to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, whose spokeswoman protested “sending a bunch of cowboys out to shoot these animals.”

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly