Dock of the Bay

 Vol. 10, No. 51

December 19-25, 2002

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In This Week's Issue:

Noah’s Ark Still Afloat

A nest of baby rabbits runs afoul of a lawn mower. A robin falls out of its nest in a gusty storm. Fishing line wraps around a heron’s feet. When trouble comes the way of wild creatures, the volunteers of Noah’s Ark Wildlife Center in Broadneck open their door to adopt and care for the injured during recovery. Noah’s Ark has helped over 1,500 animals — from a Cooper’s hawk to newborn squirrels to a young fox — out of trouble this year alone.

But the survival story of last week was of Noah’s Ark itself. Like the Biblical ark, Anne Arundel County’s namesake is the enterprise of a visionary couple, Ted and Velvet Kitzmiller. After seven years of taking care of wild animals from their rented house in Pasadena, the Kitzmillers were faced with eviction a year ago.

“With nowhere to go and no money to get there,” says Velvet Kitzmiller, she feared their work would end. Instead, their plight caught the attention of then-Anne Arundel councilwoman Shirley Murphy, who enlisted the help of the county Department of Recreation and Parks in finding a place to house some 150 injured wild creatures and their human rescuers.

Dedicating the opening of Noah’s Ark Wildlife Center in Broadneck are, from left to right, Ed Petrice of Koch Homes, County Executive Janet Owens, Ark principals Velvet, Jessica and Ted Kitzmiller.
photo by Stephanie Chizik
That place, a corner of what was a county-owned horse farm, stands amidst developing land plots in Arnold near Broadneck High School. Opened to Noah’s Ark by the Department of Recreation and Parks of Anne Arundel County, the property carries an agreement that land remain in equestrian use, so Noah’s Ark stretches the lease a little.

The chore of moving animals, cages, food stock and their own personal belongings lightened at the prospect of a Noah’s Ark built to the Kitzmillers’ specifications. Koch Homes transformed an old garage into a shelter with reception area, clinic and nursery. Upstairs was renovated as the Kitzmillers’ home, where the family is available for 24-hour response for the animals. Dave Davidson, for whom the wildlife clinic is named, managed the move during the hot weeks of July. Individual donors helped furnish the new center, and many veterinarians donated medical supplies and their services.

“We owe a huge amount of thank yous to everyone, including County Executive Janet Owens and Shirley Murphy,” said Velvet Kitzmiller as Owens cut the red Christmas ribbon at a December dedication of the new Noah’s Ark.

Noah’s Ark did not stop its work between moving and dedication. It has been receiving animals since February, when the move was made.

Tim Altman, of Crofton now a senior at Lynchburg College in Virginia, is one of the many people who’ve called on the new Noah’s Ark for the care and rehabilitation. Last May his 10-month-old chocolate Lab Maggie trapped a finch in her mouth. Searching online for help for the injured bird, he found Noah’s Ark. He drove the injured bird from his home to place it in the able hands of owners Ted and Velvet Kitzmiller and their team of volunteers.

Volunteers caged the finch and took it into their clinic for assessment and treatment. “It’s a wonderful service they provide to injured animals,” said Altman, who proved his appreciation with a donation that’s always needed but never expected.

Altman’s experience is par for the course at Noah’s Ark Wildlife Center. Sixty finches alone have come through the center this year. Blue herons are often injured near the Bay. People bring rabbits into the clinic by the boxes. The Kitzmillers and friends nurse all of these animals back to health so they may be released back into the wild where they belong. With young animals, they have a 90 percent success rate.

Ted and Velvet Kitzmiller “literally devote their life” to wildlife rescues, says one of Noah’s Ark 2002 Volunteers of the Year, Joe Lamp, a former president of Anne Arundel County SPCA.

If you, like Tim Altman, come across a wild creature in distress, you’ll know what a difference it makes that Noah’s Ark is still afloat.

— Stephanie Chizik

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In Smallpox Strategy, First-Responders Go First

Its been three decades since smallpox vaccination ended in Chesapeake Country and with it the fear of the disfiguring, highly contagious and often fatal disease.

But beginning early next year, a select group of 18 Anne Arundel County health professionals and about 100 hospital workers will roll up their sleeves for smallpox vaccinations as part of anti-terrorist planning that will lead to much wider immunization in 2004.

County Health Office’s Frances Phillips outlined the county’s new vaccination plan in a memo to workers this week and filled in details during a presentation to the Anne Arundel County Council acting in its capacity as the Board of Health.

“Smallpox is the one thing that is most feared. It has the highest mortality rate, yet it is the one we have not vaccinated for because we eradicated smallpox 30 years ago,” Phillips said.

The vaccination causes a single, slow-healing pox.
Phillips’ briefing and memo to her staff coincided with the White House announcement last week that about 500,000 front-line military personnel had begun receiving the vaccinations as the nation appeared to prepare itself for war with Iraq. Also, the vaccine soon will be available for about 400,000 health care workers and emergency personnel, including those in Bayside counties.

But the federal government, after heated internal debates, said the vaccination would not be distributed to the general public until 2004. Part of that decision had to do with the side effects of the live virus, cowpox, which is a close cousin to smallpox.

Officials have said that based on immunization records from the 1960s, for every one million people vaccinated there could be anywhere from 14 to 52 life-threatening reactions.

Despite the side effects, the prospect of waiting for more than a year for general distribution was not reassuring to councilman Edward Middlebrooks, R-Severn. “2004 sounds great as long as the terrorists hold off until 2004. But if they strike in the next six months, we’ve got real problems.”

Phillips said that if a smallpox attack occurred, plenty of vaccine would be available for the general population from the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, which is operated by the Centers for Disease Control.

For now, a group of three dozen people in her department who would be involved in responding to a smallpox emergency are being screened for immunization, and from this group 18 people will be chosen for the vaccination, along with the hospital employees, sometime after January 23, Phillips told the council.

She referred to the potential dangers in her memo to Department of Health employees: “As you are probably aware, the smallpox vaccine, while very effective, has a number of side effects, and to protect others, the vaccination site requires daily care and careful attention until the blister is completely healed.”

Discussion of smallpox dominated Phillips’ presentation to the council. She stressed that she was taking the threat seriously and had decided to supplement a federal grant of $300,000 for preparation with county resources.

“Intentional release of a biological agent is no longer a hypothetical threat,” she said. “It is a real one.”

The last smallpox case in the United States was recorded in 1949. Routine vaccinations ended in 1972, and the disease was pronounced eradicated worldwide in 1980.

— Bay Weekly

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A New College for Edgewater

As a new governor, Parris Glendening visited Beach Elementary school in Chesapeake Beach to read to first graders. Now in his final days — as snow lay on the ground and the yellow school buses of nearby Central Elementary school rumbled by outside the tent erected for the occasion — the “education governor” helped break ground on a new campus of Sojourner-Douglass College at 135 Stepney Lane in Edgewater.

“Yours is the only college mission statement to emphasize empowerment of your students to become the decision-makers in the community,” said the governor to college president Charles W. Simmons and other assembled officials and well-wishers. “That should be the goal of all our schools.”

Sojourner-Douglass College president Charles W. Simmons, left, and Gov. Parris Glendening with an honor guard during the college’s groundbreaking of their new Edgewater campus.
photo by Mujahid Veniey
Established in Baltimore in 1972 as a branch of Antioch College, Sojourner-Douglass — named to honor abolitionists Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass — became an independent college in 1980. The Edgewater location joins small branches in Annapolis, Cambridge, Salisbury, Prince George’s County and the Bahamas as another step by African-American leaders to foster community self-determination.

The groundbreaking is a tribute to the growing enrollment at the Annapolis branch in particular — with 118 bachelor’s degrees awarded in administration, human and social services or human growth and development — as well as 40 master’s in applied social science. The Annapolis branch serves 223 students of a college-wide enrollment that surpasses 1800. The Edgewater location — built to serve 500 students — will become the Annapolis region’s campus.

The college is aimed at the needs of adult learners beyond the traditional college age. Classes run from 6-10pm week nights and all day Saturday.

“The Edgewater area may be suburban, but the people with whom we work are confronted by urban issues,” Annapolis branch director Charlestine Fairley told Bay Weekly. “The idea is not departure from our commitment to urban issues but rather expansion to include other issues like children who are left alone after school. We can foresee working with underachieving students through tutoring and counseling.”

The campus is expected to open in 2004 and draw students from Annapolis and Southern Anne Arundel county as well as Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles counties.

Thirty years from now, some of those children on the yellow bus may make their way back to Stepney Lane for college.

— Sonia Linebaugh

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Calvert’s New Commissioners Eat Cookies
Postpone Problems till New Year’s Eve

On the crisp December day Calvert County’s five newly elected county commissioners were sworn in with song and color, it was easy to slip back in time to Calvert County’s backwater days of oysters and tobacco, both in abundance.

It could have been 1982 or 1962 as the Northern High School Junior ROTC honor guard presented the bold colors of the United States and Maryland and the plaintive soprano of Patuxent high schooler Noelle Narducci rose in “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The packed auditorium of Calvert Pines Senior Center was toasty with central heating and fellowship, but the standing-room-only crowd broke out in goose flesh.

From such Norman Rockwell idylls, the time traveler had better hurry back.

For 21st century Calvert County is the fastest growing county in Maryland and the 41st fastest in the nation. Its five commissioners — Republicans Jerry Clark, David Hale, Linda Kelley, Susan Shaw and Democrat Wilson Parran — were elected by 62 percent of registered voters among the county’s 78,000 citizens to husband a budget of $155 million.

Sworn in are Calvert Commissioners, left, Susan Shaw, Wilson Parran, Jerry Clark, Linda Kelley and David Hale.
photo by Sandra Martin
Those numbers tell a story.

As development continues to roll through the recently rural county, farms have yielded to farmettes, and farm houses have been surpassed by mini-mansions. Overcrowding in just-built schools proves the populace knows how to multiply. Shopping strips and centers hopscotch up the road, and that road, Route 2/4, cuts a straight, speedy shot through the center of the county right up to the capitals of our state and our nation.

“The real reason I ran,” said freshman commissioner Clark moments after he took the oath of office, “was to continue on the path of land preservation, preserving our waterways and way of life for my nephew and his generation.”

Until recently, the dramatic tension between development and preservation has been the biggest story in Calvert County.

Only when federal and state governments suddenly found their pockets empty did money overtake development as the county’s top issue.

Today, four of the five commissioners — all but Clark — named the budget as their biggest concern. All worried about the impact the state deficit will have on Calvert County.

“The deficit at the state and federal level will have an impact on us,” Parran said. “We have to ensure we have the resources to continue to provide services. That means we will have to focus on our goals, set priorities and make tough decisions.”

But such decisions would wait until the new council’s first full meeting on December 31, New Year’s Eve.

Today was a day to linger in the past. Not the good old days of oysters and tobacco but the hardships and triumphs of a five-month race that narrowed a field of 16 to 10 to six — and took the county’s first recount to whittle the number down to five. The lucky fifth was Jerry Clark, who won both primary and general elections by less than 20 votes.

Today voters gathered in Christmas ties and Santa hats. Choirs sang, ensembles played, cookies waited — and all seemed right with the world.

“Today” said Jack Upton, former county administrator and guest speaker, “the sun is shining, Christmas is coming, your family and friends are gathered. Today is the best day of the four years you’ll serve as commissioners.”


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Whoops, There Goes Another Forest or Two

The George Washington National Forest is more than 100 miles from Bay Country, but many of those who love the water also love the trees. That’s why a recent Bush administration proposal to rewrite the government’s management plans for national forests and grasslands is so important.

Announced quietly on the day before Thanksgiving, the proposal gives more power to the federal managers of each of the country’s 155 national forests to approve logging, drilling and mining — regardless of wildlife protections. It also removes scientific review of the effects of those activities on plants and wildlife.

Several national environmental groups have condemned the proposal, saying the plan echoes recommendations made by the timber industry and will open the door for those companies to do business on federal lands with less concern for possible environmental effects.

“This proposal eliminates the most meaningful requirements and substitutes agency discretion, eliminates scientific oversight and is a clear abuse of the regulatory process for the benefit of the timber industry,” Defenders of Wildlife president Rodger Schlickeisen said.

Green groups also argue against a section of the proposal that states “form letters, check-off lists, pre-printed postcards or similar duplicative materials will not be accepted” as comments to forest management plans.

“To the hikers, campers and fishermen, the Bush administration is saying, ‘We are not interested in hearing from you,’” said Philip Clapp, president of the D.C.-based National Environmental Trust.

Administration officials say they’re only refining existing forest-management regulations. Sally Collins, a former Forest Service planner who is now the agency’s chief operating officer, said that the plan “cuts out a lot of red tape” and “better harmonizes the environmental, social, and economic benefits of national forests.”

The clash marks the latest salvo between the White House and green groups since the midterm elections. On November 23, greens decried administration plans to relax pollution standards on old coal-fired power plants. A few days before that, several Western organizations criticized a decision to allow snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park.

More than 190 million acres of forests and grasslands overseen by the U.S. Forest Service would be affected by the new rule, including the George Washington and Jefferson National forests in Virginia, the Monongahela in West Virginia, the Tongass and Chugach in Alaska, Sequoia in California and Chatahochee-Oconee in Georgia. More than 13,000 animals and plant species, including 17 percent of federally listed endangered and threatened species, live on national forest lands.

Citizens have through February to tell the Forest Service what they think of the plan before it is finalized next fall. Send written comments by mail to USDA FS Planning Rule, Content Analysis Team, P.O. Box 8359, Missoula, MT 59807; via e-mail to [email protected]; or by fax to Planning Rule Comments: 406/329-3556.

— Gary Starikoff

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Way Downstream

In Virginia, a former wastewater treatment manager who claimed he had a bipolar disorder was sentenced to two years in prison last week for letting raw sewage flow into the Pagan River

Washington state last week followed Maryland’s lead in banning genetically modified fish. Corporate genetic engineers are breeding salmon that grow four times faster than normal fish. But critics say that the technology, not yet commercialized, is dangerous and that the gene-altered fish would threaten wild salmon if they escape …

In Alaska, the businessman who wanted to move vast quantities of river water down the California coast in plastic bags the size of football fields has abandoned his $100 million plan. Skeptics worried that the plan by Ric Davidge of Alaska Water Exports would transport unwanted organisms between watersheds. Davidge worried that his bags might pop as they were towed through the Pacific Ocean

Our Creature Feature comes from Britain, the hub of smuggling of endangered species such as Siberian tiger skins, tropical birds and African bush babies, according to a new report by the World Wide Fund For Nature.

How do the smugglers do it? One wore a snake as a belt; others taped plants to their bodies and hid eggs in specially made vests, the report said. “Smugglers go to great lengths to disguise their activities,” said WWF campaign director David Cowdrey, who blamed the Russian Mafia and drug cartels for some of the smuggling.

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Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly