Volume 12, Issue 27 ~ July 1-7, 2004
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Spotlight the Bay, Not Just Bob
The Washington Post tells an intriguing tale of a new public relations plan in Annapolis to bring maximum exposure to Gov. Robert Ehrlich and his programs.

A three-page memo promises that Ehrlich will “aggressively increase” availability to pose in front of cameras, perhaps similar to the tourism ad in which the governor dons a tool belt while pretending to install a ceiling fan.

It’s hardly unusual when politicians hype themselves to get ready for re-election. (He’s up in 2006.) And there might even be a smidgen of overall good in spotlighting state programs.

Our hope is that the state would apply some of that creativity to promote the Chesapeake Bay by bolstering the ever-thinner connection between Marylanders and our most valuable resource.

As society keeps on homogenizing, we lose our link to the Chesapeake. We forget the vacation haven it used to be. We quit working the Bay’s waters to become commuters. We eat fewer crabs and oysters. Inexorably, Chesapeake Bay becomes a concept rather than a neighbor.

Worse, it evolves to a concept tarnished by danger and pollution. An unrelieved diet of bad news — as we’ve had in recent months, when a hard, bright spotlight has illuminated the ways the Bay has declined, PCBs in rockfish, for instance — can condition people to think of our Chesapeake as nothing more than one big problem after another.

Businesses often do the best job of linking us to the Bay. We have a huge marine trades industry that takes us to the Chesapeake: sailing; powerboating; fishing and chartering; cruising; and, increasingly, kayaking and canoeing. Also on the job are the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and all the other groups that bring us to the Bay as school children or oyster gardeners.

But we think there’s a missing link in the huge Bay restoration machinery. We think we can and must do a better job of keeping people thinking good Bay thoughts and seeking sweet Bay action.

The old campaigns need renewing. Who stops to think anymore of the truth behind the familiar legend stenciled on streetside storm water drains or affixed as a sticker to water faucets? Indeed, the Chesapeake Bay starts here, but who remembers?

It’s time for fresher, newer and bigger links to the Bay, from buses painted with gorgeous Bay murals to many more road signs that remind us where in our watershed we are.

It’s time for tourism marketing that makes you lust for the Bay. Have you, for example, even heard about Chesapeake Gateways? It’s a nice concept to link Bay points of access in a network, but has it promoted Bay awareness? We wish.

It’s time for Maryland to follow the lead of states that recognize the value of marketing natural resources. Florida is of course a leader, but states with less obvious attractions than Florida’s beaches and our Bay have made a connection we’re missing.

We’re hoping the Ehrlich administration’s new information blitz will devise ways to highlight our connections to the Bay, and we don’t mean simply dressing the governor in crabbing boots for photo-ops.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.