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Way Downstream

Along the Potomac River, 5,000 volunteers carried away 130 tons of trash. The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s 20th annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup yielded 933 tires, nearly 90,000 recyclable drink containers and more than 8,000 plastic checkout bags. Among oddities from the 184 cleanup sites: a prosthetic leg, a surfboard, 10 big bags of dog poop, a lacy black bra and underwear, a backpack with clothes and a wallet, a real estate sign, traffic cones, a pink sleeping bag, two mattresses, a grocery cart, three car seats, five artificial Christmas trees, a vacuum cleaner head and a port-a-potty, plus hundreds of pounds of construction debris.

“Several homes could have been furnished with the domestic products and waste found in today’s cleanup,” the foundation concluded …

In the Maryland State Capitol, the legislators have gone home, and the construction workers have moved in. For the next nine months, pipes will be laid instead of laws made as the State House closes — for the first time in its 228-year history — for an $8,370,030 upgrade and retrofit of interior heating and cooling piping systems.

In the meantime, the capital goes on tour as eight cities get the honor of being Maryland Capital for a Day. Gov. Martin O’Malley travels with the capital, visiting and working with local governments in Hagerstown, Chestertown, Leonardtown, Pocomoke City, Port Towns (Cottage City, Edmonston, Colmar Manor and Bladensburg), Cumberland, Gaithersburg and Ellicott City. Annapolis gets its capital back when the Capitol reopens in the new year …

In Annapolis, the capital’s theater under the stars needs a makeover — from floorboards to stage doors. Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre has fallen into disrepair since the volunteer troupe purchased the 19th century blacksmith shop for $1 in 1973. Architect Michael Dowling helped devise a renovation plan, Stage/2, but getting started costs more than a buck.

Annapolis Town Crier Squire Frederick Taylor heralded the call for cash last week at a season-opening party announcing the two-phase renovation.

Phase 1, requiring $200,000, spruces up the theater’s exterior: updating window fixtures as well as refurbishing brick and wood.

Phase 2, costing a million dollars, will gut the garden theater: rearranging the interior with a larger sloping stage, more seating room and improved sound and lighting.

“We’re not adding any space,” Dowling says. With help from city and state grants and theatergoers, Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre hopes to start phase one at the end of the 2008 season. To donate: 410-268-9212;

The Annapolis Maritime Museum also needs cash to reroof and wire its home, the old McNasby Oyster Company, after the ravages of hurricane Isabel, as well as to preserve its collection of wooden boats. You can help by casting off your boating discards, from oars to small boats. On Saturday, April 26, museum volunteers will come to your home to reel in usable marine wares. Annapolis’ Bacon Sails will turn the goods to dollars. Want to donate? KC Guernsey: 410-353-8266; [email protected]

In Garrett County, gargantuan wind turbines won’t spin on state-owned mountain ridges. After nearly five months of consideration, Gov. Martin O’Malley decided against leasing state lands to private wind-energy companies. Opponents argued in over 80 percent of 1,400 comments that turbines would ruin Garrett’s mountain views.

“Our public land will continue to be managed for the essential environmental, recreational and economic values they provide for all of Maryland’s families and future generations,” said O’Malley, whose decision protects only DNR-controlled property, not local or federal land …

Our Creature Feature is a Russian tale about a stray dog named Laika who, 50 years ago, became the first creature launched into space.

In the early days of the American space program, we heard tales of Russians strapping monkeys into capsules and blasting them skyward to pave the way to space for humans.

But Laika the dog blazed the trail for space-bound earthlings of all species, and last week Russians laid flowers at a monument depicting the good-natured dog being strapped into a Vostok rocket. She did not survive her trip. But four years later, Russian Yuri Gagarin did, triggering a frenzied American effort to catch up.

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