Search Search Google
Volume 16, Issue 41 - October 9 - October 15, 2008
Home \\ This Week's Features \\ Classifieds \\ Dining Guide \\ Home & Garden Guide \\ Editorial \\ Letters to the Editor \\ Archives \\ Distribution Locations

Patuxent River Appreciation Days

A Chesapeake Destination

by Margaret Tearman

The Patuxent River may not be a healthy river, but it is a well-loved river. The first Patuxent River Appreciation Day, held back in 1978, attracted almost 10,000 people — or roughly 39 percent of the total population of Calvert County that year.

It began with a conversation. Bernie Fowler, then a Calvert County commissioner, and Ralph Eshelman, the newly appointed director of the Calvert Marine Museum, were standing on the riverfront, discussing the fate of the troubled river. Eshelman suggested a day be set aside to appreciate the Maryland waterway. With that wishful thought, an annual Southern Maryland tradition was born.

For 30 years, Marylanders have gathered to appreciate the Patuxent over Columbus Day weekend.

Where’re the Oysters

The 2008 weekend begins on October 10 with the third annual State of the River Summit. The summit was conceived by Fowler as a means to keep the river’s plight front and center. The first two summits focused on the overall problems facing the Patuxent. This year, the Great Oyster Debate brings attention to the plight of the Eastern oyster.

Hosted by the Calvert Marine Museum, the four-hour debate brings scientists, watermen, policy makers, elected officials, educators, aquaculturists and environmentalists together to debate the initiatives now on the table for saving the Eastern oyster. Congressman Steny Hoyer presents opening remarks and Jack Greer, of Maryland’s Sea Grant College, moderates.

Organizers promise plenty of time for Q&A of the panel both during and after the discussion. Free.


Fun on the Riverfront

Beyond the challenges facing the Patuxent, the weekend is a “celebration of the pleasure the river has given to countless generations.”

This year, the party comes to Calvert Marine Museum, with free boat rides, an environmental film festival, toy boat building and free admission to both the museum and its Drum Point Lighthouse.

A green village offers demonstrations and activities. Fowler will be on hand to wade in the river, an annual rite to monitor the river’s clarity.

A juried craft fair brings the art of more than 30 crafters to the festival, selling ceramics, jewelry, woodcarving, fine arts and textiles. Food will be plentiful, with local chefs selling barbecue, fried chicken, fish, hot dogs and hamburgers.

On Sunday afternoon, take a curbside seat for an old-fashioned hometown parade, led by this year’s grand master, Maryland Del. Sue Kullen.

The Schooner Sultana, visiting from its home port in Chestertown, offers two public sails on Saturday, October 11. The ship is a replica of a Boston-built merchant vessel that served for four years as the smallest schooner ever in the British Royal Navy.

Support Your Local River

For all the fun and festivities, the mission of Appreciation Days is to bring public attention to the Patuxent River. It is a river with health problems.

In the 1970s, Fowler led a lawsuit filed by downriver Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties against upriver counties. The lawsuit forced the state, the upriver counties, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enact pollution control measures.

But for all the preservation efforts, the Patuxent River remains unhealthy. Oyster and crab populations continue to decline as surrounding communities grow. Calvert County’s population in 1978 was about 32,000. Today its population exceeds 88,000.

In April 2008, the Patuxent Riverkeeper joined the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, NOAA and the Chesapeake Bay Trust to release the first Patuxent River Report Card. It was not a good one. Based on six indicators — dissolved oxygen levels, water clarity, chlorophyll, aquatic grasses, benthic community and phytoplankton community — the river scored a dismal D-.

On this fun-filled weekend, learn about this iconic river and what we must do to restore it.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.