Into the Cold: Polar Plungers Set to Shiver
Over 800 happily hypothermic plungers have lined up to leap into the frigid Chesapeake Bay on Saturday, Jan. 16, braving 34- to 35-degree water in an act of mass philanthropy.
The third annual Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge could ultimately prompt 1,000 or more plungers into the Bay to pool $200,000 in pledges for Special Olympics Maryland. Many sign up at the last minute.
Why do it? Because it's a blast.
"It brings out the wacko in everybody," said Special Olympics Maryland's Dave Gell. One such wacko, honorary co-chair Michael McCrary (all-pro defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens) took a dip in a pink tutu for last year's costume contest. "There's a lot of wigs and cross dressing," says Gell.
There are perks for those who do the dip; Outback Steakhouse cooks up a savory steak dinner, Dunkin' Donuts serves hot cocoa and coffee and the costume contest offers as prizes "trips to sunny destinations so people can forget the pain," says Gell.
More prizes go to those who raise the most money and the plunger who ventures the farthest into the Bay; there are also trophy cups for the law enforcement and corporate teams that gather the most cash. Special prizes for the big money include signed Cal Ripken memorabilia and autographed Muhammad Ali boxing gloves. All plungers come away with beach towels.
Want to get wet? Pull together the minimum $50 in pledges and be at Sandy Point State Park by noon to register for the 2pm plunge. No scuba suits - that's cheating. Bring surf shoes for the cold sand and have a designated towel person on shore. Either rsvp by mail or walk up in a moment of inspired lunacy; either works: 410/290-7611 www.somd.org.
In Calvert, New Hands On the Wheel
In Calvert, County Administrator Richard Holler ends his eight-year term this week, leaving a 40 percent rookie commission on their own in Maryland's fastest growing county.
Calvert is governed by five commissioners. Two freshmen commissioners - David Hale and John Douglas Parran - and one previous commissioner, Barbara Stinnett, join incumbents Patrick Buehler and Linda Kelley in setting the county's course.
"They say what they want done, and I'm responsible to see it gets done," Holler told NBT in his last days in office. His contract ended April 1, but for continuity, he agreed to stay on through the elections and seating of the new commission.
The county commission has named an interim administrator - Douglas A. Parran (unrelated to the recently elected commissioner Parran) - until a new commissioner is named, probably next month. The search has closed, and commissioners are reading resumes. Parran is not a candidate for the permanent appointment.
Hale noted this week that he anticipates no problems in the transition. "Our department heads are competent. We're not talking about a six-month period. We're talking about four to five weeks," the freshman said.
On the 13th Day of Christmas, I Recycled My Tree
In with the new, out with the old. This time of year, that includes your Christmas tree. The tree that's lit up your life has a new job to do. In both Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, Christmas trees live on as fragrant, useful mulch.
But first you've got to get them to the shredder.
With curbside pickup in Anne Arundel, that's a snap. You simply carry your tree to the curb and wait for the county to come get it on your usual yard waste recycling day. Of course you've got to take the ornaments off first, including picking off all those strands of tinsel. If the county's contractors see tinsel on your tree, they won't take it. And if your tree's taller than four feet, you'll have to cut it in half.
Last January, Anne Arundel County collected 13,000 tons of tinsel-free Christmas trees curbside. By spring, your pines and firs were marketed by Maryland Environmental Service as mulch.
If, on the other hand, you deliver your tree to a county recycling center, the county mulches it for local landscaping, with some returned to consumers free at the Glen Burnie Convenience Center. Deliver your tree for recycling to centers in Glen Burnie, Millersville, Severn or Sudley Road in West River everyday but Sunday from 8am to 4pm.
In Calvert County, where many tote their trees to their community recycling center, up to 20,000 trees are expected to be recycled before the harvest is over. Last year, 40,000 pounds of Christmas tree made mulch.
Of course not all mulch is equal. The poorest quality is spread over spongy areas in landfills. Middle grade becomes foot trails and paths, while the highest quality mulch is sold to commercial mulchers.
So far this year, so good. "Our current crop of mulch is unbelievably good," said Steve Kullen, Calvert County's recycling coordinator.
Turn your tree in at Calvert's recycling centers at Appeal, Ball Road, Barstow, Huntingtown, Lusby, Mt. Hope and Plum Point.
In case you can't bear to let your old friend go, both counties are recycling trees through January. But you'll be smarter to act sooner, says Maryland State Fire Marshal Rocco J. Gabriele, who heads his list of cold-weather fire safety tips with advice to remove your tree immediately after Christmas.
For Rockfishing, An Endless Summer?
We've heard for several years that the striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay are fully recovered. Still, we had to put away our bucktails and Sassy Shads in the heart of summer during Maryland's interrupted, ever-changing rockfish seasons.
But come this summer, the season for rockfish may never close under a new proposal offered by Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin.
Under Griffin's plan, the season for anglers would extend in one way or another from April 23 through Nov. 30. What's more, fishermen would be allowed an additional, smaller striper in the segment running from June 1-13.
Griffin proposed the changes to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a regulatory agency covering several states. The commission is expected to make its ruling sometime this month.
With his recommendation, Griffin is confirming what many Chesapeake anglers have been saying for at least three seasons and maybe more: There are plenty of rockfish and not enough time to catch them.
"We have significant numbers of striped bass and we feel confident in being able to offer these added fishing opportunities to anglers," said Department of Natural Resources spokesman Rich McIntyre.
If approved, the 1999 rockfish season in Maryland would be broken down as follows:
Way Downstream ...
In Pennsylvania, costumed actors ran into a problem in their annual re-enactment of George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River: no water. With river levels too low from drought to float a boat, the actors did something they hadn't done in 46 years of the dramatization. They walked ...
In California, environmental advocates are "bobbing" for dollars. In their campaign to save scenic bluffs from development, they're asking anybody in the U.S. named Bob to contribute $10 each. So far, the "Bob Challenge" has netted $4,000. Asked planning commissioner Bob Needham: "Aren't we all Bobs deep down?"...
Also in California, Episcopal priest Peter Kreitler of Santa Monica quit his ministry for a new calling: selling organic fertilizer and working full-time for the environment. The Los Angeles Times called Kreitler part of a new movement of religious-based environmentalism ...
Russian scientists are busy with a space puzzle: what to do with astronauts' dirty underwear, which reportedly are worn for a week. Here's one solution - recycling it into methane gas, which could then be used to power the spacecraft
Our Creature Feature comes to us from Australia, where "Tunarama" made at least one Best of '98 list. At Port Lincoln, organizers invited people to display their talents by heaving frozen bluefin tuna as far as possible.
The gathering was a success, despite the critics who observed that the fish-flinging was a curious event considering that Australia was at that moment working to persuade Japan to conserve the bluefin.