New Bay License Plates

      Has your Chesapeake Bay license plate stopped sparking joy? Have its heron, crab and grasses against a field of blue lost their power to remind you, and your fellow motorists, to Treasure the Chesapeake? Is it just too familiar?

       You might think so when you see the slate of new plates proposed by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the public service organization that oversees the plates, from commissioning designs to investing the revenue they raise in environmental projects and education.

       “We’ve used this same Bay plate for 13 years, and the original plate also 13 years,” Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, told Bay Weekly as the redesign began late last year. “Would it spark additional growth if the plate were fresh, new and more attractive?”

       It sure would!

       That was my surprise reaction on seeing — and voting on — some dozen design options in an online-survey of people who, like me, pay the small premium to license their cars with a Bay plate. 

       I surprised myself because I like my Bay plate.

       But wow, some of these new options added freshness, flair and color. 

       Most designs feature an icon of the Chesapeake. Animal icons are crabs and herons but no oysters. Constructed icons are lighthouses and sailboats. Symbolic icons are the Maryland state flag and state flower, the black-eyed Susan.

      Backrounds are typically blue, suggesting sky and water, sometimes Bay grasses and, on one attractive design, rays of the sun. One substitiutes garish sunset colors. 

      As well as images, slogans were up for voting. Does Treasure the Chesapeake, the longtime slogan, still work? Is Protect Our Bay, Protect This Bay or My Maryland — a better call to action? One asks us to [heart symbol] Chesapeake Bay. Slogans purely for fun, such as Home of the Crabs, are also in the running. 

       Behind all these designs is money. About five percent of Maryland drivers of automobiles, light trucks and trailers buy Bay plates. That’s about 280,000 drivers. With 4.8 million eligible drivers, the Trust is aiming to up Bay-platers to 15 percent, bringing in more money to invest in environmental protection, remediation and education.

       Will any design do that?

       I’m the wrong person to ask, because I’m in for a Bay plate regardless of the image it bears — though a couple of these designs (including the purple one) would test my commitment.

       For my favorite, with a catchy, brightly colored crab top left over a Maryland flag, I’d pay double.

      The right person to ask is you.

      For which (or none) of these plates would you add $20 to your auto licensing fee?

      Send us your votes, and I’ll send them along to the decision makers.