When heavy rain falls from the sky, a deluge of water floods into Chesapeake Bay, carrying anything it soaks up on the way. In Olde Severna Park, neighbors are strategizing to keep their lawn fertilizers, nitrogen and chemicals out of the Bay.
“We’re starting a rain garden as part of a stormwater project,” says Ann Jackson, who’s lived in Olde Severna Park for 16 years and does her homework on how to keep her charming, leafy waterside community Bay-friendly. Jackson serves on the board of the Olde Severna Park Community Association as an Environmental/Grounds representative. She’s also a member of the Watershed Stewards Academy, an initiative by Anne Arundel County’s Public Works Department and Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center to reduce the trouble stormwater runoff causes the Bay.
This determined woman is working hard to further big plans to divert runoff and has used her knowledge to help secure a $4,800 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to fund the stormwater retention project. Since 1985, the Chesapeake Bay Trust has awarded more than $30 million to support the restoration of and education about the Bay in Maryland.
On May 15, two dozen Olde Severna Park neighbors put the grant money to work as they gathered at the corner of Riggs Road and Park Drive to dig their bio-retention cell, otherwise known as a rain garden. The intersection is at the top of a steep slope that until now has been an asphalt river when it rains.
Now the ground is filled with 18 inches of bio-soil, made up of sand and compost, in which over 400 water-absorbent native plants like hydrangeas and blue flag irises are growing. With gravity, rainwater will naturally flow into the garden, where it will be filtered by the plants’ deep root systems instead of carrying chemicals and sediments with it into the Severn River where algae then breed. Microbes on the roots of the plants will break down chemicals and use some as fertilizer.
“The rain garden is one of the most useful things that’s been invented to clean up water pollution,” says Gambrills resident Mel Wilkins, who has been working for 12 years to bring solutions for water pollution to area communities. He and landscape architect Ann Guillette “run around helping communities eat the elephant,” as he puts it — that is, figure out how to become more green.
“The critical factor is people like Ann Jackson,” Wilkins says. “They are trained at the Watershed Stewards Academy, then go back to their communities to become activists.”
On a Green Roll
With its rain garden, Olde Severna Park is on a roll.
Jackson is also leading her neighbors into powering their homes with wind. Clean Currents, a leading green energy company, gives both homeowners and businesses a way to seamlessly transfer their power to clean renewable wind sources. By signing up (a simple process on Clean Currents’ website), users offset their emissions for energy use and decrease their carbon footprint.
Since 2006, the Rockville-based green business has offset, or neutralized, 51 million tons of carbon by converting households in Maryland and Washington, D.C., to wind power. That’s equal to taking more than 3,600 average-fuel-consuming cars off the road.
Besides helping to decrease the use of fossil fuels, signing up reduces your energy costs by about five percent.
Founder Gary Skulnik and partner Charles Segerman have recruited over 6,150 residences and 700 businesses to convert to wind power. Two hundred of the wind-buyers live in Annapolis, in communities including Manhattan Beach, Oyster Harbor and Hillsmere Shores.
This year, Clean Currents reached out to neighborhoods like Olde Severna Park through the Green Neighborhood Effect Program, an initiative through which green-minded citizens register their communities and compete with others for recognition. Jackson registered Olde Severna Park and used her community newsletter to encourage her neighbors to join.
“I need power, so if I can get green power, that’s a great thing,” Jackson says. “It’s the use of wind power, not fossil fuels, that helps the environment. It’s also easy and saves you money. But not many people have signed up yet.”
It seems that word about Clean Currents’ wind power is spreading slowly in Olde Severna Park. So far, 10 households have signed up, with each one adding to a network that brings in others.
Olde Severna Park is growing green as citizens in this riverside community plan next to create more rain gardens, a dam and a wetland restoration system.