The Chesapeake Bay Community Celebrates an Important Milestone

The year 2019 means a lot to the environmental community in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Ten years ago, the nonprofit community came together under the Choose Clean Water Coalition hosted by the National Wildlife Federation to coordinate and collaborate on their work to restore clean water to the rivers and streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. Starting with just 60 members, the Coalition has grown to more than 230 across the watershed, with nonprofit members in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and the District of Columbia. Over the last 10 years, the Coalition has seen many successes and has demonstrated the power of our community when we work together as one.

It was only fitting that the Coalition celebrated this historic moment at this year’s Choose Clean Water Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Over the past decade, the annual conference has served as an important venue for watershed advocates to learn about innovative restoration approaches from experts, build partnerships, share best practices by engaging in discussions with attendees from other parts of the watershed, and learn about successful projects in the host city. This year’s conference theme “Clean Water. Healthy Communities” was the perfect theme for Baltimore. With a high concentration of academic and medical professionals, nonprofit organizations, and community organizers, this city is the perfect place to learn about the connection between public health and the environment.

A Zebra Swallowtail. Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

More than 350 people from across the watershed came to learn, network, and connect with other clean water advocates. Sessions at the conference covered topics like stormwater, agriculture, communications, innovation and technology, professional development, and diversity, equity, inclusion and justice. The conference also featured field trips that highlighted the restoration work in and around the host city. These field trips included a boat excursion into the Baltimore Harbor to look at an oyster reef, a green infrastructure walking tour feature Baltimore’s famous Mr. Trash Wheel, and a visit to MedStar Hospital, where the health and environmental community have come together to build healing gardens for patients that also reduce stormwater runoff.

However, the best part of the conference had to be the reception, where all of the attendees were able to celebrate 10 years of the Coalition and honor our founders, Verna Harrison, Hilary Harp Falk, and Tony Caligiri. These three people were responsible for not only finding the resources to create the Coalition, but also recruiting our first members. The Coalition was also able to toast to our former director, Chante Coleman, who has recently become National Wildlife Federation’s director of equity and inclusion, for her incredible leadership.

Blue crab. Photo from Chesapeake Bay Program

The conference certainly was a celebration of our past, but the future of our work was always present. We are at a critical point in the Chesapeake Bay clean up. We are seeing progress in the amount of Bay grasses in the Chesapeake and the increases in the blue crab population. The Chesapeake watershed jurisdictions are in the process of finishing their final plans to reach their clean up goals. Now more than ever, the power of the Coalition is needed to continue to push this restoration effort over the finish-line and we know that we will be able to do it thanks to these past 10 years of experience.

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