An Earth Day Of Rain And Rain Barrels

Conservation Tips, Plantings Highlight Annapolis Observance

April 26, 2009|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

It's nothing fancy or elaborate. But supporters of two newly installed rain barrels at St. John's College in Annapolis say the contraptions can make a big difference in the health of nearby creeks and the Chesapeake Bay.

That's why the St. John's Board of Friends and members of a student group called Project Politae installed two rain barrels on the college's campus on Wednesday, in hopes of encouraging the school's administration to install more of them.

Despite intermittent rain, environment aficionados across the county celebrated Earth Day with tree plantings, ceremonies and demonstrations.

At St. John's, rain barrels were hooked up to the downspouts of the gutters of two buildings so that rainwater could be collected and used to irrigate nearby boxwood plants. By collecting the rain in barrels, less water spills onto roadways and other impervious surfaces, causing less runoff into local College Creek and, ultimately, the bay.

"The trick is to stop it at the source," said Suzanne Pogell, co-chair of the environmental matters committee for the St. John's Board of Friends, which provided the barrels.

"I call it the first responder. You see the results right away."

Phillipa Gowdy-Jaeknig, a St. John's College junior and Project Politae member, said a few students participated in getting the first rain barrels on campus in an effort to get the administration's attention.

"At St. John's, part of our freshman program is to go down and look at the stream, but we are also warned not to swim in College Creek," she said. "I think this is a really easy and effective thing we can do.

"I'm excited that in future installations we can get students involved."

The effort to prevent storm-water runoff extended beyond St. John's on Earth Day. With the help of a Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grant, a social marketing campaign called RainScaping was launched to give county residents landscaping techniques to help improve the health of the bay, such as using rain barrels and rain gardens.

Mayoral candidates also took advantage of the city's "green" spirit and used various festivities to announce environmental platforms.

Josh Cohen, a county councilman, rolled out his 10-point environmental plan, which includes plans to double the number of rain gardens in the city and create more natural shoreline. On Earth Day, he announced his 17 environmental endorsements.

Sam Shropshire, a city alderman, scheduled Earth Day to announce his plan to make Annapolis an "environmental leader for Maryland."

"After nearly 20 years and $6 billion in federal funding, the Chesapeake Bay is still failing," he said in a statement. "Now we must take the battle for the bay and the environment to our local communities. Without a grass-roots movement, we are absolutely bound to fail."

And in the county, Executive John R. Leopold participated in the unveiling of new energy efficient streetlights along Forest Drive at Old Annapolis Neck Road and also attended a tree planting at Marley Middle School.

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