Hands on the Shore, Eyes on the Bay

By Katy Bland, Guest Author

On Saturday, April 28, roughly 100 community members, local, state, and federal officials, and leadership from multiple non-profit organizations came together on a foggy morning for the 5th Annual Mallows Bay Trash Cleanup as part of the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative. The trash cleanup is one of many recent manifestations of the upwelling of support for and appreciation of Mallows Bay, a site under consideration to become a national marine sanctuary.

As the morning fog burned off, the Ghost Fleet, nearly 200 vessels laid to rest at Mallows Bay, came into view. Hours later as the fog continued to dissipate, a new silhouette amongst the ghost fleet would emerge; a stalwart yellow NexSens CB-450 Data Buoy. The water quality monitoring buoy, launched in April 2018 as a 5 year partnership between the Foundation and Maryland Department of Natural Resources, has been steadily keeping tabs on the health of the Potomac at Mallows Bay. It is equipped with two YSI EXO2 sensors and a fish telemetry receiver donated by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. In addition to serving as a sentinel of water quality for scientists and water managers, the buoy is a resource for fishermen, kayakers, tourism-operators, and boaters alike.  Five years of continuous water monitoring will provide local organizations with an important educational tool as well as provide a baseline of data for future management efforts, both at Mallows Bay and upriver. See the live data for yourself on the Eyes on the Bay network!

Community members speak with Mark Trice (left, MD DNR) about water quality (Photo courtesy of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation)


Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton (center) with sons (Photo courtesy of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation)

Following inspiring words and reflections on the significance of Mallows Bays, gloves and trash and recycling bags were divvied up amongst participants and the cleanup began. While some participants tackled the areas accessible by foot, most took to the water, via kayaks and skiffs, to access the farther reaches of the Mallows Bay shoreline (view 360 Degree Virtual Reality Tours, Video Tours, and Story Maps here). In addition to the new buoy, kayakers were greeted by a newly established watertrail, a series of numbered buoys placed at significant ships, which correspond to an informational watertrail map.  The Mallows Bay Watertrail, a partnership between the Chesapeake Conservancy and the Foundation, adds to the network of watertrails that enable kayakers to explore historically and environmentally significant areas.

With bald eagles soaring above and cormorants drying their wings among pier pilings, eager volunteers purged the shoreline of litter. Plastic bottles, basketballs, tires, water barrels, styrofoam, and straws were among the many forms of litter collected. Within a few hours, a dump truck and two rolloff dumpsters were filled to the brim with sorted recycling and trash bags.  The groundswell that we see in community events like the trash cleanup is KEY to preservation of our cultural heritage and marine resources – Thank You to volunteers across the country for taking an active part in stewarding your natural areas!

Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (left), Commissioner President Peter Murphy (center), and Commissioner Amanda M. Stewart, M. Ed. (right). (Photo courtesy of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation)


Volunteers gathering for remarks and a safety briefing (Photo courtesy of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation)


(Photo courtesy of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation)