As 30 students watched from the decks of two boats, adults
gathered up parts of their school project and pushed them into the
Chesapeake Bay. Then, in twos and threes, youngsters grabbed the
remaining pieces and heaved them over the side for good measure.
Satisfied that their hard work was now resting in a watery grave,
the happy kids went fishing.
What does one thing have to do with the other?
Plenty, as these young anglers learned this year with the help of
the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association.
The students from Baltimore and Howard counties and the
Washington suburbs spent the winter making reef balls out of cement
and chunks of rubble from Memorial Stadium.
Reef balls aren't new. There are more than 2,000 sites around the
world, built by anglers, scuba divers and environmentalists who want
to give fish and other marine critters a replacement home for
destroyed natural habitat.
They look more like igloos than spheres, with flat bottoms that
help ensure stability once they are positioned on the bay floor.
Each one is constructed with openings and tunnels, imitating natural
openings in reefs.
Bill Huppert, a member of the MSSA's Perry Hall chapter, got the
balls rolling last year when he contacted a number of schools to see
if they could incorporate the project into the curriculum or as part
of a public service project.
He already had the enthusiastic support of the Oliver Beach
Community Association, which volunteered manpower and equipment.
Eight schools said yes, including Perry Hall Elementary,
Parkville Middle, Sparrows Point High and Sollers Point Technical.
Hammond Elementary and Burtonsville Elementary in Howard County
Rainy weather slowed construction and the curing period. When it
came time to open the molds, some balls crumbled like peanut butter
But by last week, students had completed 70 reef balls, which
were loaded onto the Patricia Campbell, the 60-foot Chesapeake Bay
Foundation oyster restoration workboat.
The students caught rides on a second foundation boat and the
Seaclusion, donated for the day by Capt. Rob Sersen Jr. and Penny
Under misty, gray skies and scattered rain showers Wednesday
morning, the students watched as one by one, the foundation crew
lowered the reef balls onto the six-acre Memorial Stadium Reef
They laughed as several "smiley face" balls, created by the
Sollers Point students, went overboard. Then some turned solemn as a
ball with a brass plaque attached was lowered.
The plaque was in memory of Sophia Bishop, the PTA president at
Cloverly Elementary in Montgomery County, who died during the school
year. Her son, Cory, is a member of the fourth-grade class that
contributed four reef balls for the project.
From their boats, the students gathered up the pieces of broken
reef balls and added them to the pile below.
"I think it's more helpful for us to do a project like this
instead of reading about it in a book," said Brittany Crimy, a Perry
Hall fifth-grader. "I really care about the bay. It's just like a
person. People deserve to live, and so does the bay."
In a breathtaking display of "the public be damned," the
National Park Service on Friday gave riders of smelly, noisy
personal watercraft the right to buzz around the north and south
ends of Assateague
It's debatable if the decision will harm the north end of the
37-mile island, which faces Ocean
City. But the southern end - in Virginia - holds the
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, a true jewel that should not
be clouded by PWCs, or Polluting Wastes of Cash.
Before 2000, PWCs were allowed almost everywhere at Assateague.
But the Clinton administration set a deadline for national parks to
establish regulations governing the watercraft or impose a blanket
ban. Last spring, officials at eight parks, including Assateague,
had to temporarily ban PWCs while they finished drafting rules.
After completing their work, park service officials asked for
comment and received 7,600 letters and e-mails. Of the total, 170
liked what they read, but 7,264 supported continuing the ban.
But the park service, now firmly in the clutches of big business
(think Yellowstone snowmobiles and plane rides over the Grand
Canyon) just plowed ahead.
In its so-called "final rule," the park service noted the lifting
of the ban, effective June 30, would have "an overall positive
impact on the local economy ... a result of an increase of other
users, most notably canoeists, swimmers, anglers and traditional
boaters seeking solitude and quiet, and improved water quality."
Solitude and quiet? Improved water quality?
Send in the clowns. Don't bother; they're here.
As we close the books on another Code Orange security
alert, it's time to ask the question: So what gives with Fisherman's
Park below the Conowingo Dam?
The tiny sliver of green on the Harford County side of the
Susquehanna River is shut down each time the federal government
raises the security alert from yellow to orange.
The security managers at Exelon Corp., the utility that owns the
dam and the park downstream, insist the closures are necessary to
provide a safety buffer zone.
Give me a break. I said it here a year ago, and I'll say it
again. How can anyone argue with a straight face that an attack
couldn't come from the hiking trail or the boat launches upstream of
the dam? Or, for that matter, from Route 1, which runs along the top
of the dam?
A better-safe-than-sorry approach was prudent in the months after
the Sept. 11 attacks, but our elected leaders have told us to get on
with life, and many institutions have taken that to heart.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has opened
Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs to recreational use. Those
two lakes supply water to 1.7 million people in Montgomery and
Prince George's counties. Access has been restored around
Boaters are allowed on the Potomac River in sight of the
monuments and Reagan National Airport.
So please, Exelon, think up another excuse because this one just
doesn't hold water.