By Greg Ellison
(Sept. 5, 2019) Earth-conscious individuals can learn how to help area waterways by growing native plants, while also learning about the efforts of dozens of area environmentalist organizations, along with the prerequisite music, food and drinks, during the second annual Bay Day at Ocean Pines in White Horse Park on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The event is being produced by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program in conjunction with the Ocean Pines Association and other partners.
Maryland Coastal Bays Education Coordinator Liz Wist said after the inaugural gathering last May gained traction it has grown this year to include nearly three-dozen nonprofit organizations and local agencies that will offer demonstrations, hands-on-activities, interactive art displays, and educational boat rides.
“It’s a conservation campaign we began last year with the Ocean Pines Association,” she said. “This year, it’s the same overarching goal to educate residents about our coastal bays watershed and specifically highlighting the St. Martin River.”
The event, subtitled “Roll up your sleeves for backyard habitats,” will provide residents of Ocean Pines and the surrounding area tips on bay-friendly management practices and on native plants that attract and support pollinating insects and birds.
“We’re giving away 100 native plants to help encourage people to put them into their yard,” she said.
Initiated to further the Maryland Coastal Bays’ campaign to heighten the importance of native pollinator plants, Wist said the environmentally oriented afternoon would provide other information as well.
“The more that we can educate our community and our neighbors, the healthier our bays can become,” she said. “If we can have an event that’s geared towards engaging … individuals, then we can see positive impacts.”
Wist said Ocean Pines was selected for the undertaking because of its many waterfront properties and proximity to the St. Martin River.
“We release an annual report card where we give an A to F rating of our coastal bays,” she said. “For years, the St. Martin River has been one of our unhealthier ones, but it is steadily increasing.”
Although the academic year is just beginning, Wist said Bay Day is not intended as a classroom exercise where scores of booths offer a sea of brochures to peruse.
“The idea is when you go up, you can engage with the people that are representing their organizations,” she said. “In addition to that, people can hang out and eat food.”
Wist said about 35 groups are collaborating on Bay Day this Sunday.
“They vary from nonprofit organizations to Assateague State Park and Pocomoke River State Park,” she said. “We try to target local organizations, but we even have some coming from further away.
“Our National Aquarium [in Baltimore] representatives are going to be down here,” she said. “They have a 56-foot inflatable whale they’re going to be putting inside the community center.”
Free guided boat rides along the St. Martin River will be provided by Capt. Danny McDorman and OC Swim Crawl.
“It’s kind of like a party barge [and] the beauty of it is that it’s big,” she said. “It’s an old research vessel so they have a ton of standing and sitting room.”
Wist said the boat would go out on three excursions each lasting about 30 minutes.
“We’ll have one of our staff members on board to answer questions and to give a little talk about the St. Martin River.”
The aquatically curious can register for a boat tour that day at the Ocean Pines Marina, where kayaks will also be provided for free use by Ayers Creek Adventures.
The list of partners on site for Bay Day includes: The Ocean
City Life-Saving Museum, the Delmarva Discovery Center, the Ward Museum, Assateague Coastal Trust, the Lower Shore Land Trust and the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Not to overlook farmers and watermen, Wist said the Atlantic Coast Sports Fishing Association and Assateague Farm will also have booths at Bay Day.
“We work hand-in-hand with our fishing community and our farmers,” she said. “We wanted everybody to be a bit represented from all realms of the watershed.”
Visitors to the event also will be able to unleash their inner Picassos with two interactive art pieces sponsored by the Art League of Ocean City and the Ocean City Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
Wist said Coastal Bays is working with the Art League of Ocean City to convert a mound of discarded plastic bottle caps into a more creative purpose instead of polluting the planet.
“We’ve been collecting bottle caps from either beach cleanup or individuals that have dropped them off, “ she said. “We’re going to be making a mural out of those bottlecaps.”
Wist said the Surf Riders are pursuing an equivalent artistic vision.
“We’re going to doing separate murals, but they actually have that idea too,” she said. “They’ll be two opportunities to engage in one of those interactive art pieces.”
For added festivity, Wist said radio station 97.1 The Wave will be simulcasting onsite to open the event followed by a live performance from the
Wist said food vendors will include Street Kitchen, Kona Ice, Eastern Shore Kettle Korn and the Kiwanis Club of Ocean Pines-Ocean City.
“We have the Burley Oar Beer truck that’s going to be there serving both beer and root beer.”
Other highlights will include an expansion of a pollinator garden planted in White Horse Park this May.
“We’ll give a brief overview of pollinator gardens [and] we’re actually going to put some more plants in the ground that Sunday,” she said. “There’s never been a pollinator garden demonstration in White Horse Park.”
Saving the biggest bang for last, Bay Day will feature a workshop pavilion “where people can come and do everything from building a birdhouse, bat home, bee home [or making] a fish print T-shirt,” Wist said.
Among the event’s more unusual-sounding offerings are “seed bomb” lessons, Wist said.
“It came out of a concept called, ‘guerilla gardening,’ where people can literally toss something and a plant will grow,” she said. “It’s just air-dried clay that will break down with organic soil and seeds.”
Wist said related educational opportunities already occurred, as organizers worked with area school children who made hand-painted canvas bags to give attendees to discourage use of plastics.
“We have a big thank-you to Worcester County Schools and also home-schoolers who painted 400 canvas bags,” she said. “They turned it into an opportunity to learn screen printing or different processes in order to paint on the bags. It was thrilling to engage hundreds of kids before Bay Day.”