One week after he introduced four bills in the U.S. Congress that would help the Chesapeake Bay, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), set out on foot to see for himself what his constituents were doing for the bay.
Tuesday was the first day of Sarbanes' Chesapeake Bay Tour.
"This is a listening tour for the congressman to understand the work of the local watershed groups, which will better inform his work in the Congress," said Brianne Nadeau, press secretary. "He is also taking time to explain how his legislation can support or work in conjunction with the local efforts."
In the morning, Sarbanes stopped by Oella to see the Friends of Patapsco Valley and Heritage Greenway (FPVHG), a local nonprofit dedicated to preserving environmental and cultural heritage.
When Sarbanes arrived, FPVHG was in the midst of a stream cleanup. A herd of seventh graders from Glenwood Middle School was picking up debris and weeding garlic mustard (an invasive plant) along the Patapsco River.
"Federal agencies participate in these kinds of efforts," said Sarbanes, indicating to the youths the importance of what they were doing.
FPVHG coordinated the effort, which took the place of science class that day for students.
One piece of legislation Sarbanes supports is the No Child Left Inside Act, which would provide federal grants for environmental education.
From the cleanup, FPVHG members Tim Titus and Cathy Hudson led Sarbanes along the Grist Mill trail in .
Titus, who is retired from the Environmental Protection Agency, spoke with Sarbanes about the challenge of silt building up in the Patapsco River. Hudson, a member of Howard County's Environmental Sustainability Board, discussed land preservation and easements.
As they walked the trail, they came across signs detailing its history. These signs were made possible by the Chesapeake Bay Gateway Network, said legislative assistant Jim Notter, through a bill Sarbanes introduced to strengthen people's connection with their surroundings.
In this part of the park, near the mills of Ellicott City, the signs told stories like "Bringing Trade to Baltimore" and "The Changing River Valley."
With the Patapsco River underfoot and parkland all around him, Sarbanes mentioned the bill he introduced that could encourage, household by household, citizens to minimize their footprint on the bay.
Called "Save the Bay Homeowner Act of 2011," the legislation would offer steps citizens can take to be better environmental stewards, like using rain barrels; then the federal government would reward state and local jurisdictions for the nutrient and sediment level reduction that would result, according to a press release about the bill.
After touching on the educational and nonprofit sectors in Howard and Baltimore Counties, Sarbanes headed to Jessup for a lesson about business.
The leaders of Wm. T. Burnett & Co. (2112 Montevideo Rd.) demonstrated through a facility tour how they have incorporated environmentally friendly waste water management practices into their business of manufacturing foam. Sarbanes commended the company on the innovative measures it has woven into its process.
“I’m happy to highlight the efforts businesses in Maryland are making to protect our environment and preserve the Chesapeake Bay,” said Sarbanes, who will continue meeting with businesses and watershed groups through Monday. “We often talk about the 17 million people living in the Bay Watershed, but we need businesses to become environmental stewards as well.”