Letter To The Editor
Residents of St. Marys County may not fully realize what is going on in their own backyard. It is an issue that is very important to life here in the county and all throughout Maryland. What is it that is so important? The answer is simple: the Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake is wondrous in all the beauty and services it provides to Maryland residents. The Bay provides recreational water activities such as boating, fishing, and going to the beach. It also supports local fisheries, houses the tasty Maryland blue crabs, and provides a spot for the Patuxent Naval Air Base here in St. Marys County. The Chesapeake, including all of the rivers that feed it, is vital to life in our area.
One key thing that helps protect the Bay is a buffer zone—a term used to describe the vegetative land along the waters edge. Protection of this area of land is extremely important to the health of the water lying below it, whether it is as big as the Patuxent River or as small as a trickling stream in the middle of the woods. Buffer zones provide the ecological service of filtering water runoff. Without this filter, fertilizers, pesticides, and nutrient pollutants can run off into the river or steam, causing harm to aquatic life.
Vegetation such as trees, bushes, shrubs and any other plant life are what make up the buffer zone. Plants serve by filtering water and holding soil in place. In the absence of vegetation along the edge of the water, mass amounts of erosion will occur. This erosion, or the washing of soil sediments into the water, harms water quality and chokes aquatic life and causes the shoreline to recede. In Maryland, the buffer zone is more commonly referred to as the critical area. This is a very appropriate name considering how crucial healthy vegetation of this shoreline area is to the overall health of the water.
This critical issue has been monitored closely by environmental programs resulting in the enactment of the Critical Area Act. But, this legislation can only do so much. The Critical Area Act closely scrutinizes major building projects close to the waters edge, but there are already thousands of homes on waterfront property throughout the Chesapeake watershed. It is the responsibility of those private property owners to preserve these critical area buffer zones by not clearing any vegetation along rivers or streams. It is our responsibility to protect the water that supplies us with the needs of our communities.
Stephanie Berry & Alex Walters
(Junior Students at Leonardtown High School)