In 2016, the legislatures of each of the Chesapeake Bay watershed commonwealths and states designated the second week of June as Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week. This designation urges all Bay residents “to commemorate the week with events, activities and educational programs designed to raise awareness of the importance of the Chesapeake Bay” to each jurisdiction as well as to the region, and the United States.
The goal of Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week is to highlight the importance of this national and natural treasure and to celebrate the region’s successes in reducing nutrient and sediment pollution to the Bay and its rivers. At the same time, its goal is to raise awareness of the challenges ahead and the opportunities for all residents to play an important role in the restoration process.
To reach this goal, a partnership of organizations is sponsoring a series of local and regional events June 3–10 throughout the watershed.
During this weeklong Bay Awareness initiative, we at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay will promote stream litter cleanups, rain barrel workshops, sales of native plants for landscaping, tree planting workshops, water monitoring demonstrations and other Bay-related activities for all ages.
In Virginia, Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week will culminate with a signature Back to the Bay event.
The inaugural Back to the Bay event takes place on Saturday, June 10 at Mason Neck State Park in Northern Virginia. It will showcase the importance of the Chesapeake to our quality of life and economy in Virginia, while reaching out to engage a broader base of the public in taking action.
For decades, the Bay states have been working hard to reduce nutrient pollution to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration goals for two key deadlines, 2017 and 2025. Virginia has been successful in meeting its 2017 nutrient reduction goals, mainly through reducing pollution from point sources like wastewater treatment plants and industry, as well as making progress in agriculture. Virginia still has a long way to go to reach the 2025 goals, though.
To reach the 2025 goals, the focus must be on nonpoint source pollution — the pollution running off farms and urban and suburban lands. This work will need to take place throughout the watershed, and every resident must play a role. The truth is, we all live “upstream.” To recognize this fact, the Back to the Bay event begins with a symbolic visual call to action where everyone physically turns their back to the Bay to look upstream into the vast watershed where so much future work needs to be done.
Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week and the Back to the Bay event encourage people to think about the challenges we face, and then ask themselves, “how can I help? What can I do on my property, in my neighborhood or in my community to make a difference?” We believe that providing the public with practical strategies — ways they can volunteer and actions they can take at home — will make a difference.
Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s Virginia delegation, said, “It’s time for the public to move beyond being only bumper sticker deep in understanding the challenge we face and the necessity that requires us to do this work.”
Back to the Bay will also showcase the commitments of local businesses in restoring our streams and the Chesapeake Bay as more and more Virginia businesses respond to their employees’ and customers’ calls for greater sustainability and responsibility. Through Businesses for the Bay, a partnership between the Alliance and the business community, businesses are being encouraged to find measurable ways they can improve water quality. Back to the Bay will offer them the opportunity to increase public awareness of their role in and commitment to restoring the Chesapeake.
Back to the Bay will also showcase educational resources from a variety of local, state and nonprofit partners that illustrate our connections to the Chesapeake Bay and the issues and challenges to progress.
The event offers residents, families, students and educators a hands-on demonstration of how to make a difference. People will also have the opportunity to explore the park, participate in activities on the water, try delicious local food (including Virginia oysters), and enjoy live entertainment.
Mason Neck State Park offers a wide variety of ways to interact with nature through hiking trails, wetlands, forests, open water, paved multi-use trails, a large picnic area, playground and visitor center. Canoeing and kayaking will also be available.
Back to the Bay is possible through a public/private partnership involving the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the commonwealth of Virginia, localities, agriculture and other businesses, private-sector and nonprofit organizations working together to highlight our connection with the Bay and its rivers and to celebrate our shared enjoyment of the environment.
For information about Back to the Bay, visit vcnva.org/back-to-the-bay/ or follow Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week on Facebook. Look for our future calendar of events for Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week at allianceforthebay.org. Let’s all make a promise to be more “Chesapeake Bay aware” this year!