ANNAPOLIS – The Chesapeake Bay Commission is making sure travelers on the major highways to Ocean City get a geography and environmental lesson with new road signs marking the boundaries of the bay watershed.
“We want to raise public awareness that they can influence the health of the bay, far from the actual waters,” said Ann Pesiri Swanson, the commission’s executive director.
The commission is a tri-state legislative advisory panel charged with helping Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania manage the bay. It is funded with appropriations from the three states.
The first signs — two on U.S. Route 50 and two on state Route 90 — were dedicated in a ceremony Thursday in Berlin.
The late state Sen. John Cade, R-Anne Arundel, was a member of the Maryland delegation to the commission and helped get the project approved. He died the morning of the dedication.
Swanson said there are 64,000 square miles that define the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Every drop of water that falls within the boundaries marked by the new signs affects the watershed, she said.
Swanson added that there are 1,650 local governments and 13 million people within the watershed.
The cooperation needed to protect the bay is a complex matter, and the signs “tell people they must all be part of the solution,” she said.
The commission will build a minimum of six more signs in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Virginia and West Virginia, Swanson said. So far, the panel has spent $14,000 on the project, she added.
The signs bear art work depicting some of the fruits of the bay: blue crabs, striped bass, herons, marshes and clean water. The biggest of them is 18 feet long and designed to be read at 55 mph.
Swanson said the commission has already received several calls from people who had driven by the signs who “were very excited.”
Louise Hayman, spokesperson for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, called the road signs a “cost-effective…method of increasing widespread awareness of exactly what the watershed is.”
Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, also liked the project. “It does make ’em aware,” Simns said. “It’s a good idea — let people know which way the water is flowing.” -30-