Coastal Bays’ Citizen Group Revived

BERLIN – A revived coastal bays Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) met this week to work out a new vision for the group, which was formed years ago to work on policy decisions for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP).

The CAC was formed a decade ago to oversee the creation of the MCBP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), an extensive document listing actions necessary to improving and maintaining the health of the coastal bays.

The original CAC included a diverse membership representing many points of view, from farmers and environmentalists to developers and commercial fishermen.

Advisory committee meetings and events have dwindled, over the last few years, with only two informal meetings held in the last 12 months, according to MCBP Director Dave Wilson.

“I’m trying to get them corralled a little bit,” Wilson said before this week’s meeting.

The bays program board and staff asked previous CAC members and any interested parties to meet this week to consider the revived citizen committee’s vision and purpose.

“Our goals, activities, priorities, we want the citizens to play a key role,” said Wilson at the beginning of the meeting on Wednesday night.

A decade after the CCMP was completed, Wilson wondered if that guiding document needed to be reviewed.

“The question is, are we doing it right?” said Wilson. “Do we want to talk about some of these things again?”

Steve Taylor, first director of the MCBP, suggested that staff was better off reviewing the CCMP actions and asking CAC members for specific input, because the new CAC members do not know the management document well enough.

“It’s this hybrid approach, not simply looking at the policy perspective,” Taylor said.

Education and public information received strong support from the old and new members of the committee as projects for the CAC to tackle, as did advocacy efforts with local elected officials.

More educational opportunities for children would get them outside, said high school teacher Mary Gunther. Children know surprisingly little about the environment around them, she said.

“It’s not just the children. Most of the parents don’t know,” said eighth grade teacher Pat Johnson.

There are few programs for older children and high school aged young people, Gunther said. Family programs are also needed.

“Kids are really good at nagging parents,” she said.

Parks and land access also came up. “We have very few places where people can actually have access,” said Jean Fry.

The county has mostly little pocket parks, Fry pointed out, and there are not many places where people can find low-impact nature trails.

The CAC could make publicizing where people can go to get out into nature part of its mission, said Gunther.

Wilson suggested that the CAC could be advocates for the coastal bays with elected officials like the County Commissioners and local Mayor and Councils.

“Sometimes those battles are better fought by the citizens,” said Wilson.

Taylor added, “The CAC is most effective if people take their area of interest and be a leader in that area…it’s out community and we need to take responsibility.”

Wilson agreed, saying, “If it wasn’t for the citizens, the county wouldn’t have acted on tons and tons and tons of things.”