Chestertown’s Environmental Committee – the “Green Team” – came to the Feb. 4 council meeting to announce a relaunch.
John Hanley, who has chaired the committee since 2009, introduced new members Greg Farley and Darran Tilghman to present the committee’s new goals.
Tilghman said the committee hopes to take advantage of the town’s significant resources to get meaningful work done. She said that almost every environmental organization in the area was represented on the committee. With business owners, parents, “even a handful of people under 40” on board, the Green Team represents a new diversity, she said. She delivered printed biographies of the committee members to the council.
Under Farley’s guidance, the group went through a vision process in November. Farley explained the process of “figuring out what we wanted to be,” which led to the creation of four interest groups within the larger structure. They plan to focus on administration, energy, the health of the river and its habitat, and management of the town’s waste stream. These aren’t the only issues of interest to the committee, just the key ones that emerged from the planning process, he said. They represent a compromise between the group’s interests and the town’s goals, which include recreation, the rail trail, and the waterfront among others.
“It’s a work in progress, and we welcome input from the community,” Farley said. He said they planned to consult the mayor and council for ways the committee can help the town. Each of the breakout groups would also like to meet with the mayor and council independently.
Council members had several questions for the group. Mayor Chris Cerino asked who was the team’s representative from the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. Tilghman identified him as Darius Johnson, who does not live in town but is a Kent County native.
Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver asked if the committee has a member who is a resident of the Third Ward, which he represents. Farley said the group doesn’t have a geographic breakdown of members’ residences.
Councilman David Foster asked for examples of projects the committee has in the works. Tim Trumbauer, ShoreRivers’ Chester Riverkeeper, said he is involved in the committee’s new river and habitat team. He said that with the help of ShoreRivers, they plan to pursue grants for completion of the town’s projected riverwalk, which would run along the shoreline from Wilmer Park along lands owned by Washington College to the mouth of Radcliffe Creek.
“We see ourselves as a force multiplier,” said Tilghman. She said the members are able to bring fundraising expertise and generate projects for fundraising for the town.
Cerino noted that a program of tree planting along town streets was a major accomplishment of the previous committee, citing plantings along Campus Avenue. “I’d love to see that continue,” he said. He also noted that a community playground has long been on the town’s wish list, and said that he has come to the conclusion that it belongs in Wilmer Park. “We need people to fight for it,” he said, noting that there is likely to be opposition to the idea among some neighbors of the park. He said the project could be funded by the Community Parks and Playgrounds program of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which has helped finance several other parks in town. Once the current work to upgrade Louisa Carpenter Park in the Washington Park neighborhood is complete, funds should be available for another project, he said.
Cerino said the riverwalk is a challenging project, since most of the route is on college property and therefore out of town control. “It’s important to the future of the town, as a connection between the waterfront and the commercial district,” he said.
Cerino also mentioned the last leg of the rail trail, for which the engineering and design work has been completed. The town has a grant for the project, but it needs about $40,000 in matching funds to complete it. He said if the environmental committee could help find the match, the project could be completed this year. Asked if in-kind matches would fill the bill, he said they would be acceptable, but that it would be hard to make up the full amount through in-kind work.
Councilman Marty Stetson added that it would be especially welcome if the Green Team could impress the Kent County Commissioners with the value of extending the rail trail to the county community center in Worton. He said the completion of that part of the trail would make it possible for young people in town to ride their bikes to the community center instead of having to find rides. “It would be my dream,” he said.
Tolliver invited the committee to take a look at Carpenter Park, which is in his ward. He said he hoped they would be able to help the community get “the best bang for the buck” correcting drainage problems in the park.
Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said the group should also consider helping with Fountain Park, which needs attention to the trees and work to remedy compaction of the soil.
Foster said he was impressed by the group’s resources and that he was looking forward to working with them.
Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the committee’s meetings must be open to the public and that they should be advertised on the town calendar so anyone interested can attend. He said it would be good to have representatives from each ward. There are a lot of projects the town and Washington College can work on together, he said. The completion of the rail trail to Worton is “a dream a lot of us have,” he said. He also suggested that the team explore the possibility of becoming a non-profit entity so it can raise funds for projects it considers important that the town itself can’t undertake.
Tilghman said the team also sees its mission as a contributing element for economic development, making Chestertown a destination with equitable access for the entire community.