In  the Garden by Nancy Mugele

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I don’t have the patience for formal gardening. Don’t tell my friend, Baltimore writer Kathy Hudson, who, among other things, writes a regular feature about beautiful gardens for Style magazine. Kathy and her friend, Penney Hubbard, who In 1969 began to create a garden at her home north of Baltimore which became recognized as one of the finest in Maryland, penned a gorgeous book about the Hubbard garden. I highly recommend On Walnut Hill for transporting us into the garden, through stunning photography and text detailing its beauty in each of the four seasons.

I recently read a post by one of the editors of Well-Schooled, a site for educator storytelling, which I am honored to write for. In her reflection “In the Garden,” Ari Pinkus states: I imagine education as a diverse garden culture where we are the stewards.  This metaphor fits Webster’s definition of a garden as a “rich well-cultivated region,” and its definition of culture as “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.

I love the imagery of education as a garden, planting seeds of learning in our students which we cultivate over time. Teachers, responsible for the care and feeding of their seedlings, transmit knowledge to generations of learners who blossom in vivid color before our eyes.

My Kent School colleague Tricia Cammerzell, is an accomplished poet who writes when she says she has “a quiet mind.” I recently read her poem “In the Garden,” inspired by her own garden and the memories she has of her father working in his garden – transferring his knowledge to her. Gardening and muscle memory combined in a poignant tribute.

These three in the garden reflections have been on my mind for the past two weeks, especially as Kent School’s unparalleled environment for learning is blooming with spring color seemingly overnight. I stopped into The Mill at Kingstown this week to add herbs and flowering plants to my porch. Mother’s Day weekend always signals to me the start of hanging basket and flowering pot season – that is another story, but I am now finally gardening. Well, that is if you can call watering porch plants, gardening.

In addition to the order of potted plants and herbs on my porch, I prefer an impressionist landscape, complete with the messy mix of untamed native plants and grasses growing wildly in unexpected places outside of the porch. I love wildflowers constantly in bloom, untimed, unordered and unburdened by boundaries. This less formal nature culture is also a metaphor for education which values creativity, perseverance, resilience, and grit.

Whether a formal garden or potted plants on the porch are your ideal, this quote from Sitting Bull sums it all up so eloquently.

Behold, my friends, the spring is come;

the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun,

and we shall soon see the results of their love!

Wishing you love in the garden this spring.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Mid-Shore’s First-ever Pride Festival Draws Good Crowds

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Part of the crowd at Pride in the Park May 4 – photo by Jim Bogden

Chestertown’s Fountain Park was packed on Saturday, May 4, for the first-ever Pride event celebrated on the Eastern Shore.

The “Pride in the Park” gathering, which featured speeches, music, and a variety of organizations and vendors, was part of a celebration that extended over the whole weekend and included events in Easton and Cambridge as well as Chestertown. Barbi Bedell, one of the organizers, said that Chestertown Councilman David Foster estimated the crowd at about 300. Welcome mats were placed at each corner of the park to convey the spirit of the occasion.

Volunteers and visitors at the PFLAG booth in Fountain Park Saturday — photo by Peter Heck

Claire Hanson, president of the Mid-Shore chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, opened the ceremonies, thanking the many volunteers and supporters for their work and energy before introducing Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino.

Cerino, noting that the participants were “making history” by participating in the first event of its kind on the Shore, expressed his full support. He noted that many of Chestertown’s leading citizens are gays or lesbians, recognizing their significant contributions to the town’s life and institutions. “Discrimination is never OK for any reason,” he said. He expressed a hope that the Pride celebration could become an annual event, boosting the local economy – and urged attendees to patronize the stores in town. Cerino later entertained the crowd with his guitar and original songs.

Heather Mizeur — photo by Peter Heck

The next speaker was Heather Mizeur, former Delegate and candidate for Governor and owner of a local farm, who described the gathering as “a love festival.” Expanding on that description, she said that pride requires love of one’s self, with the courage to be confident that we all are part of the divine creation. It also involves love of our choices, she said, adding that she was proud to be part of the community as one of a lesbian couple – “I married up,” she said of her partner, Debra. Finally, there is unconditional love – including love for members of the town council who opposed the Pride festival, and others “who struggle to love us.” Mizeur said she looks forward to an era “when there is no more coming out.” She thanked the attendees for showing pride and love, and expressed hope that everyone would have fun.

Drag queen Marti Cummings, a Kennedyville native now living in New York, recalled his grandmother talking about painting the statue in Fountain Park. He thanked the organizers for their support of inclusion and equality. He recalled being told “you’re a monster, you’re disgusting,” turning the remarks around by saying he could now be disgusting with his “family.” The truth is, we’re not disgusting. Look at the person next to you – that’s your family,” he said. Noting the high proportion of young people in the gathering, he said, “this is the future of our county.” He finished by urging the young to run for office, noting that he had recently filed his papers as a candidate for New York’s city council.

After the speeches, the Front Porch Orchestra from Easton provided musical entertainment, opening with the disco anthem, “I’m Coming Out.”

Drag queen Marti Cummings  — photo by Peter Heck

In addition to Cummings, three drag queens from New York were present in Fountain Park. They and three Broadway performers gave a show at Washington College that evening, sponsored by the college’s EROS chapter. Bedell said the event drew a full crowd.

Other events over the weekend included “Paint with Pride” Thursday evening at Kiln Born Creations in Easton, which drew 40 participant; a comedy show, “Call from the GAZE,” by the Graveyard Goonz, Friday evening, which filled the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton; and a Drag Brunch Sunday afternoon in Cambridge. All ticketed events were sold out, said Bedell.

Among the organizations with booths at the festival were the National Music Festival, the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River, YMCA Camp Tockwogh, PFLAG, Trans Healthcon Maryland, the Harford County Health Department, Kent-Queen Anne’s Indivisible, the Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce, MidShore Behavioral Health, Free State Justice, and For All Seasons.

Paint with Pride participants in Easton, Friday night –photo by Jazmine Gibson

Bedell expressed special thanks to all the committee members, including Hanson, Jim Bogden, Lynn Brennan (who organized the Drag Brunch), Tori Pack and Jazmin Gibson (who organized Paint with Pride and the comedy show – and who were married the following weekend), Michele Drostin, who organized a Pride presence at the Easton Multicultural Festival Saturday morning; and about 20 others who helped make the weekend a success.

The festival went off smoothly without disturbances or protests, Bedell said. Plans are already underway for a second Pride festival next year.

The crowd enjoys the music at Pride in the Park — photo by Jim Bogden

PFLAG President Claire Hansen opens Pride in the Park — photo by Peter Heck

 

Tori Pack and Lynn Brennan at the comedy night ticket table — photo by Jazmine Gibson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Cerino, mayor of Chestertown, entertains — photo by Jim Bogden 

 

 

 

 

The Front Porch Orchestra of Easton plays at Pride in the Park — photo by Peter Heck

Social Action Committee Invites Chestertown Council to “Undoing Racism” Workshops

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Annie Squire Southworth of Students Talking About Racism addresses the Chestertown Council, as other members of S.T.A.R. and the Social Action Committee listen

Members of the Kent County Social Action Committee for Racial Justice and of S.T.A.R. – Students Talking About Race – came to the Chestertown Council meeting May 6. After explaining their mission, they invited council members to take part in a workshop on undoing racism, being presented in September.

Ileana Lindstrom, of the Political Action and Education affinity groups, gave a brief summary of the Social Action Committee’s origins and mission. Formed in 2017, the SAC was the offshoot of Undoing Racism workshops given in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties – an experience Lindstrom described as creating a “life-changing” awareness of the place of racism in society. She said the workshops defined racism as the combination of race-based prejudice and institutional power.

Ileana Lindstrom of the Kent County Social Action Committee for Racial Justice

Members of the SAC are committed to taking action, such as analyzing data, tracking the records of elected officials and holding them accountable for their decisions, and offering the organization as ally an and resource to institutions in the community, Lindstrom said. The group “was born to end the oppression of persons of color in Kent County,” beginning with a focus on the political, educational, and criminal justice systems. The groups are also focused on bringing an awareness of the contributions of persons of color to the county’s festivals and other public celebrations.

Lindstrom noted that the SAC recognizes the significant responsibilities that the mayor and council members hold, citing the clause of the town charter that states their mission of protecting and serving the town’s residents and visitors. “We also recognize that you cannot be expected to fulfill these responsibilities alone, individually, or as a sitting mayor and town council,” she said, noting that racism can be traced back to the first interactions of Europeans and Native Americans, along with the long history of slavery, with the first recorded arrival of enslaved Africans in Virginia 400 years ago this August. Observing the difficulty of fighting such a long-established and deeply embedded institution, she said, “We can be effective in dismantling racism in Chestertown and throughout Kent County when we work together with that as our goal.”

Announcing that the People’s Institute of Survival and Beyond will be conducting an Undoing Racism workshop in Kent County Sept. 20-22, she asked for a show of hands of council members willing to participate. Mayor Chris Cerino said he was willing, but that he may have a conflict on those dates. Councilman Marty Stetson said he could not commit to the date so far in advance. Stetson later wrote in an email to the council, which he copied to the press, “My failure to say I was willing to attend had nothing to do with the group or subject but with the fact that I was sure I would not attend. I just didn’t want to say I would attend when I knew I would not be willing to give up another evening.” He added, “It would have been easy for me to raise my hand and just not show up – but dishonest.”

Following up, Lindstrom asked council members if they would receive the Social Action Committee as “a skilled and knowledgeable ally and resource.” All members agreed, though Councilwoman Linda Kuiper asked for examples of “blantant, visible racism that exists in Chestertown.” She said she serves everybody in her ward, regardless of political affiliation or color of skin.

Lindstrom said the students’ presentation that would follow would point to some instances of racism they had experienced. Also, she said, participation in the Undoing Racism workshop would help clarify some of the issues. And she said that members of the Social Action Committee were willing to meet one-on-one with council members to help them understand the issues facing people of color in the community.

Finally, Lindstrom asked council members if they were willing to take part in the SAC’s regular meetings, which are the second and third Tuesdays of the month in Sumner Hall. All said they would be willing, with Councilman David Foster adding that he had already attended meetings.

Paul Tue introduces members of Students Talking About Race at the May 6 Council meeting

Lindstrom then introduced Paul Tue, who with Barbie Glenn was a co-founder of S.T.A.R. Tue briefly outlined S.T.A.R.’s program. Tue then introduced three student S.T.A.R. members who addressed the council.

Riley Glenn summarized the group’s accomplishments since its founding a little over a year ago, beginning with “encouraging uncomfortable conversations,” forming partnerships and taking action to address inequities. The group spoke at and helped organize the March for Our Lives in Chestertown, assisted the Social Action Committee in interviewing candidates in the 2016 local elections, and attended a number of events addressing the issue of racism in the community. She said the students had come to understand that racism has “shaped all of us, and none of us are exempt from its forces.”

Tykee Bryant was the second of the students to speak. He said he sees racism on a daily basis in the school and the community. Black students are punished more harshly for identical offenses. He said he hears racial slurs and comments from fellow students and teachers. Also, Latino students are told not to speak Spanish, even though others are praised for knowing a foreign language when they do so.

The third student to speak was Annie Squire Southworth, who spoke to misconceptions regarding racism. She listed as examples of racism housing discrimination, inequities in pay, mortgage lending, and rates of policing and incarceration in minority communities. “If you refuse to acknowledge that racism is a problem in Kent County, that is racism,” she said. “We are all responsible for ending racism.” She ended by extending her invitation to local leaders to join S.T.A.R. in combatting racism, and to attend the Undoing Racism workshops this fall.

Kuiper asked if the students received training in multicultural competency and diversity as part of their mission. Southworth said that their anti-racism training encompasses all of those issues.

In closing, Lindstrom thanked the council for the opportunity to introduce the Social Action Committee and S.T.A.R. to the council and to explain their programs.

At the conclusion of the meeting, several members of the Social Action Committee spoke from the audience to reinforce the group’s appeal to council members to take positive steps to address racism in the community and to attend the workshops.

RiverArts Minute: Preview of “Visual Storytellers” Exhibition

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A Spy recently tracked done Ronn Akins, RiverArts’ curator, to discuss the May gallery exhibition Visual Storytellers.  Storytelling is vital to making compelling images. Great feats of visual storytelling appear all around us; church windows, works by Norman Rockwell and the published sketchbooks of Leonardo Di Vinci. Visual storytelling tells a story. It uses the power of the visual image to ignite imaginations, evoke emotions and capture universal cultural truths and aspirations. What distinguishes Visual storytelling from other genres is its ability to narrate a story across diverse cultures, preserving it for future generations.

This video is two minutes in length. For more information about RiverArts please go here.

The public is welcome to come to the Gallery talk to hear the Artists tell the stories shown in their Artwork on Thursday, May 9 at  5:30 pm.

Exhibition Dates: May 1 – June 2, 2019
RiverArts 315 High Street, Suite 106 , Chestertown

Where The Wild Things Are — Spy Review by Peter Heck

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The Wild Things sleep in a comfy pile.  –  Photo by Bee Betley

Where the Wild Things Are, based on the iconic children’s picture book, packed the Garfield Center for the Arts last weekend with excited children and proud parents.

Directed by Bee Betley, the play follows a young boy, Max, who gets into trouble for being “out of control” after disrupting his family home while wearing his wolf costume. That night, Max is magically transported to a strange jungle where the Wild Things live – large, furry monsters with claws and horns. After they initially threaten to eat Max, the young boy frightens them, and they accept him as their king – a new experience for them. They celebrate with a “wild rumpus,” but as the night wears on, they begin to become unhappy with Max’s reign.

All the monsters engage in a “wild rumpus” with their new King Max. – Photo by Jane Jewell

The book, published in 1963, featured the author’s own illustrations — which he later said were based on caricatures of his aunts and uncles drawn when he was a young boy. It was recognized almost at once as a classic, being voted the prestigious Caldecott Medal as best children’s picture book of the year. And it has retained its appeal; in 2012 it was voted the best children’s picture book of all times by readers of School Library Journal. It has been adapted several times to other media, including an animated short film in 1973, an opera in 1980, and it was even parodied in an episode of “The Simpsons.”

Betley, whose previous directing credits at the Garfield include last year’s The Little Prince, said in her director’s note that she has always wanted to direct Wild Things. She notes how Max’s awareness of his identity develops as he tries to balance his authority as king of the Wild Things with the desire to please everyone and yet be in charge and get to do whatever he wants. And as Max quickly learns, the job is impossible.

Max in a pensive mood  –  Photo by Bee Betley

The role of Max is key to the entire play, and Lydia Sensenig, acting in her first play, filled the role energetically, running around the stage, sometimes shrieking in frustration when Max can’t get the attention of his mother and sister. She effectively varies her tone, expressions, and body language in harmony with the character’s moods. An excellent job for a young actor, especially one who hasn’t previously been on stage.

John Mann as Carol, the wildest of the Wild Things – Photo by Bee Betley

John Mann, most recently seen in the GCA’s production of Mister Roberts, takes the role of Carol, one of the most powerful Wild Things. Max puts him in charge of building a fort, but Carol throws a tantrum when KW, another Wild Thing, wants to bring two owls she has befriended to the fort. Mann does a good job of showing Carol’s energy and quick changes of mood, projecting a sense of danger that echoes Max’s own anger.

Max in his wolf costume talks with KW and the two owls, Bob and Terry. – Photo by Jane Jewell

KW is played by Georgia Rickloff, who has been a frequent performer in local theater since she played Tiny Tim in the GCA’s Christmas Carol in 2008. Her character, a loner who is often at odds with Carol, is in many ways the most sympathetic toward Max of all the monsters. Rickloff conveys KW’s softer side while at the same time remaining a convincing denizen of the monster realm.

Brother and sister Aaron Sensenig and Lydia Sensinig as Alexander, a Wild Thing, and Max – Photo by Bee Betley

The other Wild Things are not as extreme in their emotions and actions as Carol, though each has their moments. Douglas, a Wild Thing with powerful arms who is something of a peace-keeper, is well played by Mike Heffron. Phebe Wood, a student at Gunston School, takes the role of Judith. Judith frequently argues with Carol and acts out when she doesn’t get her way.  She can be loud and sometimes sarcastic but she, too, can show an unsure and insecure side, which may be why the more mild-mannered Wild Thing Ira, played by Zac Ryan,  is her boyfriend.  The two are “in love,” the other Wild Things tell Max.  Aaron Sensenig (Lydia’s brother) plays Alexander, the youngest and smallest of the Wild Things.  Paul Camberdella has two roles, as one of Max’s teachers and as a bull who lurks on the fringes of the Wild Things.  The bull provides nice comic relief as he doesn’t speak but occasionally snorts or makes other funny noises.  All do a good job in conveying a “family” who alternately laugh and play together, then sulk, argue, or run away.   

Sarah Lyle, also acting in her first play, takes the role of Max’s mom. She shows the mother’s conflicting roles as she tries to give both Max and his sister the support and understanding that they each need while still dealing with her own problems of balancing a job and motherhood.  Izzie Southworth is very believable as Max’s older sister, Claire. Claire is annoyed by her little brother who demands attention while she is on the phone or with her friends. 

Max tries to get his mother’s attention while she is on an important phone call. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Alden Swanson and Zuzu Kusmider do a good job as the other children in Max’s life, at school, and as KW’s owl friends.  The owls are especially funny as they answer questions and give advice, speaking at length in totally unintelligible chirps, squeaks, and squawks.

The very atmospheric music for the play was composed and performed on guitar by the director’s brother Seth Betley, who did a good job of matching the on-stage action with the mood of the music.

The set and costumes for the show, designed and constructed by Bee Betley, were imaginative and a lot of fun. The costumes went a long way toward giving the Wild Things – and Max – their distinctive characters. And the set’s open structure was visually effective while allowing the single setting to serve multiple purposes. The lighting, designed by Nic Carter, was a delightful display of chromatic virtuosity.  The stage was washed with a full spectrum of colors; switching from bright orange to soft blue to pale violet,  following the action and changing moods of the play. 

This is a play about identity, family, friendship, and growing up.  The Wild Things reflect the wild emotions we all feel – the anger, the jealousy, the insecurity, the need for acceptance, for attention, for love.  All the things that make us human.

KW (in back) with Judith and Ira, the two lovers (seated) and Douglas of the mighty arms. – Photo by Bee Betley

Only two quibbles about this otherwise excellent production: the high number of minor scene changes, accompanied by blackouts, did slow the pace of the play somewhat.  And occasionally, the dialogue was hard to understand – several other attendees we spoke to had the same observation.  However, these did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the performance.

Where the Wild Things Are was a stimulating challenge for both cast and crew, and they definitely rose to the occasion.  The performance we saw had a good number of younger audience members – all of whom seemed to enjoy the show as much as the adults. And once again, the performances were a reminder of the wealth of talent in the local community — a fact it is too easy to take for granted.

The production was one weekend only.

Ira, Judith, and Max – Photo by Bee Betley

At school, they learn that the sun will die someday far in the future. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Curtain Call for “Where the Wild Things Are” – Photo by Jane Jewell

The Wild Things huddle with Max to make plans. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Max and his mother in a tender moment – Photo by Jane Jewell

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Poems, People and Leading Your Life by Nancy Mugele

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We all need to read a romance novel once in a while, and I have just read Jill Santopolo’s More Than Words. What I picked up to read quickly last week, at the suggestion of my sister-in-law Tracy, ended up making me think about the journey of life and love for far longer than it took me to read the book.

One of the main characters says something profound early in the book that made me pause and reflect on my family and friends. “I think of people like poems,” he said. “Maybe someone’s a haiku, or a villanelle, or a cinquain, a sonnet – our length and form are predestined, but our content isn’t. And each form has its own challenges, its own difficulties, and its own beauty.”

Or, are poems like people as author Benjamin Alire Sáenz suggested in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. “Poems are like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get – and never would get.”

So true, that there are people you will never understand. And, then, there are those who you understand perfectly. Don’t tell Jim and my children, but I am going to describe them in poetry today with love. But, I better start with myself, so they will not be mad.

Although William Shakespeare made Sonnets famous, the word “sonetto” is actually Italian for “a little sound or song.” This 14 line form has held the heart of poets for centuries, especially one of my favorites, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I think this may be the metaphor for me – Italian, filled with love, a little dramatic, and a bit lyrical.

Jim is definitely Prose Poetry. Although that might seem to be contradictory, prose poems maintain a poetic quality although they appear to be written as prose. I think this describes Jim well. He is straightforward, a person of incredible integrity, and one who always tries to do the right thing. He also likes to talk, tell stories and be social. But, lest he be prose alone, he also has a soft, sensitive poetic side.

Jenna is Haiku. This form of traditional Japanese poetry follows a specific syllable pattern.

It contains three lines, with a total of 17 syllables. Haikus are usually about nature. Jenna is numbers-oriented, ordered, and matter-of-fact, and very serious about her career which is moving upward quickly. She is also our traveller who believes deeply in experiences. And, when I see her trip photographs she always manages to capture nature’s beauty.

Kelsy is a Narrative poem, and thank goodness she is. A narrative poem tells the story of an event in the form of a poem. Kelsy is the family news source, always filling us in on her puppy, her boyfriend, her job, her sister, her brother, her cousins, her lacrosse team and her friends – not necessarily in that order. She also knows everything and anything about pop culture, and can accurately answer any tv, movie or music question you have.

And James, well that one is the easiest – Free Verse – because these poems do not follow any rules. Their style is completely up to the writer. James is living his best life in Montana where he just started his own fly fishing guide business, living his life his way.

In addition to making me think about people as poems, More Than Words focuses on the eternal question – are you leading the life you were meant to lead? (Granted the heroine is involved in a love triangle, not a career choice, but that is another story.)

I decided I wanted to be a Head of School at The Head’s Network Leadership Seminar for Women fifteen years ago. Last weekend I had the honor and privilege to return to this seminar as a member of the faculty. 54 women from across the country who aspire to be school heads converged at The Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, PA for a weekend retreat led by ten female Heads of School. For me, this was a full-circle event in my life, and I feel truly blessed to have been a part of this special weekend. Women uplifting women, and mentoring them along the way. I now have five mentees from schools in OH, PA and TX. I will be asking them in the months to come, are you leading the life you were meant to lead?

I am so fortunate to be leading the life I was meant to lead here in Chestertown, while serving Kent School. I wish the same for my children as they navigate life and love.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Kent Residents Ask Commissioners to End Clean Chesapeake Coalition Funding

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The Conowingo Dam, the main target of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition’s lobbying efforts

By letter, two Kent County residents are asking Commissioners Tom Mason and Bob Jacob to consider terminating the county’s annual $17,000 payment to the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.

“From all available evidence, the Coalition is a lobbying group, not an environmental organization,” according to Bill Herb (Chestertown) and Gren Whitman (Rock Hall). They add: “Before handing the Coalition another $17,000, we ask that you determine what actual, tangible, provable benefits Kent County residents have received from the Coalition’s work since 2013.”

They point out: “On its website, the Coalition goes out of its way to question Watershed Implementation Plans, which hold farmers and landowners responsible for pollution entering the watershed from their properties.”

Since 2013, Kent County has allocated a total of $159,000 to the Coalition.

Herb and Whitman are inviting Mason and Jacob to conduct a public hearing “to test and examine the legitimacy of the Coalition’s claims.”

Because Commissioner Ron Fithian is the Coalition’s chairman, the letter asks for his “recusal from any discussion of this issue” and that he also “abstain from any vote on the Coalition’s funding request.”

Bill Herb is a hydrologist specializing in sediment studies who previously worked with the U.S. Geological Survey in College Park and Towson. He wrote a Spy article examining the Clean Chesapeake Coalition’s efforts in September 2018.

Letter to the Editor: Towns Deserve Tax Relief from County

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Kent County’s budget does not include an annual tax rebate to Chestertown, Rock Hall, Millington, Betterton, and Galena, nor does the county reduce its tax rate for property owners in these municipalities.

By eschewing rebates or tax relief, the County requires the five towns’ taxpayers to pay for certain County services—public safety, public works, planning and zoning—that they do not receive. It’s as simple as that!

Seven of nine Shore counties realize their responsibility to municipal taxpayers. Caroline, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties provide property tax differentials. Cecil and Somerset provide rebates. Worchester provides “grants.” Alone, Kent and Wicomico provide nothing.

Because it collects property taxes for phantom services, Kent County flim-flams all taxpayers in its five municipalities. It’s time for this to stop!

Because Chestertown is home to one-quarter of county residents, it bears the lion’s share of this taxing inequity. Thank you, Mayor Chris Cerino, for forcefully and clearly describing this situation to Kent County’s commissioners and asking them to be fair and just.

Grenville B. Whitman

Rock Hall

 

Environmental Committee Reports to Council

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Darren Tilghman of the Chestertown Environmental Committee

The Chestertown council, at its April 15 meeting, heard an update from the town’s Environmental Committee. Several committee members helped deliver the report, which covered a wide range of activities. Committee member David Sobers handed the agenda to the council and introduced several members for specific sections of the report.

Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer

Tim Trumbauer, the Chester Riverkeeper, reported on activities in the town’s Third Ward, including plans to renovate Louisa Carpenter Park in the Washington Park neighborhood. He said Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver, in whose ward the park is located, had been working with the committee on the project. Trumbauer said the town had issued a Request for Proposals and accepted a bid from David A. Bramble to perform the renovations. He said the contractor had agreed to meet with Tolliver at the park to update him on the project and to address any concerns.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said he believed there was a storm drain at the park buried under more recent construction. He asked if Trumbauer had any information on that. Trumbauer said he had heard there might be such a drain from some 30 years ago, but that it was apparently no longer working. He said the main issue with the park right now was that the contractor had agreed to a specific scope of services, which the committee would talk to them about to see whether it could include working on the drainage. He said there was also a rain garden installed a number of years ago that received water draining from the road, but it was no longer functional.

Also, Trumbauer said that Tolliver had agreed to help the committee find a representative of the Third Ward, so the committee has representatives from each of the town’s four wards. Finally, he said, the committee has adopted membership rules to put itself on a more formal basis than heretofore.

Donald Small, of the Washington College Center for Environment and Society, reported on plans to address compacting issues in the soil at Fountain Park. He said he had exchanged emails with farmers market manager Sabine Harvey to let her know that the Environmental Committee is available to help with suggestions, brainstorming or grant writing. Small said that Harvey is also working with the Chestertown Garden Club, which maintains plantings in the park. He said he hoped the team would have more information in the near future.

Carl Gallegos of the Chestertown Environmental Committee’s tree group

Carl Gallegos, representing the Environmental Committee’s tree group, reported on plans to work with the College’s GIS Center to update its images of the town’s tree cover, determining what percentage of the town is currently covered. He said this would be a step toward assessing where trees need to be planted to reach the committee’s recommended level of 40% tree coverage within the town. He said the committee’s plan was to plant trees of at least 2-inch diameter, doing so over the winter to maximize their chance of survival.

Darren Tilghman gave an update on the town’s project of installing a riverfront walkway downriver from Wilmer Park, through lands now owned by Washington College. She said the main requirement for the project to move forward was “a champion inside the college,” which Greg Farley agreed to take on. She said Farley met with college officials and had reached verbal agreement to move forward with the trail, in partnership with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. “For the Environmental Committee, that is really important. It’s an access issue; we want people not to have to own riverfront property in order to be able to enjoy this river,” she said. She said it was also an economic development issue.

Mayor Chris Cerino asked to what extent the college was on board with the rail trail, for example, whether it was committed to giving the town an easement for a trail. He noted that the college is in the process of selling off excess property, potentially including the armory, so it would be a good idea to get the agreement in place before that property is sold. Tilghman said Farley was working on that end of the project, but she didn’t know whether there had been any specific commitments on the college’s end.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the decision on an easement needed to go before the college’s Board of Visitors and Governors. He said the town had offered as a model an easement given for use of the ground in front of the Custom House for a riverfront walkway between High and Cannon streets. He said the town didn’t expect to get a lot of money from the college, but that it hoped the college would put its planners to work on carving out pathways for the proposed trails, based on the work of the town’s planning commission at the time the college’s new waterfront buildings were approved. He said the next step ought to be a meeting of the committee, the town officials, and the college to work out details.

Tolliver also asked Tilghman for an update on the garden club project at Garnet School. She said the Garnet Good Seeds Garden project is “very close to fully funded,” with a community launch event tentatively planned for May. She said there had been an “amazing” outpouring of support from community businesses, and that work would begin in the summer.

Councilman Marty Stetson asked whether there was a problem with constructing a walking trail over wetlands along the river. Ingersoll said the decision had been made not to extend the trail along Radcliffe Creek, but to end it at the old sewer plant just past the armory. He said the expense of constructing a trail through wetlands was more an issue than any environmental questions.

Tilghman said her group also looked into playgrounds and parks, as a way to get people outside. She said she had worked to activate a group of residents to work toward a grant to raise funds for playgrounds, including one at Garnet Elementary School. She said she was also working toward possibly extending the town’s rail trail.

Also, Tilghman said, the committee had learned that Chestertown is certified as a “Keep America Beautiful” town. She said that if the town can track how much trash is cleaned up from the rail trail, it would help the town keep its certification. Finally, she said the committee would have a presence at the town’s Earth Day festival, April 20, and would be distributing sustainability tip sheets to give residents specific ways to contribute to improving the environment.

Joe Bohle, leader of Cub Scout Pack 253

Also at the meeting, Joe Bohle, leader of Cub Scout Pack #253, asked the council’s permission for his pack to adopt a section of the Gilchrest Rail Trail as a cleanup project. The section chosen is the one running from High Street to the Morgnec Road bypass, through the Washington College campus, and the scouts would perform the cleanups on a Saturday, roughly every three months. Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town would supply trash bags for the cleanup, and would pick up the filled bags.

In his regular report, Ingersoll also outlined the schedule for the town’s budget discussions, which he would begin with a “very preliminary” meeting April 23. Worship sessions would take place on May 7 and 14, with the budget resolution to be formally introduced at the May 20 council meetings. “As usual, the budget looks like it’s going to be challenging,” he said. He noted that the town was approaching the county commissioners for a tax differential or a rebate to offset town residents’ taxes for services for which the county bills them but which are provided by the town, such police protection, water and sewer, planning and zoning, and so forth. Cerino said he thought the commissioners were more likely to offer a tax differential, which would benefit property owners in town but would not add anything directly to the town’s budget.

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