Comfort Zones by Nancy Mugele

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From the first time I watched The Wizard of Oz as a young girl, I vowed never to get into a hot air balloon. I was more afraid of the balloon than the Wicked Witch of the West – or her monkeys. Why fly in an unsteerable aircraft subject to the whim of the winds, when you can simply click your heels together and find your way safely home. Seriously, hot air balloons truly frightened me. While I was not really afraid of the experience of “flying” – I became consumed with panic when I thought about the actual landing.

I was convinced that hot air balloons were not safe. After all, the heated air inside the balloon is propelled by an open flame of burning liquid propane. Seems like a recipe for disaster. And, then there is the woven wicker basket – the only thing holding you in, and holding you up. No, thank you.

Last weekend I snuck away to Napa with Jenna and Kelsy for the first of, I hope many, Mugele Girls Weekends. Yes, you guessed it. I was pressured to take a hot air balloon ride. Jenna made me do it, and she was the birthday girl who made the reservation, so I could not back out. I was petrified.

On a regular basis, we tell our students at Kent School not to be afraid to take risks. We push them out of their comfort zones with challenging academics, performing and visual arts exhibits, physical education and athletics, outdoor educational experiences on the water, overnight trips and class-bonding trust exercises. Now it was time for me to take the advice I give students and expand my own personal boundaries.

On the morning of the scheduled sunrise balloon trip, we arrived at the location in the dark. As a result, we did not notice the heavy fog sitting on top of the Napa Valley. Balloons cannot fly in fog so we were given the choice to drive 45 minutes away where the balloons would be able to fly. We decided to go, although it meant we would view the sunrise from large windows in passenger vans, and it also meant more time for me to obsess about the balloon ride and the subsequent landing.

Our balloon operator literally looked like Professor Marvel. He had been flying balloons for 28 years which was a comfort to me. Despite the fact that the basket did not have a door, meaning we had to climb into our compartment, all I can say is that the flight was magical. The scenery was breathtaking as we gently floated over the terrain. It was peaceful and the ride was silky smooth. The landing, well, that is another story. Thankfully there is no video. I may have screamed a bit, but I conquered my fear. I cannot describe the feeling of completing a task that I had never in my life ever expected to do. It felt incredibly joyful. There was an adrenaline rush I had not experienced in a long time and it was so exhilarating. I think my daughters were just as excited as I was that I went on the ride, exited the basket (with a little help), and was standing to tell the story.

I saw the same joyful expressions on my students’ faces this week in photographs from Middle School Chesapeake Bay Studies trips with Sultana Education Foundation and Echo Hill Outdoor School. There is truly nothing better than stretching yourself in a safe place. Whether in the classroom or in an outdoor classroom, research indicates that deeper learning happens when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

In Napa, I also popped a cork off a bottle of champagne by slicing through the bottle top with a saber à la Napoleon Bonaparte, who famously said, “In victory, you deserve champagne; in defeat, you need it.” I even received a certificate for mastering the art of sabrage, which I plan to display. Another out-of-comfort-zone experience I will savor for a long time. Cheers!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

A Republican’s View of Jesse Colvin and His Candidate For Congress by Philip Webster

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I am a lifelong Republican, as was my father before me, but I am now working hard to elect Jesse Colvin, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the First Congressional District of Maryland.

I have decided it is time to place Country before Party in the First District race. For nearly eight years, I have been baffled and disillusioned by the policy positions, votes, behavior and affiliations of Rep. Harris. The list is endless: His membership in the Freedom Caucus that has been obstructionist rather than helpful; his support for foreign leaders who are not America’s friends; his positions and statements on the Bay, the environment, healthcare reform, the truthfulness of the media, trade, immigration, aid for natural catastrophes and gun violence; his lack of leadership in the Congress, where he is held in such lack of regard that no one has made him a Committee leader; and his lack of any major legislative initiative during his entire tenure.

I am bothered by Rep. Harris’ invisibility to his constituents, either in person or in communications. He seems scared of us. I have met, seen or spoken to eight American presidents – Democrats and Republicans – in my public affairs career. But I never see Rep. Harris, who seems almost never to leave his office, particularly to visit the Eastern Shore. And his communications to his constituents is either non-existent or baffling.

So I have now decided it is time to put Country before Party as far as my Congressman is concerned. I have also decided it is time to begin to vote for individuals who are committed to public service, rather than their own self-interest, regardless of what race, gender, background and political party they belong to.

Which brings me to Jesse Colvin, with whom I have spent several hours, in person, in give and take sessions with his future constituents, and on the telephone chatting about policy and issues. I like what I see.

First, I like Jesse’s background. He graduated from a top and tough school – Duke University – which is a very competitive place in which to succeed. He decided not to chase the big corporate dollars and did what few Duke graduates do, entering the U.S. Army and a life of service to his country, doing four tours in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger officer fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban. He returned to Columbia University to learn how policies are made, and then investigated fraud and other illegal activity on Wall Street.

Second, I like Jesse’s innate and engrained leadership traits and his sense of service. As an Army veteran, I understand what serving with others from all backgrounds in sometimes dangerous situations is like. It is a transforming experience that builds leaders. We need more young veterans in Congress. They have “the right stuff”.

Third, I like Jesse’s attributes. He is modest with self-deprecating humor. He is smart as a whip, incisive in his thinking. He listens to you before he talks. He cares about your problems and issues. He is a moderate person, as are most of my Republican, Democratic and Independent friends in the First District. He believes in compromise and getting things done. While he is running as a Democrat, he is really running as a non-partisan American.

Fourth, I like Jesse’s values. He has learned to run at the problem, not away from it. He is action- and results-oriented. He is not focused on criticism or ideology, but on finding solutions that help his constituents and help his country. He will lead with strength and compassion, something you learn when you are at war. He is honest and truthful. He is a family man, smart enough to marry a Republican woman who is a leader in her own right, and now a young father, with a big stake in assuring the next generation enjoys America’s freedoms and opportunities.

I am finding many disenchanted Republicans and Independents, who are joining me in supporting Jesse Colvin, a candidate many have called a Servant Leader, one who will serve his constituents and his country through enlightened non-partisan leadership, not self-interest. I encourage my First District neighbors to join us.

Philip J. Webster of St. Michaels has been the Eastern Shore Chairman, Trustee or Committee Chair of the Avalon Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Sultana Education Foundation, Aspen Wye Fellows, Christ Church – St. Michaels, Aspen Institute Wye River Campus, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Miles River Yacht Club Foundation, Chesapeake Music and ShoreRivers. He was an officer of three New York Stock Exchange-listed companies and two international consulting firms.

IMAGINE by Nancy Mugele

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Labor Day Weekend, made a day longer by the preceding Friday, my final summer holiday and Jim’s birthday, was a fabulous whirlwind four days of food, family,  friends and fun. Kelsy flew in from Nashville and Sara, her college roommate and one of her closest friends from Ocean City, joined us. Jenna drove over from the Western Shore, braving the holiday traffic, so that we could all enjoy a crab feast from Chester River Seafood. My friend Emily, who is an incredible baker, made the strawberry layer cake that marked the occasion of Jim’s birth, and we toasted with some treats from the Chester River Wine and Cheese Co. and Pip’s.

James could not make it back on a very busy fly fishing weekend in Montana but he called Jim for his birthday with a story that touched our hearts. A few days before James had taught an older gentleman named Walt how to cast a fly rod on land and then took him out on the water. The conditions on the river the day they ventured out were not great for a veteran angler, let alone a beginner. It was windy and the water was rough. Walt was having trouble maneuvering in the water and as James grabbed his arm to steady him, Walt informed James that he had stage four cancer and had just had chemo on his leg, so that was why he was having trouble with his footing. It was a bucket list item for Walt to catch a fish on a fly. His friends had told him that was one wish he would never achieve, because it takes years to learn to fly fish. Yet, with James at his side, the man was able to cast on his own, and he caught his very first fish on a fly – a beautiful rainbow trout. He hugged James after he caught his fish, and again as he released his fish, and they took several photographs. James knows that he will never see Walt again, but the interaction touched his heart forever.

Connections to family, friends, and sometimes strangers, give purpose and meaning to our lives, often in ways we can’t even imagine. On Sunday, my nephew Matt, his wife and their three young children, visited from Minnesota. They have a new baby daughter and it was my first time meeting her. I snagged the first cuddle after her afternoon nap and I am still smiling as I think about our visit. Our niece, Amanda, arrived from Boston and we celebrated the closeness of family and the gifts of love and friendship that we so dearly treasure. There was also a little of the old familiar button-pushing amongst cousins, yet it felt as magical as Christmas Eve (which is definitely another story).

As our festive holiday weekend drew to a close I began to prep for the opening of the academic year at Kent School. For me and my fellow educators, September is our January. So, Happy New Year! The promise of a new academic year brings clean slates, new challenges, resolutions – and all of the same excitement of January. September in schools is a time when anything, and everything, is possible.

I have always wondered why we sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve. The Scottish song written by poet Robert Burns in 1788 means “times gone by.” With all due respect to my Scottish friends, I believe that at the very start of the New Year, or on the First Day of School, we should be singing about the times yet to come. This month at Kent School we will do both. The 2018 – 2019 academic year marks the 50th Anniversary of Kent School. We will gather on September 28 at an All School Convocation where we will honor our past, and the visionary individuals who built the solid foundation on which we stand today, as we also celebrate our bright future. 50 golden years is a huge milestone! I hope you will join us at some of our events!

Kent School is also my family. I thought about each and every student during Labor Day Weekend with fondness and was excited to welcome them back to school on Tuesday. It was a really wonderful week on our campus as friends reconnected and new relationships were forged. Kindness is at the heart of the Kent School experience past, present and future. This year we will continue our work with Character Counts!, Harvard University’s Making Caring Common initiative and also spend time learning about disability awareness with Changing Perspectives. Building empathetic and kind leaders is at the core of our mission and I am inspired each and every day by the work going on in our classrooms.

I have chosen the word IMAGINE as the theme for this academic year and our learning community will spend time to IMAGINE what Kent School can be in its next 50 years.  Pablo Picasso, the Spanish painter, sculptor, poet and playwright, said:

Everything you can IMAGINE is real.

Indeed.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

We Are SOS: Saving Our Schools for Future Generations by Jodi Bortz

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We are SOS

We are the moms.

And the dads.

We are citizens concerned for the economic future of our County.

We are parents fighting for the best possible education for our children.

We are SOS.

We came together in 2015, a small group of parents who decided to ask if our County could be doing better—to put its best foot forward, to make the most of present opportunities, to optimize economic growth, and to invest in the schools responsible for educating its future.

We gathered questions and sought answers. We did our research, poring over budgets, comparing Kent County’s spending practices and priorities to those of other counties, talking directly with members of the School Board, and appealing directly to our County Commissioners to explain their thinking—all in the interest of gaining a clear and transparent understanding of how our county conducts its business.

Our conclusion was that, as much as Kent County is doing well, there are definite areas in which we could be doing better. It has been the mission of SOS to serve as an information and advocacy resource for others who are interested in knowing how our county functions—and how certain targeted changes might propel us toward an even brighter future.

There is considerable interest in the issues we have explored and the information we provide.

After 2 short years, our Facebook group is 1,400 members strong. Our members are parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, former teachers, former students, and anyone else with an interest in the positive promotion of Kent County Public Schools. We strive to be a reliable source for anyone in search of accurate information—from school policies to annual budgets to what time school ends on an early dismissal day. We have spent countless hours over the last few years providing answers to specific questions, connecting people to resources, informing the community about important meetings and events, sharing stories of student success, and promoting our schools to new families.

We do this every day. Because our schools are run by people who care deeply about the children of this county, and they deserve the best support we can offer.

But that is not all we do…

We have designed, printed, and distributed materials for realtors to use for promoting our schools to families considering a move to Kent County.

We have raised more than $9,000 in two years through our Random Acts of Kindness campaign—funds that help fill unfortunate gaps in school funding. Additionally, we promote the fundraisers our County’s teachers’ must run in order to purchase the supplies they need to meet their students educational needs.

We have spearheaded a parent letter-writing campaign to Governor Hogan in support of our Board of Education’s request for gap funding for our schools.

During last year’s bus crisis, we created the Facebook equivalent of a phone tree that parents could use to safely and securely share information about what time their child had been picked up and when the next house could expect the bus. We provided this service for every school in our County, every morning and afternoon for several weeks until the bus issues were resolved.

One of our founders is a team leader for Strong Schools Maryland, a grassroots State advocacy group that meets with State representatives and promotes the importance of the Kirwan Commission findings.

Another of our founders is a parent representative for SECAC, the Special Education Citizen’s Advisory Committee. Having a special needs child gives her the experience and knowledge needed to be a powerful advocate for parents of special needs children throughout our district.

Another of our founders is running for a seat on the Kent County Board of Education—motivated by a desire to contribute her data-minded approach to the decision-making process that will determine the future of our schools (and the future of our children).

We attend County Commissioner meetings whenever we’re not busy attending soccer games or helping our kids with homework or running our small businesses. We bring our kids with us sometimes if we can’t get a sitter. We have created a video archive of these meetings so that anyone who wants to be a part of our county government process by staying informed can view them.

We go to Board of Ed meetings and learn about all the incredibly positive things that our schools and students are doing and share that information with our Facebook community. We also share the struggles that our schools are facing without adequate funding, so that people can vividly understand the liabilities of our Commissioners’ current funding priorities.

We do not get paid to do any of this. We do this because we care. We do this because the need is urgent. We do this because we see a way forward that includes a well-funded, prosperous school system. We do this because good schools benefit not just our families, but because an educated community benefits everyone that lives in it. And because a thriving (and well-regarded) public school system is an instrumental component to putting Kent County’s foot forward as we endeavor to stimulate business growth, attract new families, and thrive in decades to come.

If you have ever been a parent who would never miss an opportunity to do what was best for your kids and your community, then you are SOS, too.

Jodi Bortz is a board member of SOS and the Support Our Schools Initiative. For more informatione please visit our website www.kcpssos.com or Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/kentcountyschooldistrictparents/

 

East or Eastern by Nancy Mugele

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Last week I finally explored Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge with one of my oldest and dearest friends (see my previous column). I had been meaning to go since I moved to Chestertown for three reasons. First, it would give me a better perspective on my dear Chester River; secondly, it provides a very special outdoor learning opportunity for Kent School Third Graders so I wanted to experience it for myself; and most importantly, I was hoping to learn if the correct name was East or Eastern Neck, as I have heard both.

From its website: “Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, is a 2,286-acre island sanctuary established in 1962 for migratory birds, at the confluence of the Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay. Eastern Neck refuge supports a wide variety of habitats including brackish marsh, natural ponds, upland forest, and grasslands. The refuge holds the designation of Important Bird Areas by the Audubon Society. Over 240 bird species visit the refuge along with small mammals and many other wildlife species. The refuge offers expansive views of the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay along seven different trails.”

My favorite path was the Bayview Butterfly Trail known for its Monarch Butterfly garden and complete with fields of black-eyed Susans stretching to the Bay. We saw more butterflies than I have seen on the butterfly bush in my yard, or at the Kent School Monarch Waystation, and the views of Baltimore and the Bay Bridge were stunning on the clear day of our visit. It was a small cottage near the garden, however, that drew our attention and caused us to want to learn more about the island’s history.

From signage in the refuge: In the 1950s a developer bought a large tract and subdivided it into 293 small lots for a housing development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responding to concerns over the development expressed by the local community, acquired the entire island between 1962 and 1967 to preserve its valuable wildlife habitat. The Cape Chester House was the only house ever built in the “Cape Chester” subdivision. I appreciate that the first house was also the last house, as it would be hard to imagine a large housing development on this unique waterfront parcel.

The property has a long and storied past dating to 1658 when Colonel Joseph Wickes, an early settler on Kent Island, and his partner Thomas Hynson, were granted tracts until they owned all of Eastern Neck Island by 1680. The foresight to preserve it, ultimately as a destination for waterfowl hunters, belongs to a group of investors who established the East Neck Rod and Gun Club in the early 1920s, which later became Cedar Point Farm in 1928 and finally the Cedar Point Club in 1934. In a coincidence that connects Kent School, I learned after my outing that Amos Waterfield, the great-grandfather of our Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Jen Anthony Matthews ‘01, was a renowned guide who significantly improved the hunting experience of members when he managed the club beginning in 1925. It was also members of the Cedar Point Club who, together with a group of like-minded New Yorkers, developed the initial plans for Ducks Unlimited.

Today, farming, fishing, hunting and bird watching still occur on the refuge, and all activity is meant to protect the natural resources and support the needs of the wildlife. Thankfully, this incredible ecological treasure in our backyard will continue to remain open to the public. On the day of my visit, the news was released that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hiring a new manager, after announcing earlier this summer that they lacked the funding. Thanks to the Friends of Eastern Neck for their efforts to keep access open to the refuge. Kent School sent a letter, as requested by this group, detailing what the refuge means to our students, and we were planning for a student letter-writing effort in September which, happily, will no longer be necessary.

I never really learned if East Neck or Eastern Neck are interchangeable, but exploring the island, with its beautiful quietness and its untouched vistas, made me think of these lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Patience Taught by Nature:”

And still the generations of the birds sing through our sighing,

and the flocks and herds serenely live while we are keeping strife.

I cannot wait to go back at Thanksgiving time to observe the tundra swans.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

Double Taxation as Seen Through a Kent County Crab Fest by David Foster

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I have really appreciated the great coverage provided by the Chestertown Spy to help more residents understand the issues of Double Taxation and Tax Differentials in Kent County. Unfortunately, the response from many candidates for County Commissioner has been: “We understand that you think the current situation is unfair and we would love to help but we just don’t have the money.” With this in mind, I would like to put this discussion into the context of another local institution – A Kent County Crab Fest:

Imagine for the moment that you and your friends are headed out to a local crab house for a wonderful dinner. Imagine, also, that the good friends joining you include folks not only from Betterton, Chestertown, Galena, Millington and Rock Hall but also from many other fine areas of Kent County outside of those incorporated towns. 

When you enter the restaurant you all pay the same price for your meal (just as all Kent County residents currently pay the same county property tax rate, regardless of location). Unfortunately, when the food arrives, you soon notice that while those who live outside the town limits receive a full crab dinner with all the trimmings; those who live within an incorporated town receive a few breadsticks, perhaps an ear of corn and maybe some Old Bay seasoning – but NO Crab!

When you ask the waiter: “Where’s my crab?” The proprietor politely responds: “We’d love to help you but we just don’t have the money.” “Since you live in a municipality, if you want crab, you will have to pay double, just as you already do for public safety and for street repair.”

So: The next time you see your favorite candidate for County Commissioner (or State Delegate or State Senator) and you don’t have time for a lengthy discussion, just ask: Where’s the Crab?” and pretty soon, they’ll get your drift.

David Foster,

Chestertown, Town Council

What Friends Are For by Nancy Mugele

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Don’t tell anyone but sometimes I spend my free time watching “Friends” marathons on TV. I believe that the “Friends” ensemble was exceptional in their day. “Modern Family” is right up there with “Friends” now, but I have been watching “Friends” since the series began in 1994. By then I had three small children, and I made sure they were all in bed before my show began. “Friends” reminded me of my time in NYC in the 1980s – working an entry level job, living paycheck to paycheck, spending as much time as possible with friends, and, of course, drinking lots of coffee in the corner coffee shop.

The six cast members became my friends during the show’s ten-year run and I cried during its final episode. But, by the time Monica and Chandler got married in the last season in 2004, a young entrepreneur and his friends were launching Facebook, and friendship and social connection would be forever changed.

In the past few years I have found my three oldest and dearest friends on Facebook – one whom I have known since birth, as our mothers were pregnant together, and we lived in a three-family house in Boston; one whom I met in the 7th Grade and who was my best friend throughout junior high and high school; and one who was my maid of honor and partner in crime in NYC and who now lives in Paris. Sadly, we had lost touch through the years while life was happening, but thankfully, we have reconnected with the help of Facebook. I have visited with two of the three in person in the past few years, and one literally just found me last week! Plans for a visit are definitely in the works.

As of January 2018, Facebook had more than 2.2 billion monthly active users (Wikipedia). The company has certainly been under scrutiny this year for privacy issues, fake accounts and false news that is being spread on their platform. Many users have left – Jim included – because of the mean-spirited political rhetoric coming from both sides, but that is another story. To me, Facebook, at its core, is good.

Helping friends connect is important for the well being of humans. In case you missed it, this past Sunday was International Friendship Day and according to many recent studies “people who have strong social relationships tend to live longer than those who don’t” (Social Relationships and Mortality Risks, 2010). Although, however great our networks may be on Facebook or other social media sites, our inner circle is much smaller. “The average American trusts only 10 to 20 people” (Segregation in Social Networks Based on Acquaintanceship and Trust, 2011). And, that number may be declining. “From 1985 to 2004, the average number of confidants that people reported having decreased from three to two” (Social Isolation in America, 2006). The important piece here is that we need some one, or a handful of people, with whom we can share our innermost hopes, dreams and fears.

In “How to Make Friends, According to Science’ by Ben Healy in The Atlantic last week, “Reviving dormant social ties can be especially rewarding. Reconnected friends can quickly recapture much of the trust they previously built, while offering each other a dash of novelty drawn from whatever they’ve been up to in the meantime.” I can attest that this is true! You can pick up where you left off in the trust department and the catching-up is nostalgic, heartwarming and just plain fun. After all, what are friends for?

At Kent School one of the essential pillars of our school philosophy is Friendship. We name it and intentionally find ways for multi-aged groups of students to play, solve problems and share meals together. We believe that friendships are crucial to social and emotional development and we encourage friendships across grade levels and outside of established friend groups. Friends respect each other’s differences and celebrate them at Kent School. That’s what friends are for.

This summer, I have taken a selfie with my three closest friends. I realized recently that my adult children have become great friends whom I enjoy spending time with. In the past month thanks to vacations and a conference on mind, brain and education science for school, I have visited with each of them. From Montana to Baltimore to Nashville, I have hugged James, Jenna, and Kelsy in the span of 30 days and that fills me with immense joy.

Visit with your friends, make a new friend, connect with an old one or just spend time with your children – the happiness it brings will be great for your heart and soul.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

Rebuttal: Man O’War Shoals Op-Ed Intentionally Deceptive by Robert Newberry

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Here are some short and to the point facts that need to be printed on Marc Castelli’s Spy op-ed article regarding Man O’War Shoals:

1. The writer of this article evidently does not know the difference between fake news and what he has presented as intentional deception. It appears the majority of his comments have been taken way out of context.

2. The area that he refers to at Man O’War Shoals is only a small portion of the bar and will not affect the sanctuary portion or the so-called planted area of that bar.

3. Do state that 5 million bushels is insignificant in Oyster restoration is absolutely ludicrous. At the present time our money in the industry is being spent on under a hundred thousand bushels a year from Virginia, with some excellent seed from Virginia and also some not so favorable spat on shell from local producers here in Maryland. This may be a five-year project, but one has to start somewhere and modification will occur on this permit through the course of dredging. So to downplay the five million bushels appears to all of us that the writer has other intentions of where the money should be spent.

4. For the writer to say that the MWA and the MOA have supported this dredging program since 2006 is not truthful. First of all the MOA was not established until 2007. I know this because myself, and 3 other gentlemen from Kent County and a lobbyist from Annapolis met in the back room of PE Pruett’s restaurant in Rock Hall to start this organization. I never remember seeing the writer at any of these meetings. And most important of all, the MWA does not support the dredging of man o war Shoals and has stated this in public meetings and in public comment. Every other watermen’s group around the state and specifically on the Eastern Shore firmly support the dredging of man o war Shoals. Even the largest group on the Eastern Shore Talbot County used the non-support of MWA on Man O War Shoals as the main reason they are no longer affiliated with them.

5. To say that DFA piggybacks on the success of MWA and MOA is another comment made by the writer of purposeful deception. DFA is comprised of leaders not followers, and has set the bar on many occasions over the past several years on issues concerning the Chesapeake Bay and the seafood industry. This is only been met with opposition both publicly and behind curtains from both of these organizations. One must ask themselves where are they on all the current issues of Bay health and the seafood industry. We hear hardly anything out of them. Many Waterman don’t even know who the MOA is or what they do. The DFA attends meetings such as the ASMFC, MID ATLANTIC COUNCIL,G.I.T. CHESAPEAKE BAY PROGRAM, AND ALL THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEETING OF THE BAY COMMISSION.

We hardly ever see anybody from these two groups at these meetings, and specifically have never seen the MOA at any of these meetings. So how can one piggyback on these associations when they have no back at all??

6. The one thing that the writer of this article does accomplish is that he drives a wedge of division between all user groups in Maryland through this article. At DFA we understand it is very important for all of us to work together on issues concerning the seafood industry in Maryland and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. To have this writer, once again set forth his wedge driving comments is disgusting. Once again purposeful deception is being used. The MWA recently had a vote among their executive board to have nothing to do with DFA. On many occasions DFA is extended the olive branch over the past years to this group only to have it returned with bad news all over it.

We still stand firm in saying that we all must work together, but as proven recently on an issue in the st. Mary’s River, this group continues to undermine everything that DFA does with its members to benefit the commercial Seafood industry in Maryland. DFA still hopes that all of us can join together as one common voice, and this is evident by the information that we put out not only on our website but to other organizations involved in the seafood industry in Maryland.

In summary, it is easy enough to say that we all must work together and stop listening to these people that want to drive a wedge of division amongst us for their own personal gain. Maybe this writer of this article should make his living working with the seafood industry full time and put down his brushes and stop painting his dirty picture of our industry and those that are working to make it better.

Robert Newberry is the chair of Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc.

Updated: WBOC TV, Man O War Shoals, and False News by Marc Castelli

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Non-aligned journalism is even more important in these days of “fake-news” and presidentially personal news services. Recently a Maryland television station, WBOC, allowed itself to be used by several organizations for their own purposes of self-promotion.

The article/segment was about the watermen trumpeting a hard-won decades-long victory in winning the rights to dredge for oyster shell on Man O War Shoals in the upper Bay. The piece featured a fair amount of false information, outright manufactured news and blatantly misleading self-promotion.

The world of news is increasingly fast-paced these days. Social media has made fact-checking time consuming which makes accurate reporting difficult. But that should never be an excuse for not exercising due diligence when reporting. The segment that was in dire need of fact-checking by the all too trusting reporter included some alarming misdirections. I will list the errors in the video segment below.

The oyster bar known as Man O War shoals is not just a sanctuary. Only a portion of that shoal is a sanctuary. The implication that watermen will now be allowed to dredge shell from a sanctuary is dangerously misleading and to do so is illegal.

The public needs to realize that the 5 million bushels of shell that will be dredged as a short-term 5-year experiment is not a lot of shell. This is even more apparent when that amount is to be divided up among sanctuaries, aquaculture, and the oyster industry.The spokesman for the newcomer organization, “Delmarva Fisheries Association” (DFA), Mr. Tom Bradshaw made the “victory” sound as if it was solely the result of his organization’s “decades-long” hard work.

DFA has been around for a little over three years. The struggle for renewing a shell dredge permit was started by Delegate Tony O’Donnell in 2006 at an Oyster Advisory Commission meeting, with the full support of the Maryland Waterman’s Association (MWA), and the Maryland Oystermen Association (MOA). For those two organizations, it has been a long struggle. Not by any definition a decades-long fight. The state legislature mandated the permit application; it is the law. It has been pared down by many environmental stakeholders to its current incarnation of a 5-year study to record the effects of shell dredging. It is not a permit for widespread dredging of shell from Man O War or any other bar in perpetuity.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s assertion that the process is not cost effective is reveals that CBF will complain as loudly as the media will allow when it feels that any funding not coming its way is misspent. The funding for the Man O War shell dredge experiment comes from several sources of which only a portion is from the Obama mandated Chesapeake Restoration Bill. Information that comes from the experiment fits the need for restoring the bay.

The CBF’s assertion that their plan of concrete balls for oyster bar restoration is the best technique for alternate substrates is not the solution. It is at best a cynical plan to deny any bar that has such devices planted on it to be permanently removed from any future active management plan that might be better and more cost effective.
The images of successful concrete oyster bar restoration are misleading. Using photos to survey an oyster bar is at best subjective. It can be an exercise in smoke and mirrors. The business that performs the surveys needs to explain to the public how it conducts the surveys and how “scientific” they actually are.

I will address the errors in the written portion below.

Despite assertions made to the contrary, no shell will be dredged from either sanctuary portions or from planted areas.

The erroneous self-promotion by DFA expressed in the video segment was also repeated in the written article accompanying the video. DFA has not been around for decades. It piggybacked its “success” on the many years of efforts carried out by MWA. and the MOA. It is unfortunate that all the hard and steady efforts of the MWA. and the MOA were purposefully ignored by the DFA. Restoring the oyster industry is an effort carried on by many organizations and will need to be so for many years to come.

The dredge permit approval is only for a five year scientifically monitored experiment with very limited dredging allowed.

The seed and shell programs erroneously credited to the watermen by the DFA. have been state programs that were conducted with the industry’s co-operation along with the use of industry gear and boats. Those programs were halted in 2006 with CBF, CCA. approval and backed up by the past O’Malley/Griffin administration.

Once again, CBF oversimplified the costs effectiveness of the project. The funding is multi-sourced. A majority of the shell will go to the sanctuaries, as that protocol is the most funded. I have a hard time imagining anyone would object to increasing the already large amount of scientific information about the effects of shell dredging. This is even more obvious when with some more in-depth journalism the public would see that the project has been planned and reviewed many times to reduce the amount of any envisaged damages.

For more information, please refer to the D.N.R. 72-page explanation of the permit.

http://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/Pages/oysters/permit-applications.aspx
http://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/Documents/Attachment_1-Man_O_War_Application_revFeb2017.pdf

The 2017 February review is the most recent. You will find all of the known science, maps, and the many missing facts from the article/video and in the CBF statements about the project. It’s all there for foundations, stakeholders, and citizens to read and for journalists to be better able to inform the public. I am constantly puzzled by the media’s lack of effort to get the facts from as many sources as possible. The reporter in this instance should have gone to the DNR for cross-checking the information presented by the CBF and DFA.

Marc Castelli is an artist who lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Addendum 

This column is a more detailed piece about the Man O War issue as it was presented to the state legislature during the last session in Annapolis. It deals with the apparent willingness of two specific groups to ignore the facts when presenting testimony to the House Environmental Matters and Education Committee. Most alarming is the ready acceptance of the legislators to just let the falsehoods slide without questioning their sources.

 

Oyster shell. Who knew? It once was used for driveways, ornamental garden borders and many other purposes that denoted its lack of importance in the grand scheme of things. Shell is now an obvious finite resource. It is the best substrate for any oyster projects, replenishment or restoration, for the combined reasons that oyster larvae prefer it to other substrates on which to strike or attach, and it is a natural material that matches the composition of every oyster bar in Maryland. Now it is a resource being fought over by all stake holders. Much has been made of this issue in the media, and in testimony before the legislature.

I hope to clear the waters by writing about the continuing misinformation about the dredging of shell from Man O War Shoals.

Why should the truth be important in the contentious arena of oyster politics?  Few subjects can bring out the hyperbole like oysters. Why should the public care if the most visible apex environmental foundation consistently mispresents the facts about oysters when testifying before the house Environment and Educational Matters Committee, as long as the rhetoric tickles the ear?  How is it that those Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) policy makers with PhDs are openly indifferent to the facts?

Why should the public care when one of the most heavily funded national sports fishing associations Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) backs its Maryland chapter and allows it to castigate the public fishery in testimony about Maryland’s resource issue? Why should voters be concerned that many delegates on that committee apparently don’t care they are being misled? Oyster issues are not as simple as the CBF and CCA would like you to believe. When simplifying issues, it becomes easier to overlook many connected aspects, of which one important part is the human cost. Over the years the CBF has sought to simplify the issues into “silos” for its members and the public. This is a great disservice to its membership and to the interested public. It seems the phony war is now over and the policy directors along with other groups are waging war on watermen. CBF policy pays lip service about respecting the lives, industry and culture of the commercial fishery as represented by watermen. That voice is now silent.

This bill to prohibit shell dredging did not get out of committee and failed to pass. That doesn’t excuse those who testified with falsehoods. Facts are hard things and do not go away. This bill’s sole intent was to stop a legally mandated project to grant a permit to further understand what happens to an oyster bar when shell dredging is done to it. There is already an abundance of information on this subject. If shell is the driving issue for the oyster issues in Maryland such knowledge is tantamount to solving the problem of dwindling amounts of shell.

So, I will go over the purposefully misrepresented testimony from CBF and CCA for HB1455 that would have prohibited the legally mandated dredging of oyster shell.

All arguments about dredging for shell, pro or con at this point are mostly academic. Yes, there are informed studies and if the proponents of the bill had bothered to read them, as I have, they might have decided to let what is in reality a 5-year controlled experiment continue. This bill is the last remnant of a series of events that started with the end of the longstanding shell program in 2006 due to special interest group opposition based on uninformed rhetoric, followed by a DNR resistant to restarting the program, that then resulted in Del O’Donnell submitting a bill to force the O’Malley/Griffin/Oyster Committee DNR to apply for a permit to restart the program, which now has resulted in HB1455 seeking to end it all again. That started in 2009 at an Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) meeting. It has eventually been distilled to just dredging for shell on Man O War in a five-year experiment. DNR, in my view, is only doing its legally bound duty in standing by this permit renewal. The reluctance is probably based on the fact that such shell dredging is at best a short-term solution. The department answered over 40 very detailed Corps of Engineer questions. Much of the information requested by the Corps was just not available. When the first set of questions were answered as best as possible the Corps came back with even more questions and again many were as equally unanswerable. DNR persisted, as seen in the summaries of various Oyster Advisory Commission meetings. Clearing the way for the permit to dredge will provide the means to have solid evidence about the effectiveness of shell dredging and how such a procedure affects an oyster bar. Till we have such evidence any discussion will be fraught with hyperbole, half-truths and falsehoods. Wouldn’t it be better to be able to move ahead with fact based constructive conversations that can produce workable programs?

The bill in its entirety can be found in the state archives. All testimony is available in the video archives also. I will first present the claims made in testimony by the CBF and CCA and then the verifiable facts about Man O War. My comments are in Italics.

It was claimed that the proposed area is a vital reef.  That is not accurate. Surveys on the area for proposed dredging showed ZERO oysters. Man O War isn’t a reef. Yet it was constantly referred to as a reef in testimony. A reef has a vigorous oyster population. A reef under the Bay Program is an area with at least 15 oysters per square meter. The Oyster Advisory Commission has discussed this definition and it is agreed upon by the CBF and the CCA, along with state and federal agencies. Man O War has ZERO oysters on the place proposed for shell dredging. Yet CBF and CCA when testifying at the hearing consistently called it a reef. These two parties have members on the OAC and should know better. The proposed area of Man O War is an underwater shoal of shells but is not a reef (a living entity).

It was stated that shells planted under the old program, 185 million bushels, are all gone. These would be shells planted on hundreds of places around the Bay. The loss of shells is only partly true. Many areas with old shells still have oysters and harvest and habitat. This means that shell planting is productive and has long term benefits.

CBF stated that if all of the shell went to industry plantings it would cover only 2% of public fishery bottom. By focusing only on fishery usage for the shells the CBF created an immediate negative bias. There was no mention of what statistic was used as the total acreage of fishery area used to run their calculations. Much of the acreage in fishery areas is not oyster bottom. It is actually sand and mud. Other fishery bottoms are shell but aren’t worked so they shouldn’t be included in the total area CBF used. These factors make for an inflated total acreage which would drive the percentage down and give an intentionally skewed picture. That is just CBF manipulating data for their own purposes. Also, all of the shell won’t go to the fishery. Most will go to sanctuaries, because that is where funding exists. When any shell goes into sanctuaries it is gone forever from any other active management purposes. The constant crowing by CCA and CBF about the many benefits of alternate substrates over shell leads me to conclude that sanctuaries shouldn’t receive any shells, but instead should focus on alternate materials, as long as long as the size and shape doesn’t prohibit future active management. Then the shells can be used for industry where it is crucially beneficial. Most shell comes from the industry to begin with and shucked shells used in sanctuaries come from oysters harvested by industry. Yet, these industry generated shells are mostly used for sanctuaries. Quite an insult when you think about all the hard work that went into shell from harvesting by watermen, only to be slapped in the face when having to watch it go into permanent exile in sanctuaries. If alternate substrates are so successful then all dredged shell could be divided up among oyster farmers and the public fishery. I also observe that the area of Man O’ War Shoals proposed for dredging is public fishery bottom, not sanctuary. So why are sanctuary interest groups saying that Man O’ War shells should be used mostly to help sanctuaries?

Shells last longer than 3 to 6 years, though testimony has said the value of shells is short term. It is proven that shells planted as far back as the 1990’s still have oysters and harvest occurring on them. The shorter time frame used for CBF, CCA testimony relates to Virginia oyster bars not Maryland. But CBF and other speakers did not provide that nuance or any information related to Maryland.

It was claimed by CBF that harvest off the planted shells would happen only twice. Then it was suggested the shells would be used up and useless for anything. This is totally incorrect and has no basis in fact. Shell plantings can produce oysters and harvest after two decades. The person who made the statement has never been out to see any old shell plantings in the company of people knowledgeable on the topic. Yet again, comments are made without any peer review or confirmation, and many legislative committee members appear to believe without question.

One of the speakers made it sound like the old shell program sent all the shell to VA. Some shells were sold to VA, a process approved by the MDBPW. Most shell stayed in MD. Oddly enough that policy of selling shell out of state was terminated two decades ago. So, the testimony was not even relevant to the proposed project. Again, manipulated testimony.

It would seem that the facts were so manipulated that legislators were purposefully misled about the Man O War five-year experiment. The alarming part is that few if any delegates questioned the facts, asked for any sources of information or asked about peer review of the CBF/ CCA testimony. CBF assumes because it is the loudest foundation that everything its speakers have to say will be swallowed whole sale without question. If a waterman tried to get away with that the CBF and CCA would be demand proof. His proof is in his years of verifiable experience. Now do not get me wrong. There are some watermen given to exaggeration which throws doubt on some aspects of given testimony. But not one waterman makes a “scientific claim”. There are harvest reports, annual surveys, and hands-on observed phenomenon that back up much of what they have to say.

The bill’s presenters created the overall impression that all of Man O War is going to be dredged. In fact, only a small portion is in the proposal. The amount is 5 million bushels out of a surveyed 86 to 100 million bushels available. Cuts will be made around the perimeter of the shoal, leaving most of the shoal un-dredged.  Once more the legislators did not seem to want to question testimony.

Watermen are unrealistic in believing that the 5 million bushels will be the beginning of an oyster industry recovery. If the experiment gives the go ahead to dredging of more shell, it would only be for perhaps 50 million bushels. Not a serious amount. A more realistic appraisal would be to wait and see what the experiment will indicate in hard scientific terms. But even if the whole shoal was to be opened for dredging, (which it will not be) the amount of shell will not be the hoped for saving grace. While there are many sources for shell in the Bay all parties had best start the search for a more proactive alternative substrate.

CBF stated that the shoal is the last 3-d reef in the Bay. This is so completely false that I find it amazing that no one questioned it. First off, it is not a reef and most oyster bars have a 3-d shape. 3-D refers to a bar having enough shell to actually have not only an outer dimension but one of height and depth. Any nautical chart will prove this. It is a fact that Man O War has a distinct 3-D shape but it is by no means the last oyster bar to be characterized as 3-D.

CCA claimed that the fishing would be ruined by shell dredging. More manipulation. Past studies of shell dredged areas show fish actually stayed in the dredge cuts and along the cut edges. Many charter captains and sport fishermen would purposefully hang around the Langenfelter dredge operation in the upper bay because rockfish would be found around that site when it was in operation. The cuts attracted some species of recreational fish. In addition to the observed advantages of cuts the targeted dredging proposed around the perimeter will leave a majority of the shoal intact for fishing.

The oyster harvest was cited as over 900 bushels, which is accurate. However, the impression was that Man O War was a productive area that was going to be dredged away. What wasn’t revealed is that the 900 bushels came from seed plantings and not Man O War natural recruitment. None of that productive area is in the proposed dredge area. The area proposed for dredging has ZERO oysters based on a detailed survey of the bar. Saying that the dredging would ruin a productive harvest area is just more manipulative commentary.

CBF stated if all the shell went to industry plantings, it would cover 2% of fishery bottom. First, all shells won’t go to the fishery.  Most will likely go to sanctuaries because that is where most of the funding exists. CBF’s theoretical scenario isn’t based on facts. Second the scenario focused only on the industry, which many groups oppose anyway. By only focusing on a fishery use for the shells CBF created an immediate negative bias. Third there was no mention of what acreage comprises fishery bottom was used as the total acreage of fishery area used to run the math. Much of that acreage in fishery areas is not oyster bar. It is sand and mud which is not good for seed planting.  This inflated total acreage would drive the percentage down and give an intentionally skewed picture. Again, more manipulative commentary given by both CCA and CBF. The professor emeritus from U. of M. did not once try correct the falsehoods given as testimony when he sat on the panel before the committee.

There is a blatant misuse of available information without recrimination when testifying before our elected officials. Why?  Again, I must ask, what is the end game? It can no longer be cloaked in Saving the Bay or conserving fish just for sportsmen and recreational fishermen. When watermen speak they do so out of years of empirical experience in the industry. Their testimony speaks to their industry-based concerns. It would seem that many others are predisposed to believe the claims made by the when the environmental community. How did this happen? Where are the requests for science and peer reviews? Not once did I hear a delegate question the claims made by the CBF or CCA. Just a simple request for the science would suffice. Livelihoods are at stake. There is an interesting middle ground where all contentious stakeholders come together.  All involved believe that any increase in the oyster population is a good thing.

Science is not a substitute for common sense but is an extension of it. –Ormand  

If anyone has questions about the application for the permit you can go to the link below. Please make sure you go to the most recent version from Feb. 2017. It is a 72-page document and will back up the points made about testimony and has much more information than the points covered in my posting.

http://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/Documents/Attachment_1-Man_O_War_Application_revFeb2017.pdf