coastal wetlands

A Perfect Time for Parks

by Jennie Saxe

Flowers blooming along the Brandywine River.

Flowers blooming along the Brandywine River.

In the mid-Atlantic, we’ve been riding a rollercoaster of weather. In late February, my family donned shorts and t-shirts for a warm weekend hike along Crum Creek in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. At the end of March, the temperatures dropped and we needed toasty jackets for our walk along the Brandywine River Trail in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

But now – finally – it looks like spring has sprung.  And for me, that means more time outdoors. We’ve written about the many great spots for hiking, biking, and playing near the region’s waterways. Next week, you might consider checking out some of the nearly 20 National Parks in the mid-Atlantic that will be fee-free for the National Park Service’s National Parks Week!

Our National Parks are about more than just getting outside – they’re a connection to our heritage. Visiting these parks, you’ll also get a chance to better understand the connections between America’s history and her waterways. The Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is situated on the Patapsco River, where the Urban Waters Federal Partnership is focused on greening the watershed and restoring this urban waterway. The wetlands near Fort McHenry provide habitat for birds and other animals and insects.

At Assateague Island National Seashore, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, one of EPA’s National Estuary Programs, trains Coastal Stewards to assist with education at the park as well as participate in environmental research. The students study the numerous animals that make their homes in (or stop in as migratory visitors to) this coastal habitat.

So many of our National Parks have a connection to mid-Atlantic waterways, and springtime is a perfect time to enjoy them. Let us know your favorites in the comments!

 

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Wetlands All Around Me

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Travis Loop

The moon lit up the marsh as my canoe glided across the water. In shallow sections, my paddle pushed against the bottom. Around me were frogs peeping, fish splashing and birds rustling. For a 13-year-old boy on a field trip, these Chesapeake Bay wetlands were a dramatic introduction to the remarkable area where the land meets the water.

Why are wetlands – often mucky and unattractive – remarkable? It is for their critical role in the ecosystem and in our communities. In many places I’ve been throughout my life I have found wetlands all around me… and discovered their importance.

When living in Wilmington, North Carolina, I saw how coastal wetlands and Carolina bays are vital habitat for wildlife, including the alligator peering at me while I kayaked in a swamp. Wetlands are diverse biological ecosystems and more than one-third of threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands. Migratory waterfowl use wetlands – especially prairie potholes in the Midwest – for resting, feeding or nesting. This is big business – about 2.3 million people annually hunt migratory birds, spending $1.8 billion dollars.

Now at EPA headquarters in Washington, colleagues say swamps, marshes and bogs are the kidneys for our nation’s waterways, filtering pollution and reducing sediment that would hurt downstream. For example, without the Congaree Bottomland Hardwood Swamp in South Carolina, a $5 million wastewater treatment plant would be needed.

During a trip to Louisiana I heard how wetlands function as natural sponges that trap water and lessen flooding. Wetlands along the Mississippi River once stored 60 days of floodwater. Now they store only 12 days because most have been filled or drained and there is more frequent flooding along the river.

I didn’t expect to find wetlands when living in Hawaii. Yet near my house on Oahu, wetlands were part of Ka’elepulu Pond. I’ve learned there are wetlands in unique places across the country – about 20 percent of wetlands (20 million acres) in the continental U.S. are not visibly connected to other waterways – as you would suspect wetlands to be – but may have groundwater connections and provide other benefits.

Sadly, many wetlands have already been lost or altered – more than half of the original wetland areas in the continental U.S. are gone. And near my home in Annapolis, Maryland, climate change is raising sea levels, slowly swallowing the wetlands of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

We need these wetlands around us.

About the author:  Travis Loop is the director of communications for EPA’s Office of Water.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.