About 40 young people from the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy finished up their morning of cleaning refuse from the marshlands of the Melvin G. Bosely Wildlife Conservancy tired, muddy and hungry, but their contributions to the 22nd annual cleanup of the marsh were invaluable to the organizers of Saturday's event.
Organizers of the cleanup said the Freestate members and their adult leaders, who are part of an Aberdeen Proving Ground-based National Guard program designed to provide military discipline to at-risk youths, bolstered a group of about 25 to 30 volunteers from the community and local conservation groups who spent several hours filling an estimated 50 to 60 bags of garbage, picking up about 30 tires and assorted scrap metal from the Edgewood-area wetlands that feed the Bush River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.
Organizers review the number of volunteers they have each year, and then "we hit the most critical areas [of the marsh] first and go out from there," explained Steve Tresnak, president of the Harford County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, a national conservation group.
With the help of the Freestate volunteers, "this time we were able to hit some secondary areas, which was great," he said.
The Izaak Walton League chapter owns the 350-acre Bosely Conservancy and manages it in partnership with the staff of the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center in Abingdon and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The Conservancy is part of the Otter Creek Component of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve-Maryland. The CBNERR-MD is under the auspices of DNR.
Chris Snow, stewardship coordinator with CBNERR-MD, said his agency works with the local agencies on projects in the Bosely Conservancy such as fish and bird surveys and to bring federal grants to the Conservancy.
"[We're] just bringing some of those federal dollars down to the local level," Snow explained.
The Leight Estuary Center is operated by the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation.
"We had a lot of really good manpower," Kriste Garman, park manager for the Leight Estuary Center, said.
Bryon Bodt, conservancy manager with the Izaak Walton League chapter, described the marshlands of the Bosely Conservancy as many small islands separated by a series of waterways, including Otter Creek.
Volunteers used canoes as shuttles to move people to areas with trash, and move the trash back to pickup areas.
Otter Creek becomes Winter's Run west of Route 755 (Edgewood Road), and the marshes of the Bosely Conservancy become a repository for refuse and pollutants as far north and Bel Air and Jarrettsville, Bodt said.
"If you throw something out at Harford Mall, there's a potential it could end up down here," he said.
He said a large storm upstream can wash trash down to the marshes. He cautioned residents to be mindful when disposing of trash, as well as fertilizing their lawns, and encouraged operators of work sites to "watch barren ground that is subject to erosion, because it ends up downstream."
Bodt said the Conservancy is filled with diverse wildlife, including eagles, ospreys, beavers, the occasional otter, wood ducks, reptiles and many amphibians.
It offers recreation such as walking trails, and canoeing and kayaking is available in open areas of the marsh.
"It's amazing to be this close to suburbia, the neat stuff you might see in here, it's amazing," Bodt said.