Mount Pleasant Beach residents hope the thousands of clams nestled in the silt beneath neighbor Dan Anthony's pier herald a healthier Stony Creek.
Anthony, who has lived on the creek 33 years, said he first noticed the brackish-water clams -- which are half the size of commercially harvested clams -- a year ago.
Now, large beds are clearly visible several feet below the green algae-tinted water.
"I've never seen clams so plentiful here before," Anthony said. "We've always had them, but you had to dig for them. They were never on top."
Russell Rippel, president of the Mount Pleasant Beach Community Association, said he believes the appearance of the clams and the return of submerged aquatic grasses mean the community's efforts to clean up the creek have worked.
"This is actually a dream a lot of communities would love to have, being able to use the water again," Rippel said. "It's a good sign."
"To be able to see the bottom at all is a positive sign," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park.
Rippel and Anthony showed off the clam beds for lawmakers, the Department of Natural Resources, and the press yesterday.
"The creek hasn't been as bad as Rock Creek," said Rippel,referring to health department warnings to avoid swimming in portions of Rock Creek. "But it's been bad."
Fish and aquatic grass all but disappeared in Stony Creek after Hurricane Agnes ripped through Maryland in 1972, residents said.
The grass began to return two years ago, Anthony said. "But it doesn't stay like it used to," he said. "As soon as boat season begins, it disappears."
Chris Judy, a DNR biologist, said he could not explain the appearance of the clams or the return of aquatic grasses.
"I really didn't expect to see so many," Judy said. "We have thousands and thousands of clams here."
But, he added, "I would hesitate to draw any direct conclusions without further study. Some years, you have good clam populations, some years you don't."
The DNR does not have any plans for further study. "I'll propably go back to the office, write up a report and file it under clams," Judy said.
Rippel and the legislator had their own ideas about the creek's revival.
Rippel said the community association, which has 167 members, has sponsored shoreline clean ups that helped the revival. It's members also have discouraged "hot dog" boaters and water skiers from churning the waters, he said.
Delegate Charles W. "Stokes" Kolodziejski, D-Carvel Beach, said the county has connected several Stony Creek communities to public sewers, reducing the sewage running from private septic fields into the water.