Helping Back Creek in SPCA nature preserve is Earth Day goal


With shovels, nesting boxes and survey equipment, volunteers will start tomorrow on what they plan as a long-range project to give some much-needed help to a 5.5-acre nature preserve at the Anne Arundel County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The nature preserve, on Bay Ridge Avenue at the headwaters of Back Creek, is suffering from the stresses of being an urban oasis. The creek's water is murky, stream banks are eroded and there are few water insects for birds and animals to eat. Increasing development has meant fewer nesting spots, fewer berries and fewer bugs.

"What's wrong with the stream right there is the watershed has been developed," said Richard A. Everett, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who is volunteering to monitor and survey upper Back Creek. "The stream has been forced to convey more water."

Ellen M. Thayer, chairwoman of the nature preserve, said the stream may have to be widened or redirected to help it carry the additional water.

"If we can do that, if we can improve the quality of the stream, we can then create a new habitat for fish and aquatic insects," she said. "Once you have aquatic insects, you can introduce amphibians and . . . all sorts of things."

The project is among dozens planned in the county to mark the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. Community groups will plant trees and shrubs, spruce up parks and remove litter.

At the SPCA, 35 people will begin work at 8 a.m.

SPCA supporters, Severn River Association members and Naval Academy midshipmen will plant shrubs and ground cover to protect the banks of Back Creek.

Mr. Everett and Tamara L. McCandless, both with the Chesapeake Bay field office of Fish and Wildlife, will help set up survey and monitoring equipment. A group of volunteers led by Maryland Save Our Streams is being taught to use the equipment. Information on turbidity, water level and topography will be gathered and could be used to document grant applications next year if the SPCA finds that some of the restoration work is too difficult for volunteers.

The Anne Arundel Bird Club will bring bird houses built by members, including the first nesting boxes for owls. The great horned owl is among 120 bird species at the preserve, Ms. Thayer said.

The nature preserve effort is one of 23 volunteer Greenscape projects in Annapolis, said Cathay Hutchison, who heads the 4-year-old Greenscape program.

Anne Arundel County is expanding its Quiet Waters Park celebration to two days because too many activities are planned for one day, said park Superintendent Michael E. Murdoch. Festivities start tomorrow and Sunday at 8 a.m.

Last year's one-day event drew 6,000 visitors. Visitors can see more than two dozen exhibits, from snakes to herbs to art shows.

The program includes a concert by the Hard Travelers at 5 p.m. tomorrow and discussions with Jim Fowler of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Also, the state Department of Natural Resources will give away seedlings from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the Tawes State Office Building in Annapolis.

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