Hip-deep in water, teen-age boys lowered a black cloth to the bottom of the Severn River yesterday, creating a foundation for what may become the state's first community nursery for seaweed.
Naturalists hope to cultivate a stand of redhead grass on the half-acre site at Brewer Point in Sherwood Forest.
With luck, wild ducks and swans will leave some of the grass uneaten so that plugs of the seaweed can be transplanted elsewhere in the river.
Yesterday, seven seniors at Baltimore's Gilman School, all members of the championship lacrosse team, put down 250 feet of filter cloth in sections, then anchored it with 30- to 70-pound rocks.
"Overlap it. The rock will hold it," hollered marine construction worker Ray Godbout of Capital Marine Construction Inc. in Edgewater.
The petroleum-based filter cloth will prevent almost 300 pounds of rocks from sinking into the sand as the company builds a 4-foot-high breakwater to create a protected area for redhead grass.
If the project is successful, the small tidal pond will be the first redhead nursery in the state, said Frank Dawson, chief of the tidal wetlands division in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
William Moulden, who heads the naturalist program in the private community, hopes to grow enough redhead grass to move plugs to other locations in the river. He selected the Brewer Point site because a dense bed of several acres of seaweed, including redhead grass, lies just across the Severn River in Asquith Creek, indicating that the water is clean enough to support the vegetation. A few years ago, hardly any seaweed grew in the area.
Mr. Dawson said said one benefit of having an SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) nursery is that "you may be able to help the spread of SAV into areas in which you have identified the water quality as good for SAVs."
In addition, the nursery will become a haven for small fish, a place where crabs can slough off their shells and where creatures at the bottom of the food chain can dwell, he said.
The DNR and the multiagency Chesapeake Bay Program will monitor the nursery as they examine the nursery concept, he said.
The cost of the $15,000 project is being split by the Sherwood Forest community and Anne Arundel County, which is working with the State Highway Administration.
"For a little bit of effort, you might get a mile's worth of result," said Tom Andrews, the county's chief environmental officer.
Efforts to transplant redhead grass in the 1980s in the Severn River flopped, but seaweed transplanting was successful elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Mr. Moulden hopes to get redhead plants and seed into the nursery at the end of the summer. Annapolis Senior High School students will do the planting. If the plants take, some could be ready to be moved in the fall, said J. Court Stevenson, professor of ecology at Horn Point Environmental Laboratory at the University of Maryland and a veteran of similar projects.
The seven Gilman students are spending three weeks volunteering in Sherwood Forest's naturalist program as part of the school's "encounter," in which seniors are required to spend time working as volunteers.