Who knew that sea horses reside in the Chesapeake Bay, that clams get all the nutrients they need just from the water in which they live, or that it is possible to rebuild an island? We learned this and more in our day at Poplar Island on July 22nd. As Latter Day Saints, we throw around the term "restoration" quite a bit. But what does it really mean? Well, in the instance of this small Chesapeake Bay island, it is setting to right the environmental wrongs of the past couple of centuries.
Back in the day, Poplar Island was somewhere around 1100 acres. But settlers in the 1800s cut down all the trees (started a black cat farm too, but that's another story). Without roots to hold soil in place, the island washed away to a mere 5 acres (or was it 3?) in the 1990s. Enter environmental groups and the Army Corps of Engineers. Drawing on new scientific and engineering knowhow, people are using dredge soil from the bottom of the Chesapeake to create what will eventually be a multi-eco system nature preserve for the many wild creatures that inhabit the region. Our tour guides showed us how the project is unfolding in stages, recreating wetlands that include hand planted grasses, as well as forests. They also assured me that the funds to make it happen are already locked up. When the workers pack up and leave, even the roads will be seeded.
Aside from the audacity of the project, probably the thing that I found most heartening was its gaze to the future. This is restoration, but not really for us. The end date is so far out, that Poplar Island is a gift to our children, and hopefully our grandchildren. Tours have to be booked way in advance, but if you haven't been, it's worth your time.
Click on photos below to see a slideshow from Heidi. The first is a container with thousands of small oysters being grown for aquaculture/restaurant use.