From hosting our annual party to holding a press conference to cleaning our office, we need volunteers to make things happen! If a particular project strikes your fancy, or you know you have some time to contribute for just a short while, or you would like to come to an event for free, we know exactly how to best use your help. We run both major and minor events throughout the year. These events include fundraisers, kayak trips, and educational or advocacy programs. Help us build our organization and protect the Patuxent.
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Detailed descriptions of volunteer positions are given below the signup form!
Strong laws are critical for a healthy Patuxent, but how those laws are implemented and enforced is another critical piece of the solution. The Patuxent flows through seven counties, and our staff is unable to look into every complaint or monitor every action in all seven. We are looking for dedicated individuals who would like to get more involved in their own backyard. County captains are the eyes and ears of the Patuxent, and let us know what is happening both politically and practically in your area. Help us track events, complaints, and activities by monitoring and reporting them as they occur. Or be our voice on the ground, testifying at hearings and reporting problems to the local authority. We will give you support and oversight every step of the way so you’ll never be on your own.
Citizen Water Quality Monitoring
Residents in the watershed know that declining water quality means our waters are not always safe to swim, the fish are contaminated, and pollution occurs under color of lawful permits issued by the authorities. Boaters and waterfront landowners, in particular, pay attention to water conditions and polluting problems near their own homes, docks, and marinas. But while most users of the river have a good local sense of how conditions in the river appear at any given time, they often have no relative sense of how local conditions relate to the overall health and vitality of the river system. Grassroots monitoring of local surface water offers a great opportunity for citizens to become empowered, to add objectivity to their own efforts at advocacy, and to promote better stewardship and the sense that the condition of the entire river is just as important as the segment in their own backyard. Working with several funders, in 2005 the Patuxent Riverkeeper started to develop a citizen water quality monitoring data collection system that is published on the World Wide Web. The software allows registered users to obtain training and basic equipment to do their own sampling. They are also able to log onto the public web site and upload their findings so that others can compare, learn, and share. The system is designed to accept monitoring results that citizens can reasonably be expected to test for with minimal training and inexpensive equipment. A partnership with The University of Maryland’s Chesapeake Biological Lab and the Morgan State Estuarine Research Center has supplied extensive technical and science-based guidance in the creation of this unique citizen empowerment tool.
Patuxent Roughnecks are a group of hearty outdoorspeople who clear snags from the upper sections of the river to keep a water trail open for paddlers. Spawning fish also benefit from a free flowing river. A Roughnecks trip begins with mapping, hiking, surveying, and planning. Blockages are surveyed and photographed, and a list of tools, resources, and minimum staffing is compiled. Safety considerations are reviewed. On the scheduled day, the group heads up the river. Boats are used to ferry supplies, tools and other needed equipment. Using boats allows the crew to sample the navigability of the river firsthand and determine the paddlability of the routes. At low water, the boats may need to be carried. Along the way, small-scale briars and branches that might impair sight lines, smack paddlers in the face, or create a nuisance are removed. Brush is trimmed back to make the paddle route more user-friendly. Larger blockages take a lot of planning and rigging. Massive logs are sometimes unpredictable when stress is released. Therefore we use safety chains, ropes and come-alongs to anchor major logs to solid points on the banks. Crew safety is paramount–no project begins without adequate equipment, people trained to handle the equipment, and everybody on-site familiar with the overall plan. Those working in the channel wear life vests and people working in exposed areas or deeper water are assigned spotters to keep an eye on them. The final clearing of a snag often leaves the main parts of a blockage in the water, but provides a wide enough gap to allow paddlers to get by safely. In addition to keeping the water trail open, the Roughnecks’ work has meant that the Riverkeeper has developed greatly improved GIS mapping for the entire watershed. And in order to find snags, we coordinate with landowners along the river, leading to perhaps the most comprehensive and systematic engagement of river front landowners in the history of the river’s habitation.
Annual Patuxent Cleanup
Riverkeepers work on watershed problems, not just symptoms. But dumped trash, while a sympton, is one of the more unsightly and obvious signs of the decay of our waterways, especially in heavily used public access areas. Therefore the Patuxent Riverkeeper coordinates the only river-wide annual cleanup event each April. The Riverkeeper is joined by scores of other partners to provide supplies, site supervision, and promotional and other resources, in an effort to make each year’s cleanup bigger than the last. Our motto is: To clean up a river, somebody has to get dirty!
We also tally the yield of each cleanup in order to get a statistical record of annual growth of volunteerism and increases in the amount/tonnage of trash collected. Additionally, we help local groups recruit volunteers and advertise their own cleanups on our web site. The effort to remove more tonnage and engage more volunteers each year keeps the cleanup growing annually in scope and effectiveness. For more information and the site listing click here.
Riparian Tree Planting
Trees and other vegetation are vital to stabilizing the soils, filtering and retaining stormwater, and protecting our shorelines from the ravages caused by the ever growing population of the Chesapeake Bay region. Patuxent Riverkeeper is partnered with Maryland’s Patuxent River Commission to maintain a tree nursery and a tree distribution network to ensure that public lands and waterfront areas can get high quality trees at no cost. The resources go further if we obtain the trees initially as bare root stock. Volunteers then replant them in small pots so they can be stored and nurtured in our grow-out station. And during planting seasons we work with teams of volunteers to get the seedlings into the ground in areas where they will do the most good. Planting trees is fun, good exercise, and comes with the satisfaction of planting a long-term legacy of watershed stewardship, too.
Special Projects and Events
Patuxent Riverkeeper is made up of members with various backgrounds, experiences, and skills. We are truly blessed to have several volunteers who assist the organization on a regular basis based on their own personal skills, from designing our newsletters to creating and maintaining our website. Do you have a talent you would love to share? Accounting knowledge, fundraising skills, presswork, naturalist experience, database expertise… the list is endless. If you have time and talent, let us know and we will contact you with ways you can help.
Running a watershed organization that spans seven counties is a gargantuan task that is made possible in countless ways by the dedicated work of volunteers whose efforts supplement those of our small staff. Volunteers work in our office on research projects, help us staff booths at public events, help get mailings out, maintain our web sites, investigate complaints and more. In a very real sense, volunteers with Patuxent Riverkeeper form a nucleus of a watershed community that is close to the heart of the major issues and events facing the entire watershed. The work of the Riverkeeper is fast paced, interesting, fun, and always surrounded by the controversies and campaigns that are shaping the future of the Patuxent. Committing regular amounts of time to help out in various ways in our office enables us to plan around you – and makes you a central part of the Riverkeeper team.