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Touring Skimmer Island

By Maryland Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin

Today, I joined Governor Martin O’Malley and local partners on a visit to Skimmer Island in Sinepuxent Bay, just outside of Ocean City.

Lesser known than the Chesapeake, Maryland’s Coastal Bays — Assawoman, Chincoteague, Isle of Wight, Newport, Sinepuxent and the St. Martin River — are extraordinary natural, cultural and economic resources.  They provide vital nursery and feeding grounds for fish and wildlife.  They are a haven for recreational fishing, boating and swimming.  And they support Maryland’s aquaculture industry, which is expanding under Governor O’Malley’s aquaculture development plan.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources staff work closely with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and many other partners to protect, restore and enhance these special places.  Our work includes wetland restoration, water quality monitoring, fish and wildlife management, conservation law enforcement, waterway improvement, boating safety, environmental education and recreational programs.

One important project underway is the restoration of Maryland’s most valuable nesting habitat for colonial waterbirds.  This spring we returned 675 cubic yards of clean sand dredged from the Sunset Marina channel to Skimmer Island, which had lost nearly 5 acres of its 7-acre land mass. The State-endangered black skimmer and royal tern are among the species dependent upon this unique habitat for survival.

Joining us on today’s tour and monitoring island populations and activity this summer are Maryland’s Coastal Stewards.  In line with the Governor’s Children in Nature initiative, Coastal Stewards is an award-winning summer youth employment program through which minority students connect with nature, learn about their environment and develop green jobs skills. Both Assateague State Park and Assateague National Seashore are partners in this program.

To better serve an increasing number of kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts, a new Assateague and Coastal Bays Water Trails Guide is currently being developed to augment the area’s existing set of water trails.  The guide will detail paddling routes, promote safe boating, enhance stewardship, showcase unique resources and support public access in Worcester County.

Like all of Maryland’s natural assets, the beauty and the bounty of our Coastal Bays are gifts to be treasured.  We at DNR remain committed to working with elected officials, citizens and stakeholders, to ensure they are gifts that will be enjoyed long into the future.