Friday, July 14, 2006

Fowler's Swan Song

On Wednesday, the Washington Post ran an interesting piece about Bernie Fowler, the former State Senator, who, in an effort to save the Patuxent River (or at least raise awareness about its plight) started, in 1988, a series of wade-ins, walking in to the water until he could no longer see his shoes. Now, two decades later, the annual wade-ins have become much publicized and well attended events. Politicos of all stripes, volunteers, and environmentally-minded folks rarely miss an opportunity to be photographed up to their knees (or in a good year, up to their thighs) in the Patuxent side-by-side with Fowler, now 82.

Problem is, despite Fowler's efforts, and those of others to clean up the Patuxent, not much has changed in those 19 years. The Patuxent still absorbs 60 millions gallons of sewage plant effluent a day. It's even been said by some that the Patuxent gets half its flow from wastewater. The nitrogen and phosphorous cause algae blooms which choke the life from the River's subaquatic plants and vegetation.

Fowler hopes one day to be able to wade-in up to his chest (63 inches) and be able to see his frayed canvas sneakers in the depths below (this year, he could only see to 27 inches). With more intense development planned on the Patuxent, it's hard to be optimistic.

Below is a poem written by Chesapeake bard, Tom Wisner, to commemorate Bernie Fowler's Wade-ins.

Bernie Fowler Day: A Guide to Wading in the Southern Maryland Waters

You just wade out in the river,
give it all you got
Right up to your chest.
And then you pick your spot.

Next you take your peepers
And cast them slowly down
On the day we see our feet again
There'll be celebration in this town.

It's Bernie's measure!
It's simple - yet profound.
We got a treasure!
You can't buy it by the pound.

The scientists had told them
Everything they knew,
Still - the folks were puzzled
And they didn't know what to do.

'Cause I ask you what's the profit
If we gain these worldly things
And foul the air and water
And all the life that brings?

Well - we should do this yearly
On Bernie Fowler Day.
Dress up fit to kill
And wade out all the way.

All the politicians gathered.
They'd come from miles around
To talk about the river
That flows by Solomons town.

Seems they had a problem
Things were looking bad.
They'd looked at all resources
And used everything they had.

"If you can't see your cloppers
There'll be trouble in this town
We oughta sue those upper counties
For the junk they're sending down."

It came 'round to Bernie Fowler
And he stood among the best.
He said, "folks, if you'll bear with me,
I think I got a test."

"I think I have a measure
That can't be beat
You just wade out in the river
And look down to see your feet."

Well - we should do this yearly
On Bernie Fowler Day.
Dress up fit to kill
And wade out all the way.

And somewhere in the future,
We'll look and see our feet again.
Could we ask for more?
That day is coming sure

It's Bernie's measure,
And it ain't hard to do.
It's a pleasure!
And it will soothe you too.



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