By Autumn Scully
Elm Staff Writer
On Saturday, April 22, the Chestertown Environmental Committee hosted their 13th annual Earth Day Festival downtown from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The festival serves as an opportunity for Chestertown residents to learn about and celebrate the environment.
The event started with a community trash walk along the Wayne Gilchrest trail, beginning near Washington College and ending at Park Row downtown. The trash walk is an annual partnership between the CEC and WC that the SGA Secretary of Environment helps organize.
“[The CEC] do plenty of walks for the community, but we always have one from the rail trail…to bring everyone from the college [to the festival],” outgoing SGA Secretary of the Environment senior Kevin Denice said.
Meanwhile, environmentally based organizations set up tables throughout Park Row to educate attendees about their initiatives. Volunteers and employees offered brochures, posters, interactive displays, and more.
The Chestertown Garden Club encouraged attendees to join them in planting a shade garden by their table. Similarly, members of the Department of Natural Resources’ forestry board for Kent and Queen Anne’s counties handed out saplings for attendees to plant as part of the state’s five million trees initiative, which aims to get five million trees planted in Maryland by 2030.
University of Maryland Extension’s Master Gardeners informed attendees about plants and invasive spotted lantern flies. WC’s campus garden club also had a table showcasing different plants that they grow.
Echo Hill Outdoor School and the Sultana Education Foundation told attendees about their K-12 environmental education programs, which focus on hands-on experiences outdoors. Sultana allowed attendees to hold live turtles at their table as an example of one of these experiences.
Both organizations offer internships for WC students and encouraged those interested to apply in the future.
At the RiverArts table, 2011 WC alumni and Arts Education Coordinator Kris Kelley described the different recycled art classes and exhibits that they host to support recycling in the arts industry.
Multiple recycling organizations had tables at the festival, such as the Midshore Regional Recycling Program, that offered resources on where and how to recycle items and provided opportunities for attendees to recycle items that were not taken by many recycling programs.
Ford Schumann, member of the CEC and founder of Infinity Recycling, had a table raffling off and selling his compost bins. There, he told attendees about how he started the non-profit because there was no one around Chestertown to collect curbside recycling.
While Infinity Recycling recently ceased operations due to price increases, Shumann believes its legacy lives on.
“We got a lot of people into recycling…the collection stations started overflowing, so it gave me a sign that at least my people didn’t stop recycling,” Shumann said.
Chestertown resident Laura Johnstone Wilson confirms this, saying “he got us committed and we now have to figure it [recycling] out.”
According to its members, the CEC continues to try and provide the people of Chestertown with the sustainable services they desire.
“I think most of the people that live here permanently live here because they love the environment…and the quality of life here depends so much on the environment,” Co-Chair of the CEC Andy Goddard said. “That’s what the committee focuses on.”
The CEC, once called the Green Team, was founded in 2008 under Mayor Margo Bailey. Goddard was on the original Green Team, along with another CEC co-chair, Jon Hanley.
Goddard and Hanley attribute much of Chestertown’s green initiatives and accomplishments to Bailey, who fought to protect the environment as mayor from 1994-2013 and inspired subsequent mayors to do the same.
“She was the one who really started us on the path to sustainability,” Goddard said.
With Bailey’s guidance, Goddard and Hanley also organized the first Earth Day Festival together in 2010. Since then, the festival has been growing and changing every year.
This year was the biggest turnout for the festival in the past several years. Goddard credits this to the exciting new vendors, activities, and displays they included, such as expanding the electric vehicle display and including electric bikes, which some residents described charging with solar power for sustainability. Solar power companies also had tables at the festival.
Additionally, the festival fell on the same day and in the same area as the weekly farmer’s market and the bi-annual Kappa Sigma pancake breakfast, which brought more WC students and other residents to the area. Goddard would like the events to fall on the same day again in the future to celebrate the environment with as many people in the community as possible.
While the electric boat race planned for after the festival was cancelled due to inclement weather, attendees were still able to conclude their Earth Day Festival experience speaking to students from WC and other schools about the process of making and racing their boats.
Photo by John DeSoto
Photo Caption: Washington College students were prepared to race in the electric boat race at the waterfront for Earth Day Festival this year.