"Time for Me to Take a Stand"

Pat Fish

I hear what sounds like a large piece of equipment running what sounds like a large motor. In an instant and with no logic, I mentally consider just how I can get myself in the middle of the river and stop the monster machines.

It is, my mind thinks in panic, my "day of reckoning."

This day has been coming for almost 35 years now. I have known it was coming since I was 12 years old. For that was the year my family moved to this weird lot on a small cove off of the Chesapeake Bay. And that was the year all the neighbors who owned homes off of the cove learned that the county had plans to dredge the cove.

"Just think, we will finally be able to get our boats in and out whenever we want and with no concern for the tide."

"We'll be able to water ski back in here."

So went the comments bandied about. As a child, the words meant nothing to me. I thought it neat enough to live on the water even if there might be times a boat ride out might be prevented from return due to low tide.

As an adult and with no sense of having aged 30 years, I purchased this same childhood home to find that the neighbors were STILL waiting to have the creek dredged.

I attend the homeowners' meetings and listen to the debates. I hear of increased property values and better access to the bay. Most of all, I spend many hours of my days watching the birds, fish, and turtles that live in the cove.

This is my home. And to have the creek dredged would increase its value by half again. Let these financial facts settle in.

But it's their home, too.

They have no homeowners' associations and are quite happy with their access to the bay. The only debates in which they engage would be over fishing territories.

Just where is my loyalty?

To dredge this quiet cove would eliminate it as a feeding ground for the ospreys, herons, and kingfishers. Make no mistake about this. These birds could not possibly fish in the concentration required with boats speeding all about.

The carp would no longer come in early summer to engage in mating frenzies that attract the aforementioned birds. These fish seek shallow waters when they look for amorous spots. The ducks, swans, and Canada geese would not swim around lazily or stop by for a bread snack.

But I could finally have a decent boat for that gorgeous covered boat pavilion that is used now for naught but birds' nests. Husband and I could throw a picnic lunch and head out to the bay with no concern for tides or winds. Happy boaters could amble up the cove to visit with our cove's newly happy boaters.

My neighbors all believe me to be most excited about the dredging. They believe that my boat pavilion, three piers, and impressive bulkhead make me a homeowner eager to have the cove waters deepened. They speak to me with smiles that they will finally have a boat and their property values will soar.

That day I heard the big machines was the first time the panic welled up inside of me. For the engines worried me that the barges were now coming down the cove to dredge.

I'm not going to let them.

In fact, for dredging ever to become a reality, each homeowner will have to pay some sort of assessment. I'm not paying a dime. This, in and of itself, will prevent dredging of the cove.

I have this power, even though unplanned. But I will use this power to protect the ones with no homeowners' associations.

The panic comes because I know, with no human doubt, they will hate me. Yes, the humans in the cove will hate me for preventing their increased home value and fancy boats. But then again, my own home will not be awarded any increase in value.

And I made this decision a time ago.

It was the day that I heard the engines that now push me to action. If nothing else, this is the first time I have ever verbalized my TRUE position.

Make no mistake about it, I will picket Annapolis until they are sick of my face. I will write every editor in this county a letter and if I have any writing ability at all...I will change some minds. This area is considered protected. We are not even allowed to prune our trees without special permission from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

If the letters or the lack of funds don't do the trick, I will resort to option three--I will throw myself bodily in front of the barges. Which is why I got so scared that day I heard the engines. Because my first thought was how to get out in the middle of that river and lay myself down as human sacrifice to prevent the dredge.

The engines did not belong to a dredging barge. I was mistaken.

Until now, I figured that they haven't dredged this creek in the 30 years of my memory. So why argue with the neighbors just now? Let them think I would rather use that huge boat pavilion for boats. Little do they know I much prefer that the kingfisher uses it as a launching pad to catch minnows. Or swallows use it to build nests in the eaves. Or the ducks hold major conventions on the piers. Or the herons stand on its peak and enjoy some sunshine.

But the sound of the engines scared me from apathy. There are homes all around the cove now. When I moved here as a child, there were only two small beach homes at the furthest end. And the newer homes are large and beautiful. These people didn't build those homes here to watch the herons. They are not even allowed by law to clear their waterfront lots of any timber. These people want boats. The homeowners' association here is quite a powerful one. That dredging is definitely not in the distant future.

Time for me to take a stand. . .