The more you learn about something you care about, the more you love it. Chefs who understand the alchemy of food and flavor combinations tend to be far more passionate about their craft than a burger flipper who is only seeking a few dollars to buy some electronic gizmo. Musicians who study various genres to add to their depth of creativity make far better compositions than those who just want to make a hit or two to sell units.
The same holds true for those who live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Sure, people love to eat succulent crabcakes and go swimming at the beach. But, from the Susquehanna Flats to Fisherman’s Island, there are a wide variety of museums, visitor’s centers, research facilities, and other places where the general public can learn more about the bay through the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network. Most of these places cost about as much as the parking fee at an amusement park. Yet the information and interpreters in there can give an informal education that is far more valuable than a roller-coaster.
For example, the Tangier Island Museum is a fascinating place to learn about (and meet) some of the most unique people in the region. How does an isolated community maintain a heritage and dialect in a modern world that threatens their way of life? Browse through the displays and talk to the locals and you will find Tangier to be a place where people are very concerned and also very friendly.
Next door to Tangier is Port Isobel. This island is a research facility of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and is open for hikers as well as those who participate in CBF led field trips. I was fortunate to be a part of the Watershed Educators Institute training on Port Isobel and explored the marshes and shoreline. Our interpreters also gave crab and oyster dredging demonstrations so that we could identify the various creatures in aquatic environments.
For those who don’t fancy a trip over the open waters of the Chesapeake, there are other places in the region that are more than worth a road trip for education, scenic beauty, wonderful people, (and good food). Among my recommendations are:
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Gloucester Point) – The premiere research facility on the bay has aquariums, a touch tank, and holds public seminars year round.
- Gwynn’s Island (Mathews) – Home to a quaint museum and fine sunsets on the Piankitank River. There is plenty of lodging as well.
- Tappahannock – The historic center of town leads right down to a public access waterfront. Visit the museum and do some antique shopping too.
- Virginia State Parks – The parks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have unique displays and interpretive programs led by staff who friendly and knowledgeable
I hope you take the time this summer to visit one or two of the many points of interest along the bay in Maryland and Virginia. Escape for a day, or plan a family vacation to learn and love the Chesapeake.