By Ron Klauda and Alyssa Matanin
There’s a new environmental stewardship group in town. Formed in early 2020 under the umbrella of the American Chestnut Land Trust, the Friends of Hunting Creek (FOHC) envision a future where current residents and future generations act as stewards of a balanced ecosystem functioning sustainably within a healthy, resilient Hunting Creek watershed. The Mission of the FOHC is to promote the ecological health and resiliency of the watershed’s 50 miles of streams and landscape so that landowners, citizens, government agencies, and elected officials together take an active role in protecting and sustaining the natural and cultural resources.
Draining over 19,000 acres of central Calvert County, still 57% forested, and home to almost 9,400 people, the FOHC are keeping watch over the largest watershed on “The Pleasant Peninsula”. At least 50 miles of streams arise, meander, and merge into the mainstem of Hunting Creek before it empties into the Patuxent River between Mallard Point and Potts Point. The eastern, western, and southern portions of the Prince Frederick Town Center drain through several tributaries into Hunting Creek. With a current imperviousness of 6.0%, the watershed is approaching a tipping point where water quality and ecological health of the mainstem Hunting Creek and its 50+ miles of tributary streams could be harmed by more development that results in forest loss, increased storm water runoff, and soil erosion.
In addition to meeting almost monthly, the FOHC has organized and hosted at least 2 paddle events per year. The paddles provide an opportunity for current friends to connect and build camaraderie, while also offering newcomers an opportunity to view the creek from a new perspective, building an appreciation and concern for the waterways of Hunting Creek. The FOHC has a Facebook page that is updated with relevant events, updates, and publications from group members and related organizations. They will also soon have their own webpage to serve as an archive for documents, maps, and general information about the creek and the group.
To pursue the FOHC’s goal to expand the scientific understanding of our land and water resources, volunteers with the FOHC conducted our first Water Quality Blitz on April 3, 2021. This monitoring effort yielded measurements of total nitrogen (expressed as NO23) at 10 non-tidal stream sites spread across the Hunting Creek watershed. The Blitz also yielded measurements of water temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, dissolved oxygen saturation, and pH at two of the 10 stream sites, plus at four additional sites. In addition, current velocity was measured at four stream sites, permitting us to calculate flow (discharge). Here’s a link to the 2021 Water Quality Blitz report.
Future water quality monitoring in the Hunting Creek watershed should include (a) resampling all 2021 stream sites on some meaningful and doable frequency, (b) sampling additional sites in portions of the watershed that have not been sampled, (c) measuring current velocity at all sampled sites so flows can be calculated and nitrogen loads can be estimated, and (d) ranking the tributary streams with respect to their water volume contributions to the mainstem Hunting Creek. To guide and implement these water monitoring goals, the FOHC recently formed a Water Monitoring Committee.
To pursue another FOHC goal that is aimed at engaging citizens and encouraging them to observe, document, and act to prevent adverse environmental impacts, FOHC members are attending meetings of the County’s Planning Commission and Environmental Commission to learn about, ask questions, and comment on proposed development projects in the Hunting Creek watershed. To pursue collaborative efforts and activities among watershed residents, government agencies, and local officials to make informed land use decisions and achieve common goals, FOHC members comment on and provide input to the draft of the 2021 Prince Frederick Town Center Master Plan update.
With a current membership of 36 the FOHC intends to promote and celebrate the Hunting Creek watershed as a natural, recreational, aesthetic, and economic resource. We also want our membership to enlist the help of more watershed residents. If you live in the Hunting Creek watershed and want to get involved with the FOHC, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the FOHC mailing list, or click this link to register. Not sure if you live in the Hunting Creek watershed? Click on this link, follow the directions, type in the address of your residence, and you’ll quickly find out.