Baltimore County is a jurisdiction of diverse environments. One important part of that diversity is the 109 miles of coastal shoreline in the county. These miles are the front lines between land and water, where Baltimore County has a direct connection to the Chesapeake Bay. This time of year, many people come to Baltimore County’s shorelines to access the water, whether spending time boating, enjoying the view from a waterfront restaurant, or swimming at a park like Rocky Point Park or North Point State Park.
The shoreline in Baltimore County affords plenty of opportunity to connect with the tidal waters that stretch up into these land and water interfaces. Shorelines also represent vital habitats. Indeed, edge habitats are some of the most productive. Head out into these waters and you will expect to see birds – osprey, terns, and heron, to name just a few. You may also see fish jumping or a blue crab swimming up to the top of the water. After generations of armoring these shorelines with bulkhead or stone riprap, however, much of the vital habitat a shoreline provides has been lost. Natural shorelines, with vegetation and plenty of oxygen from water that mixes at the edge, provide nursery habitat to small crabs and young fish. Healthy, vegetated shoreline can also provide unmatched protection against storm surges.
In places where removing hardscape and reestablishing vegetation is unreasonable, for example, most of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, there is a movement to at least create floating wetlands that offer some of the habitat and filtering shoreline plants would otherwise provide – for example, check out the floating wetland the National Aquarium maintains in the harbor. Additionally, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been testing shoreline engineering projects that reduce the use of hardscaping and work with waves to deposit sand at the shore, rather than carry it away.
Do you know of shoreline restoration projects happening in Baltimore County? If you are a lucky waterfront resident, have you or your neighbors considered constructing living shoreline instead of hard revetment? Have you considered installing floating wetlands where you already have established shoreline revetment? What other ideas do you have about improving the shorelines of Baltimore County?