In the early 2000s, there was a need to clean up the Baltimore Harbor and dredge material (wood, mud, silt, sand, shell, and debris) from the seafloor. From that project and a robust coalition of partners, Masonville Cove was restored and Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center was born. Located on a restored site along the Patapsco River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dubbed Masonville Cove one of the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships in September 2013. The partnership and education center have since served as a place for local residents and schoolchildren in Baltimore to connect with nature and participate in meaningful stewardship projects. The adjacent communities of Brooklyn and Curtis Bay are geographically isolated and face challenges such as income inequality, concentrated poverty, limited public transportation, high crime, and low high school graduation rates. Today we continue our celebration of Latino Conservation Week with a post written by Nia Edwards, featuring some of the work she’s done to help residents of South Baltimore discover nature in the Chesapeake Bay.
My name is Nia Edwards and I am a graduating senior at Towson University double majoring in Spanish and international studies. I am the Latino community outreach liaison working with Hispanic Access Foundation, Living Classrooms and Masonville Cove to serve the local community in South Baltimore. I am responsible for providing the local Latino community with engaging events and materials and bilingual programming in English and Spanish, to foster a better relationship with Masonville Cove and build awareness about environmental conservation. By translating resources to Spanish and offering events in both languages, I help open up the lines of communication and increase accessibility to Masonville Cove resources for members of the local Latino community. For example in February, I led a community program on watersheds that focused on waste management and the impacts of urban debris on our watersheds. We also participated in Project Clean Stream, a Maryland-wide initiative to tackle trash in and around state waterways.
A reminder that litter negatively impacts wildlife and our environment
Although serving the community is a very fulfilling job, it was initially very challenging for me to address environmental issues with local communities.The environment appeared to take a backseat to basic needs such as housing, food and jobs. Aside from these socioeconomic factors , language also plays a large role and is a barrier when engaging these communities.
Our first clean-up with the community was a lot of fun and seemed to successfully address a lot of these barriers. It was eventful, well-attended, and incorporated a lot of giveaways, while providing food and a safe space for community members to get together. During our Brooklyn clean-up, we served over 100 members and the feedback from the event was fulfilling. We had a free recycling bin giveaway for Baltimore City residents, and provided an opportunity for kids and their families to decorate their bins. Our biggest giveaway, and the one that the community volunteers seemed to enjoy the most, was a free year-long membership to the aquarium. Valued at $125, the winner and their family gained free entry to the aquarium and access to exclusive aquarium events.
Events like these are a reminder of the good work we are doing and continue to do at Masonville Cove. Our goal to bring awareness and create a safe space for community members, specifically in the Latino community is constantly met during these events. For Latino Conservation Week, Nia will be leading a community event at Masonville called “Nosotros Conservamos” which will include a shoreline cleanup, fishing, and a nature walk.