Chesapeake Bay: Everybody's Back Yard

Chesapeake Bay: Everybody's Back Yard

Potomac Conservancy kicks off new exhibit at annual reopening of Lockhouse 8.

Gudrun Kreisel moved to Potomac just over a month ago, and she already makes regular treks to the C&O Canal. It makes her happy to sit by the canal, surrounded by nature, or to hike with a friend up to Great Falls.

“I’m addicted to it, almost,” Kreisel said.

Kreisel was one of more than 30 people that were on hand as the River Center at Lockhouse 8 opened its doors to the public for the season on Saturday, May 5. It will be open on weekends until Oct. 15.

SATURDAY’S CEREMONY kicked off Lockhouse 8’s new “Backyard to the Bay” exhibit, which demonstrates the interconnections between the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the actions of people living in the Potomac watershed.

Kevin Brandt, superintendent of C&O Canal National Historical Park, attended the event, and pointed to a wren’s nest that birds built above the lockhouse’s front door this spring. The nest, said Brandt, is an example of nature and humankind’s works coexisting along the canal.

That’s just the type of connection “Backyard to the Bay” strives to make. The exhibit, housed in a ground-level room in the lockhouse, shows the way people can affect the health of the Potomac River’s tributaries, and in turn can affect the health of the Potomac itself, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Every person can make a difference, for better or worse. “You don’t even need to have a lawn,” Brandt said.

Dean Paris, who designed the exhibit, described it as “layered information.” Confined by the borders of a single lockhouse room, the exhibit has surface-level information, and more detailed information that is accessed by flipping levers or turning handles. Visitors can skim through the exhibit, but there is more in-depth information accessible to those who seek it.

The first wave of visitors seemed reluctant to touch the interactive parts of the exhibit. Go ahead, said Paris — it was designed to be hands-on. “[Visitors should] touch and explore, just like they should go outside and enjoy nature … without destroying it,” Paris said.

In nature, hikers should leave no trace, but they’re invited to leave their mark at Lockhouse 8 in the form of a “pledge-leaf.” This is a collection of leaves on which people right ideas for being a river-friendly neighbor.”

“I will pack out my trash and pick up other trash when I go out kayaking,” one leaf said.

“I will participate in a tree planting this year,” said another.