- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Five years and $20 million later, the Potomac River’s shoreline at Naval Support Facility, Indian Head has finished being revamped to protect the health of the shore and the base as a whole.
Although planning for the shoreline’s restoration project at NSF Indian Head began in 2003, construction on the shoreline surrounding the base did not begin until 2007. The last phase, a weeklong tree-planting endeavor, wrapped up Oct. 27. The newly finished living shoreline features native vegetation, sills and breakwaters, and helps guard against erosion and other forces that might jeopardize the welfare of the base.
The project was funded by the U.S. Navy and done in partnership with the National Aquarium Conservation Team from the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and employed volunteers from organizations such as AmeriCorps and the Maryland Conservation Corps. Aquarium Project Manager Charmaine Dahlenberg said the NSF Indian Head project represented “the largest and longest project the team has ever taken on.”
For those like Dahlenberg, who saw the project through from cradle to grave, watching the project’s last legs unfold last month was a deeply rewarding experience.
“The conservation department at the aquarium is a team of five women, and we do everything when it comes to logistically planning these events,” Dahlenberg said in a Naval Support Activity, South Potomac press release. “When it comes to the hard physical work, we would never get it done unless we had our volunteers, and it is extreme physical work.”
Dahlenberg and her team tended to the shoreline grasses through the sweltering heat of summer and the rest of the year, and said that watching everything quite literally take root and grow has been an incredible experience.
“The grasses have taken off, and they look awesome,” Dahlenberg said in the release. “To see them grow so significantly in so short time is amazing. ... This is something that was not here before. We built them their habitat, and now they are able to survive. That’s huge.”
Another returning volunteer, Laura Cattell Noll, began working on the project as a volunteer but was later hired by the aquarium team, and continued her work through them.
“It’s really cool to come back each year and see how the grasses and trees have progressed,” Noll said in the release. “There is a sort of succession in forest development, and to see the trees growing and new species come to where we’ve planted is awesome.”
Mary Sidlowski, a volunteer who saw the project through all five years, summarized the core feeling that came with the project’s completion.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful feeling,” Sidlowski said. “You can give money, but you can never really see where it goes. Wherever the next project is, I’ll go.”
Mattawoman Watershed Society President Jim Long said the group contributed a few volunteers to the effort.
“It’s very worthy,” Long said. “I’m pleased to see they used a living shoreline. ... It’s much better that way. It keeps the living resources of the Potomac watershed. I’m glad to see the Navy using that.”
Indian Head Mayor Dennis Scheessele said the plan mirrors the town’s own to install a living shoreline beneath the boardwalk along the Potomac. The town has not received funding for that plan.
“I think that theirs was a good plan,” Scheessele said.