Originally posted on Marine Fish Conservation Network
A few weeks ago, an EF 2 tornado ripped through a quiet little town on a small island in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay. The tornado pushed ashore in the middle of the night with a fury. There was no time for warnings. The tight-knit community that bore the brunt of the damage was almost unrecognizable. First responders had to enter with ATVs because debris filled the roads. Residents sleeping a few moments before were trying to help their neighbors and ensuring the safety of their own families within minutes. Thankfully and miraculously, no one died.
My house lies directly across the water from where the land fall occurred. We have family that lives a few miles down the road and friends in the neighborhood. More than anything, we have a sense of community. As the sun rose and news of the storm became available, volunteers arrived with chainsaws, tarps, water, and anything else they could spare. The outpouring of kindness and generosity continued until things began to get back to normal. The community stepped up as only a small community can; that’s just what people do around here and a big reason why we call this place home.
We aren’t much different from countless other coastal communities that make up this great country. While we aren’t perfect and don’t always agree on everything, we look out for each other. I saw that first hand after the tornado. There’s a sense of belonging that you won’t get living in a beehive apartment complex in the big city.
The image above is an aerial photograph of the nexus of the community. It is called Kent Narrows, and it connects the Chester River to Eastern Bay. There are restaurants, marinas, hotels, markets, and tackle shops. I haven’t found any place on the East Coast that supports so many different businesses in such a confined area. In general, coastal communities are highly dependent upon the health of the resources. Every business owner, waiter, mechanic, hotel employee, charter captain, crabber, and tackle shop worker depends on the health of the resource. Their lives are intertwined with the fragile balance we all try to strike with the Chesapeake Bay. That balance is to have enough resources to provide for the communities while leaving enough in the natural system to provide for years to come.
Kent Narrows bustles with life. The crabs, fish, and oysters are second to none. People come from far and wide to enjoy this little slice of heaven. While we don’t enjoy the extra traffic, we welcome the visitors with true small town warmth. You can see the amazement in the tourists’ eyes as they park their cars. They stare at the rows of boats in the harbor and wonder what their lives would be like if they lived in such a beautiful place. We bridge the gap between the stress of city life and the beauty of nature. We are a conduit through which visitors can discover and hopefully learn to respect our beloved Chesapeake Bay.
There is no greater ambassador for the resource at Kent Narrows than my friend Joe Cap. He makes some of the finest fishing rods in the country at Shore Tackle and Custom Rods. Joe’s clients include charter captains and recreational anglers, as well as commercial fishermen. Normally, there would be some disagreement between these vastly different stakeholders. You don’t see that at Shore Tackle. What you see are members of a small coastal community discussing the pressing issues of the day in a constructive way. A few days ago, there was a group of us tackling a conservation issue. Joe addressed one individual that was placing blame on a specific user group. Joe said, “We are all part of the coastal community first. There’s a bond amongst our customers that’s hard for outsiders to understand. We know that by working together, we can save our way of life.”
Joe’s statement took me back to the morning after the tornado and the incredible manner in which we responded. It isn’t just about conserving the resource anymore. It is about conserving the community as a whole. As I said before, we aren’t perfect and we don’t always agree on things. But, I can’t imagine a world without places like Kent Narrows where good, honest people look out for each other. It represents who we are as a community, and that’s something every American should want to protect and conserve.