The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program
The promenade you are standing on lies within a very special space called the Critical Area. The Critical Area is the 1000 foot strip (about three city blocks) bordering the entire Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, including the Patapsco River where Baltimore is located. The Buffer, where you are standing is the 100 foot strip at the very edge of the water. In 1984, Maryland enacted the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Protection Act.
The law is designated to clean up the waters of the Bay and to protect the aquatic life, wildfowl, and wild animals that make their home in the Bay and along its shores. Since then, 16 counties and 44 municipalities in Maryland have established Critical Area Programs. The Programs guide development on land that lies within the Critical Area while at the same time accommodating growth.
Three ways of improving Water Quality in the Urban Environment-The natural shoreline in rural areas filters pollutants from storm-water runoff before they get into the water. Baltimore City, on the other hand, has hardened its shoreline with docks, bulkheads, and wharves over the past 200 years as it grew into the thriving commercial and industrial heart of the region. Despite its hard edges, Baltimore contributes significantly to the Chesapeake Bay clean up effort through the three parts of its Critical Area Program.
Natural Shorelines-Baltimore has 430 acres of natural, soft shoreline within its Critical Area, in places like Middle Branch Park and the Gwynns Falls Greenway. The Program protects these areas from future development so that they can continue to work as natural pollution filters, and as the habitat for the abundant life forms in and around the water's edge.
2. On-site Mitigation-Anyone who develops land in the 1000 foot Critical Area must take steps to reduce pollution from storm water runoff by 10% below what it was prior to development. The marshy wetland on the west side of the Columbus Center is an example of an on-site project that helps reduce pollution from runoff. Significant development projects with the Buffer (the 100 foot strip along the water's edge) are subject to even more stringent requirements. These requirements can be met through extensive plantings or by building a public promenade—like the one you are walking on. If the pollution reduction or Buffer requirements cannot be met on-site, the developer pays a fee into the Offset Fund.
3. The Offset Program-The Offset Fund consists of money's collected from developers who cannot meet their pollution reduction or Buffer requirements on-site. It is managed by the Baltimore City Department of Planning. The Fund supports construction of projects that improve water quality or shoreline habitat in the City, as well as environmental education programs, such as this sign. The new wetland on the northwest side of the Vietnam Memorial Bridge in South Baltimore is an example of a shoreline improvement that both filters pollutants and improves wildlife habitat.
(Inscription on the upper right) FilosofiEnjoy Baltimore's Waterfront Promenade
You are standing on the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade. Follow this 7.5 mile path and discover great neighborhoods, old and new architecture, art galleries, theater, food and drink, marine life, parks, museums, shops and other shoreline attractions. Signs along the way will introduce you to harbor life of yesterday and today.
This sign was produced by the Baltimore Harbor Endowment with a grant from the City of Baltimore, Kurt L. Schmoke, Mayor, in cooperation with the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission. Illustrated by RTKL Associates, Inc.