St. Leonard, MD – The 31st annual Bernie Fowler Wade-in Sunday, June 10 proved to be a wonderful blend of words, water, family, food, music and messages that were as intermittent as the day’s sunshine. The reason for the large gathering at Jefferson Patterson Park is to conduct unscientific research on efforts to cleanse the Patuxent River. Fowler and several attendees hold hands and slowly wade through the river to measure the depth of the water when Fowler reaches the point where he can no longer see his white sneakers.

While the trek in the Patuxent seemed longer this year, the results in comparison to last year appeared disappointing. The depth of the water, measured from the soles of Fowler’s sneaker-clad feet to the water line on his overalls was 36 inches—5.5 inches shorter than 2017. Factoring in the frequently heavy rains of the past several weeks, many observers thought the result was still encouraging. Fowler added another plus he observed while leading the march. He told after the wade-in that underwater vegetation popularly known as “redhead grass” was more abundant. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, redhead grass “grows in fresh to moderately brackish tidal waters in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”

“Ducks love it,” said Fowler.

“The sea grass around Solomons Island is coming back,” Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Director Dr. Thomas Miller announced during the pre-wade-in program, crediting activists like Fowler for the resurgence.

Fowler began the annual June ritual of wading into the Patuxent River during the late 1980s. The original gathering and wading location was Broomes Island. The venue changed in 2010 to the state-owned Jefferson Patterson Park for the purpose of institutionalizing the event—that is, having it continue after Fowler is no longer able to host it.

Having another event to attend, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller was invited by Fowler to speak first. Miller’s parting words set the tone for the day when he urged all individuals in high places to “come together” on the environmental issue.

“This truly is a bi-partisan fight for environmental progress,” declared Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles, who added the Hogan Administration is determined to “fight the cuts and rollbacks” by the federal government. Grumbles proclaimed Fowler as “the Great Blue Heron of the Patuxent.”

“I don’t understand how people don’t think there’s climate change,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, adding that he was disappointed that President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. Hoyer pledged to work in Congress to help Maryland to “continue to be a leader in environmental protection and water quality.” Hoyer called Fowler “this extraordinary hero.”

While the wading portion of the day provided a measure of fun to what Hoyer called “an extraordinarily serious event,” the most memorable moment occurred when Fowler introduced Betty, his wife of 68 years. Mrs. Fowler, who is ailing, declared, “I am so thankful to God that I was able to come here today. God bless you!” Her comments and presence prompted a standing ovation with sustained applause from the gathering.

The wade-in included displays from Calvert County and Maryland agencies, a catered buffet lunch and event towels, the latter courtesy of Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. Vocal music for the event was provided by Deanna Dove, Brooke Swann and the Patuxent Voices. Welcoming remarks were made by Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum Acting Executive Director Rachelle Green.

Contact Marty Madden at