TILGHMAN - On March 16, Phillips Wharf Environmental Center will reveal plans to create an environmental campus at the Harrison Oyster Co. property adjacent to the Tilghman drawbridge.
"This is a big deal for us, for the Tilghman community and for the Bay Hundred," said Kelley Cox, founder and executive director of the center. "It will show that this traditional fishing village, which depends on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, is trying to protect the Bay."
Phillips Wharf has reserved the Tilghman Fire Hall for a meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, to present its plans to anyone interested. The event is free and open to the public; refreshments will be served. Cox said that community input will be sought at the meeting.
"Phillips Wharf Environmental Center exists to educate people about the Bay," Cox said. "We strive to inform, inspire and involve people in environmental issues. The oyster house project will expand on that."
The site of the Harrison Oyster Co., 2.25 acres on Knapps Narrows just east of the island end of the drawbridge, has been home to seafood businesses for over a century. The Harrison family, who owns Harrison's Chesapeake House restaurant, hotel and marina on Tilghman, has put the property on the market, prompting much interest about the future of this prominent location. An attempt to put a cell phone tower on the property failed recently after neighbors objected to having a tower at the entrance to the island.
"We think everyone will be excited about what we're planning," Cox said. "It will mean watermen, scientists, educators and the local community all working toward keeping the Bay productive and allowing future generations of watermen to make their livings here. We hope to fill the fire hall for our presentation."
Phillips Wharf, presently based farther east on Knapps Narrows, operates a variety of educational programs for children and adults, keeps and displays live Chesapeake Bay marine animals, runs an annual oyster nurturing project and sponsors an ongoing effort to plant trees on Tilghman and in the Bay Hundred. Its popular Fishmobile is a rolling aquarium that takes live animals to schools and special events all over Maryland.
Cox said Phillips Wharf has been assisted in the oyster house project by several major nonprofit organizations, including the Grayce B. Kerr Fund and the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy.
"Too often, we are told that economic vitality and environmental protection are mutually exclusive. But the truth is that we need both prosperous watermen and bountiful seafood. The oyster house project closes the loop between ecology, economy and culture," said Rob Etgen, executive director of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. "We are thankful to Phillips Wharf Environmental Center, for spearheading such an innovative and needed venture."
John Valliant of the Kerr Fund said he is excited for his organization to be involved.
"It is a community-based project, and we think our involvement and our support can help Phillips Wharf broaden its base of support within the community," Valliant said. "It speaks, not only to the environmental side, but also to the cultural side. It's about both Tilghman's treasured heritage and its sustainable future."
More information about Phillips Wharf and the March 16 meeting can be found at www.pwec.com and 410-886-9200.