ANNAPOLIS — After nearly a year of artist bidding, deliberation and consultation with Maryland residents, the Chesapeake Bay Trust rolled out its new license plate design in October 2018.

The Trust has been selling its Maryland environment-themed plates since the 1990s, but had only released two designs until now. The last one, depicting a blue heron, was issued 14 years ago.

The new, more colorful plates, which contribute to the Trust’s fundraising efforts, feature a blue crab backdropped by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and a sunny skyline.

The plates cost $20 each — 96 cents of which goes directly to grants for a variety of organizations — and the rest goes to the Trust for redistribution into Bay restoration efforts, as well as educational opportunities for K-12 Maryland students.

According to the Trust’s website, it makes about “400 grants per year totaling between $10 million and $14 million” to schools, homeowners associations, civic associations, nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations and local governments. It also sends nearly 80,000 students on field trips every year.

Since the plates rolled out in October, the state has issued about 26,000 to Maryland drivers, according to the Trust’s Executive Director Jana Davis.

Davis said thousands of Marylanders were the biggest influencers in how the plates would eventually look, with their participation in two “really large” surveys.

The blue heron, which was featured on the old design, got the boot almost unanimously from Marylanders, who thought the blue crab should take center stage instead, Davis said.

“When you think about Maryland, the first thing that most people say is crabs,” she said. “So to [many], the blue heron was not as much a symbol of Maryland as the blue crab.”

But it wasn’t just the blue crab people wanted to see, Davis said. About 90 percent of people who participated in the polling voted that the new design should feature the Bay Bridge.

“I’ve had people tell me, ‘I love the Bridge. It’s so Eastern Shore,’” she said. “These two icons, the crab and the Bridge, speak most strongly to how Marylanders feel they interact with the Bay.”

One thing Marylanders didn’t want to change, though, was the sky-blue background, which Davis attributed to people’s likely connection between the bridge and a sunny summer vacation.

Among the other symbol options listed in the survey were a lighthouse, a boat, and even a fruit basket to signify Maryland agriculture.

The design that was ultimately chosen was created by TM Design, a tiny firm based in Frederick County and owned by Tina Cardosi. TM Design was one of 19 firms vying to have its artwork exhibited on the new plates.

The Trust emphasized the importance of technological advancements in its ability to now feature such a “realistic” depiction of Maryland’s natural resources, highlighting the “unlimited” use of color and detail.

The plates are all hand-stamped by prison inmates, who can qualify to join the plate-making work program in Jessup, at the discretion of Maryland Correctional Enterprises.

Davis said the Trust’s goal is sell at least 40,000 more plates this year, with hopes of averaging about 7,000 plates sold each month. The plates are sold through {span}dealerships, tag and title agencies and MVA branches. {/span}

All Maryland drivers can now preview how the plate would look on their car by visiting {a class=”vglnk” href=”http://www.bayplateme.com/” rel=”nofollow”}www.BayPlateMe.com{/a}. For more information on the plates and the Chespeake Bay Trust, visit www.news.maryland.gov/dnr.

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