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River Center Gets $56,000 Boost

Federal grant will pay for “Backyard to the Bay” exhibit.

The Potomac Conservancy will receive a $56,000 federal grant to install permanent exhibits in its new Lockhouse 8 River Center under the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network Program.

The National Park Service-administered program was authored by U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) in 1998 as a partnership of parks, museums, water trails, and historic maritime sites where visitors can learn about the Chesapeake Bay and its history.

The Conservancy grant is among 18 in Maryland and 27 in the Chesapeake Bay watershed this year, totaling $1.6 million.

The exhibit, entitled “Backyard to the Bay,” will highlight the connections between the C&O Canal, the Potomac River and the Bay and encourage everyday conservation measures that citizens can take at home.

Lockhouse 8 was restored by the Conservancy in cooperation with the Park Service over the last three years and opened its doors as an interpretive river center in May.

It was home to a full-time lock keeper during the Canal’s operational period in the mid-19th century and abandoned in 1950.

“There’s a lot of places to learn about just the Potomac River  … We want to be a place where people can learn what they can do in their backyards that’s going to make a difference,” Potomac Conservancy President Matt Logan said.

Logan said that educational outreach efforts like the Gateways program have been critical to conservation, but that there is still work to be done. Many citizens still do not understand the concept of a watershed — the large drainage area in which all waters eventually flow a body of water, in this case, the Bay.

“That’s pretty fundamental to the idea that your backyard is connected to this distant water body,” he said.

Important efforts at home include using native species in landscaping, avoiding harmful fertilizers, and making Bay-friendly consumer choices like using recycled products.

Still, Logan said that if he could have every Maryland resident do just one thing for conservation, it would be to “vote with the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River in mind … Unless there’s that political will we aren’t really going to make a huge difference.”

Sarbanes, who will retire next year after 30 years in the Senate, has been a leader in Bay conservation.

“He’s going to be sorely missed,” Logan said.

The Lockhouse 8 River Center is open weekends 10 a.m.-2 p.m. May-September. It will remain open while the new exhibit is installed next year. The Conservancy hopes to unveil it in 2007.