Center for the Inland Bays’ River Rally full of spirited support, excitement

MILLSBORO — Delaware’s Inland Bays appear to be on the road to good environmental health.

The Indian River watershed is another story, according to the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays.

“Inland Bays are cleaning up. Everybody is working to clean them up. Things are getting a lot better,” said Chris Bason, executive director for the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays. “The Indian River is more of a challenge. We have got a long way to go. And that’s why we are here to celebrate. We are here asking everybody to keep working on it; keep sacrificing for the river.”

Herman Jackson of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe summoned ancestors for spiritual intervention in a formal blessing of the Indian River. And the river blessing was a highlight of the Center for the Inland Bays’ River Rally held May 10 at Cupola Park in Millsboro.

“God created all of this. He created us. But he didn’t create all of this for us,” said Mr. Jackson. “Stewardship of the land is our jobs. And we are falling short in a lot of areas.”

The blessing ceremony drew a huge crowd along the bank of the river.

“We burn sweet grass, which is used to call in the spirits, as we say. We call them in. And you get a whole lot of good and get a little bad. You get some that you really don’t want,” Mr. Jackson explained. “We mix in white sage and cedar, and they chase away all of the bad, the negativity, anything we don’t want today.”

Dirt used in the ceremonial smudging was obtained from Vienna, Md., in Laurel along the Broad Creek and in Millsboro – three Nanticoke Indian reservation locations, Mr. Jackson explained.

“We’re calling in our ancestors before the water looked like that, so they could help us understand what our goal is to get back to what they remember seeing. They remember catching fish out of there and it didn’t take them all day. They ate the fish they caught out of there and did not get sick. The shellfish, they could eat anywhere and not get sick,” said Mr. Jackson. “We want them to instill upon us what it used to be, because I barely remember the fish that were good and the clams that were good out there. They had good beaches, they could go swimming.”

Mr. Jackson asked the Creator to understand “that you created it and let us be here to take care of what you created. Two thirds of the earth is water; one third is land. We know the land filters the water. We blacktop, concrete, build houses and we take that one third and cut it in half. We have got to filter all of that water with only half as much as you designed. For that I am sorry.”

“You put fish, shellfish all living creatures in ocean. We’ve overdone it as always. For that I am sorry,” said Mr. Jackson. “We over-hunted. For that I am sorry.”

Mr. Jackson asked the Creator to come down and touch all of these hearts “that are willing to learn and to help us,” and for the wisdom “to know what we need to do and give us the knowledge to know how to do what it is we need to do” in that “one day this water will be clean again.”

The rally was structured to inspire and educate. It was held one month after the Center for the Inland Bays in an April 9 report targeted Mountaire’s Millsboro poultry processing and spray irrigation operations for nitrates and other pollutants filtering into the Indian River.

“We knew that there was a lot of gloom and doom about the river and that just seems to be the case for a lot of environmental organizations,” said Amy Barra, outreach and education coordinator for the Center for the Inland Bays. “You hear a lot of the negative. So, we just wanted to do something that was really positive and inspiring, and that is how the rally came about.”

“So, the overall theme today is to inspire people, to get people excited about the river. We want them to be able to take action,” Ms. Barra said. “We have a lot of ways to get people engaged.”

Terry Baker, a poultry grower for Mountaire, is among those engaged. He takes stewardship very seriously at his family’s 20-acre Baker’s Acres farm on Gravel Hill Road.

In fact, environmentally-friendly practices implemented at the farm earned Baker’s Acres the 2018 Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award from U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.

“I do no crops. I just do poultry. We keep no manure on our farm. It’s all taken and hauled away for crop farmers. We’ve planted a lot of vegetative buffers, grasses, and put in heavy-use area pads,” said Mr. Baker. “We put in tall Miscanthus grass in front of fans tunnel fans to eliminate any dust or ammonia. We use farm freezers to recycle the poultry mortality, rather than composting, which can attract a lot of flies and vultures and it smells really bad. This way it’s all hauled away and recycled.”

“In everyday life Terry goes the extra mile to be a good steward of the environment,” Mr. Bason said.

Mr. Baker bought the farm about 10 years ago.

“My wife was pregnant with our second (child) and we wanted her to stay home, like my mom did and her mom did, so I got a second job,” said Mr. Baker. “I was working in the processing side. I could get up a 4 o’clock in the morning and take care of chickens, work all day and then come home and take care of chickens.”

The farm is home to Mr. Baker, his wife and four children. “We have birthday parties on farm. It is a pleasant place to live on the farm,” he said. “I have four kids, 8, 9, 10 and 11, and they run around and play on the farm.”

Mr. Bason also recognized Millsboro resident Mark Casey, among Delaware’s pioneering home-grown oyster growers.

“This guy he is going to be first guy in decades to be growing oysters right here on the Indian River Bay,” said Mr. Bason. “I can’t wait until this happens. It is going to be a big deal for the whole area to have fresh local Delaware oysters for everybody. Those oysters clean the water. They help protect the bay.”

“We are here today to celebrate the Indian River,” said Mr. Bason. “The river is a part of our culture. It’s a part of our heritage. It sustains our economy.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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