A Different View of Urban Sprawl: A Pontoon Tour Through the Wetlands of Harford County
Idyllic? Serene? Peaceful? Allow me to explain why this scene is such an extreme dichotomy to what lies just outside the camera view.
Where these wetlands end, the urban congestion begins. This picturesque view is surrounded by industrial lots, old dumping zones for cars, tightly squeezed housing developments, and a town that has far more than its share of serious crime. It isn’t a community where you walk after dark.
The area is also home to two major interchanges of Interstate 95 where the rush hour speed limit is 65, but you crawl about 30mph because of the sheer volume of drivers. Just a handful of miles away is uber-shopping center-sprawl: blocks and blocks of mega stores, franchises, and parking lots. A five-mile drive takes 18 minutes, again due to the congestion.
Sprawl is somewhat confined though, as the northeast side of this area is bounded by one of the largest U.S. military bases, including the “arsenal” area where chemical warfare has been researched.
Tucked in amongst all this ‘civilization’, development, and congestion is the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center, formed with the mission to research, monitor, and educate on estuarine ecosystems. The Center offers an extensive array of programs, including pontoon tours through the marshy channels of the Otter Point Creek and Bush River – which eventually empty into the Chesapeake Bay.
From our pontoon, we could see cars whizzing past on Route 40. Every so often we could hear the distant clanging of a freight train along the CSX tracks. But otherwise, we were alone with nature.
The only sounds were birds, the hum of the pontoon motor, the swishing of the water behind us, and our delighted voices. Smells were fresh and vibrant – not the diesel fumes of the highway. Everything was green and still, soothing to our eyes. A light breeze refreshed us; the sun shone brightly – it was rejuvenating.
Looking forward to the next 90-minute escape into the wetlands.