Former state senator C. Bernard "Bernie" Fowler said his annual Patuxent River wade-in at Broomes Island on Sunday determined that the water quality was "just about what it was last year."

Fowler waded into the river with a collection of federal, state and local officials, including Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D) and Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).

Each year Fowler records the depth of the water at the point where he can no longer see his white sneakers while standing in the river. The measurement, Fowler said, was 31.5 inches. Last year the sneakers disappeared at 24.5 inches, but in Fowler's view there wasn't much of a noticeable difference -- and that's not good.

"I don't feel so good about the quality of the river," he said in an interview. The culprit for the disappointing water quality: overdevelopment.

"Growth is horrendous," he said. Fowler has said that in the 1950s, he could walk into the Patuxent and see "12 feet of transparent water." But Fowler said this week that efforts to improve sewage treatment plants have helped "build my hope back" that the river will improve.

Getting the public and government officials to think about improving water quality in the river is the goal of the wade-in.

"The whole purpose there is that we continue to focus attention on the river and don't go asleep at the switch," he said.

Fowler's spirits also were boosted Monday with a major planting of oysters at a new sanctuary in the Patuxent River. That effort is part of a $2.7 million program to restore the habitat damaged when oil leaked from a cracked pipeline at the former Pepco power plant in Aquasco at Chalk Point and fouled the river in April 2000.

St. Mary's Juneteenth

St. Mary's County will host its first Juneteenth celebration Saturday in Freedom Park.

June 19 marks the day the last slaves, in the far reaches of the Confederacy, received word that they had been freed. A Union army leader rode into Texas in 1865 with a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed two years earlier, but still unknown in some parts of the country. By then, the Civil War was over, and President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. But word spread slowly, especially in sparsely populated areas.

Since then, African Americans have celebrated the day of freedom, in Texas and in a growing number of communities across the nation.

The celebration from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Lexington Park, at Tulagi Place and Route 235, is sponsored by the Unified Committee for African American Contributions and the St. Mary's County Department of Economic and Community Development. There will be gospel singers, barbecue and strawberry soda, Buffalo Soldiers reenactments, storytellers, speeches, and games for children.

A Juneteenth celebration also is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Accokeek at the National Colonial Farm -- families should bring meat to grill on the barbecue pit.

River Concert Series

The sixth season of the River Concert Series continues tomorrow with the second Friday night concert of the year.

"Going for Baroque With an Irish Twist" will feature flutist Giuseppe Nova and violinist Jose Cueto as guest artists and the Chesapeake Orchestra directed by Jeffrey Silberschlag, who also will be featured as trumpet soloist.

This year the series features an Avenue of the Arts, with vendors selling everything from food to fine arts and crafts.

The concert, located at the Townhouse Green overlooking the St. Mary's River, begins at 7 p.m., with the grounds and vendors open at 5 p.m.

Outdoor Fun Day

The Friends of Myrtle Point Park and the Southern Maryland Group of the Sierra Club are sponsoring a "Fun Day" at the park June 26.

The event, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will feature a birding walk and talk, beach strolling, kids' fishing, hiking and other activities. People planning to participate should bring a picnic lunch and sunscreen, organizers said in announcing the special day.

More information about the St. Mary's County park and directions to get to it can be found at www.myrtlepoint.org/index.htm.

Planning Meeting

The St. Mary's County Planning Commission, the Recreation and Parks Board, and the Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board will meet Monday to hear from residents about the update of the county's Land Preservation, Parks and Recreation Plan. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in the Central Hall of the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, 44219 Airport Rd., California.

Those who attend will be given an opportunity to comment on their experiences and air ideas and opinions about planning and prioritizing preservation, natural resource protection and recreational needs.

The plan is an important document for identifying recreation and open space needs in the county and Leonardtown. Once adopted, the plan will guide policies and actions to address those needs for the next five to 10 years.

More information about the public meeting and the update of the plan is available by contacting Phillip Rollins, director, Department of Recreation, Parks and Community Services at 301-475-4200, Ext. 1811, or e-mail phil.rollins@co.saint-marys.md.us.

Cornelia on the Farm

A smiling sweet corn character named "Cornelia" and her farm band buddies now introduce the new So. Maryland, So Good program to elementary school and younger children via a coloring and activity book, which will soon be free to children attending farmers markets, various events and local libraries in Maryland's five southernmost counties, the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission announced last week.

The book's cartoon characters introduce children to issues such as how buying local produce and products can preserve Southern Maryland's farming tradition and support the local economy.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students in St. Mary's County's Margaret Brent Middle School art classes created the characters as part of a contest to come up with symbols for many of the crops and products that consumers can purchase locally at farms, farmers markets, stores and restaurants.

Hayle Bowen, the student creator of "Cornelia" the corn, worked on the character for roughly two weeks and decided to add "eyelashes and blushing cheeks" to personify the corn. Branden Williams created a fish character. "I like fishing, and I drew a rockfish because it's our state fish and everyone loves rockfish," the student said in the announcement released by the commission.

The So. Maryland, So Good campaign is organized by the commission, an arm of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland.

Christine Bergmark, director of the commission, and her staff members are trying to help farmers move away from the 360-year-old tobacco industry and transition into agribusiness enterprises. As part of the efforts to assist local farmers, Bergmark initiated the "buy local" campaign to encourage consumers to learn about and purchase local farm products grown in Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and former state senator Bernie Fowler test the waters at Fowler's Patuxent River wade-in on Broomes Island.