Cooperatove Conservation Project

Fort McHenry Wetland Restoration and Field Station

Fort McHenry Field Station: Community Based Wetland Restoration

Location: Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Region: Maryland

Project Summary: The Aquarium worked to reconstruct this wetland creating a fully functioning marsh by promoting regular, natural tidal flooding, controlling debris accumulation, and enhancing habitat.
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National Aquarium in Baltimore
Resource Challenge

The Fort McHenry site was created to mitigate the impact of constructing the Fort McHenry Tunnel. This habitat now serves as a refuge for many species of wildlife including sea ducks, heron, muskrats, and red-winged blackbirds. However, scientific studies on its ecological role were never conducted, and years of neglect left the site choked with debris.

Examples of Key Partners

Natinoal Aquairum in Baltimore, National Park Service, the Maryland Port Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey

Results and Accomplishments

In partnership with the National Park Service, the Aquarium maintains and monitors the site’s biological functions, tracks its progress, and interprets this information for Aquarium volunteers, visitors to Fort McHenry, and the general public. Such public support is vital to successful restoration programs. Since 1998 the Aquarium has hosted 21 field days, attracting volunteers from around the community who have removed over 305,600 pieces of debris. Debris removal conducted in 2004 involved 344 volunteers totaling 2,218 service hours. During this time 10,405 pieces of debris were removed form the Fort McHenry wetland.

The wetland re design and construction created a fully functioning marsh by promoting regular, natural tidal flooding to the site, controlling debris accumulation, and enhancing its habitat value to plant and animal species. After the construction was completed, the Aquarium worked with 608 community volunteers from April 19-22, 2004 to plant 55,000 units of Spartina cynosuroides (giant cordgrass), S. alterniflora (smooth cordgrass), and S. patens (salt meadow cordgrass). 4,881 volunteer hours were dedicated to complete the restoration project. The site now flourishes with additional volunteer plant species such as Scirpus americanus (olney three-square), and Cyperus strigosus (umbrella sedge). Aquarium staff and volunteers will return to the site semi-annually to monitor the success of the project.


Tidal wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay are fragile and vital to the existence of marine life that makes the Bay famous. Yet, thousands of acres have been destroyed and are lost every year. The lesson of protecting and preserving marine habitats is taught every day to the thousands of people who visit the Aquarium. The goal of this action-based project is to foster awareness, inspire leadership, and promote stewardship of aquatic habitats while restoring vital coastal habitat.

Project Contact
Glenn Page
Director of Conservation
National Aquarium in Baltimore
Pier 3, 501 East Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
Angie Ashley
Chesapeake Bay Program Manager
National Aquarium in Baltimore
Pier 3, 501 East Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21202

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