started the movement, acting on an idea from his longtime friend, the singer and storyteller Tom Wisner.
would suit up in his
overalls and white sneakers, link arms with others to form a human chain, and wade in until he
couldn't see his
After taking measurements of the so-called Sneaker Index, the group - about 200 strong - would feast on fried chicken and sing songs.
This year, there wasn't much to celebrate.
only got to 34 inches.
It was one inch less than last year.
But, 2012 was not a great year for the Patuxent.
The University of Maryland's
Center for Environmental Science gave the river an F on its annual report card for 2011, declining from the D and D minus of previous years.
"The water this year was about the same as last year," Fowler
said after the wade-in.
"I'm not suggesting that the river's any worse than last year.
I don't think it's any better - we're still trying to hold on to optimism a little bit."
So much has changed for the Patuxent since the 1950s, when Fowler
rented boats on Broomes Island to weekend crabbers and fishermen, and hundreds of watermen plied the rivers and creeks of Southern Maryland.
, who is 89, wanted to make sure the wade-in continued after he
was no longer around to organize it.
no longer wears his
iconic white sneakers.
After so many wade-ins, he
needed a new pair.
hopes to donate the old ones to the Calvert Marine Museum
Nursing the river back to health seems to be a large hurdle now, but it was not so long ago that Fowler
believed a clean river was well within reach.
Fowler took his fight to save the river to Annapolis, where he served as senator from 1983 to 1994.
Gov. Harry Hughes promised Fowler resources and support.
came out onto the river, looked at the dead oysters, and promised to do all he
could to help Fowler
save the river.
In the General Assembly, Fowler
managed to pass a bill that forbade any of the wastewater plants in Calvert County from discharging effluent into the Patuxent.
They instead do land application.
At the 1997 wade-in, Fowler
waded out to a depth of 44.5 inches - still the test's high-water mark.
In the 1980s, when Fowler
push for the Patuxent, the watershed had a population of 100,000.
Today, it is seven times that.
Just by itself, Columbia, MD - a watershed town created in 1967 - has as many people as the whole watershed had then.
remains concerned about sewage treatment plants.
With today's technology and innovations, he
said, there has to be a better way to dispose of human waste than treating it and dumping it into rivers.
remains concerned that, under current plans, all of the retrofits of sewage treatment plants in the Patuxent River will bring the nitrogen and phosphorus levels in 2025 to what they were in 2010 - when they were already far too high.
is trying to schedule a meeting with EPA administrators to explain why that plan will kill the river, and he
has enlisted Walter Boynton, a University of Maryland scientist who has worked on the Patuxent for more than three decades, to help him.
is encouraged to see young people working on Chesapeake Bay issues, but he
worries that they will accept the river for what it is today, without knowing the great ecosystem it once was, and could be again.
"The recall of how the river was, even back in 1950, the only record we have of that are voices like mine," he