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Inner Harbor waterfront of Baltimore, MD, in sunrise. Yachts moored at piers. Downtown District aerial view

Source: Alex Potemkin / Getty

Dolphins are exploring it. Terrapin turtles have been spotted in it. And in 2024, environmental advocates say Baltimore’s waterways will be ready for you too.

No, really.

More than 13 years after the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore set out to make the city’s harbor swimmable and fishable, the coalition of public and private partners announced Thursday plans for a public swim event called “Harbor Splash” in 2024. Officials have not yet set a date for the event but say it will happen around June or July pending favorable weather conditions. Registration will be required and limited to people aged 18 and older.

“We’ve definitely reached a tipping point,” said Adam Lindquist, vice president for the partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative. Frequent water quality testing coupled with recent local government efforts have given the partnership the confidence to move forward with the public swim.

Weeks before anyone had the chance to utter “you first,” Lindquist and about a dozen water advocates and researchers in September climbed down a ladder at the Bond Street Wharf in Fells Point to a floating dock.

Gripping pool noodles and inner tubes, the group counted down and, together, leapt into the warm, salty water. Some people even cannonballed.

“Hey, we did it,” Lindquist said Wednesday. “And we’re still here.”

Long have Baltimore natives jeered at naïve tourists who dared to dunk themselves in the notoriously polluted brine. The city’s waterways for years possessed a reputation for raw sewage spills, harmful bacteria levels and excessive trash.

The partnership pledged in 2010 to restore conditions so that people could once again safely splash in Baltimore’s central natural resource. Advocates later announced they would not meet their target deadline of 2020 and set their sights instead on 2030, according to the Baltimore Sun.

With much fanfare and a buoyant 8-minute video of the September “test swim,” advocates, educational, business and city leaders convened Thursday for the release of the annual Healthy Harbor Report Card for 2023. They ticked off reasons why they’re confident the Baltimore Harbor is ready for its first public swim in more than 40 years. (Lindquist says the last time was a polar plunge in 1981).

Sewage overflows are down 97% since 2018 thanks to $1 billion in sewer infrastructure improvements. Local bans on plastic bags and foam containers have resulted in a 72% and 90% drop respectively in those types of debris removed from the water by the city’s four anthropomorphic trash wheels. In dry conditions, routine water testing shows the harbor regularly meets the state’s own standard for swimming beaches.

The announcement comes amid a turning point for Baltimore’s waterfront, which centers in the heart of plans to launch an official network of water trails and an ambitious $500 million redevelopment proposal to overhaul the iconic Harborplace complex.

Advocates hope that Baltimore’s waterways could soon safely host to triathlons, paddle boarding and maybe even a swimming beach.

Following Lindquist’s plunge, he and other members of the group checked in with one another via text. No one fell ill. No one grew a superfluous body part.

“I think everyone had a wonderful time and we all survived,” he said.

Still, the “Harbor Splash” in 2024 will have precautions in place to ensure the health and safety of participants. Experts will test the water quality at Bond Street Wharf, where the event will take place. A water safety provider will monitor swimming on site. Because rain still occasionally carries storm water runoff into portions of the bay, the event will be automatically postponed if there’s any precipitation within 48 hours, Lindquist said.

The partnership is inviting those interested to sign up for a mailing list for updates about event registration details.

“Certainly, there are some people there who are never going to jump in the harbor no matter what you tell them,” Lindquist acknowledged.

He knows that overcoming the harbor’s filthy reputation will be just as difficult as cleaning up the pollution. But he likes to think that the best way to address that stigma is by getting people out onto the water to see for themselves.

Maybe, just maybe, skeptics will watch their neighbors splashing as joyfully as he did and arrive at a new, radical conclusion:

“The harbor must be cleaner than I thought.”

lillian.reed@thebaltimorebanner.com

This story was republished with permission from The Baltimore Banner. Visit http://www.thebaltimorebanner.com for more.

The post Is Baltimore’s harbor swimmable? Advocates take the plunge to prove it. appeared first on 92 Q.

Is Baltimore’s harbor swimmable? Advocates take the plunge to prove it.  was originally published on 92q.com