Eastern Shore Waterkeeper Groups Merge to Form "ShoreRivers"

Some of the Eastern Shore’s strongest advocates for clean water gathered Friday to officially launch a new waterkeeper organization.

The brand new ShoreRivers merges the Chester River Association, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and Sassafras River Association. The nonprofit is dedicated to healthy waterways on the Bay’s upper and middle Eastern Shore, from the Sassafras to the Choptank.

“ShoreRivers is more than just the sum of our parts – we are now one committed voice with more influence on policy, more capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large regional agricultural and restoration projects to reduce pollution,” says Jeff Horstman, who will serve as new Executive Director of ShoreRivers.

The new nonprofit will have more than 3,500 members and supporters across the Eastern Shore. 

The organization will maintain the existing volunteer networks and local watershed boards of the current waterkeeper groups. Its primary goal is to reduce pollution and protect natural resources.

“Each of our three legacy organizations has a proud and productive history of advocacy and restoration work on the Shore,” said Brennan Starkey, incoming Chair of the ShoreRivers Board of Directors. “By merging together, we draw upon our collective expertise, passion, and innovation to improve our Eastern Shore rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.”

ShoreRivers hopes that as a combined force, it will be a strong voice in Annapolis. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Governor Larry Hogan’s Chief of Staff, and Mark Belton, Secretary of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, spoke at Friday’s launch.

“Congratulations to ShoreRivers on this exciting merger. We look forward to continuing our productive partnership with them to accomplish bigger and bolder projects to help enhance and restore the Chesapeake Bay and our local waterways,” said Secretary Belton. 

ShoreRivers will include four Waterkeeper programs, the most among any Maryland nonprofit: Chester Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper and Sassafras Riverkeeper. Waterkeepers regularly patrol and monitor area waterways and serve as key spokespersons for those waters. 

Isabel Junkin Hardesty, formerly the Chester Riverkeeper, will become ShoreRivers Regional Director for the Chester and Sassafras Rivers. Tim Trumbauer, formerly the watershed manager for Chester River Association, will become the new Chester Riverkeeper. Elle O’Brien Bassett, formerly the education and outreach coordinator for Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, will become the new Miles-Wye Riverkeeper.

The organization’s new headquarters is at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in downtown Easton, Maryland, with regional offices in Chestertown and Georgetown.