Md. Bay License Plate Sales Double

It’s an eye-catching design on Maryland roads: the sky-blue “Bay Plate,” a license plate adorned with the Bay Bridge, underwater grasses, and the beloved Chesapeake blue crab. Now, the license plate is on the bumpers of more vehicles than ever before, and that’s good news for efforts to save the Bay.

Bay Bulletin has learned that sales of the Bay plate have doubled in the past year, thanks to a snazzy redesign as well as an awareness push aimed at car dealers and tag and title businesses.

When the Bay plate got its first redesign in 14 years, Bay Bulletin’s Cheryl Costello showed us the big unveiling. Watch it here.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust, which runs the Bay plate program with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, says the redesign gave the Bay plate momentum.

“We are overjoyed with the new Chesapeake Bay plate design, and the huge increase in sales since its release last October shows that Marylanders are too. Funding from the Chesapeake plate helps support about 400 grant awards per year.  People love the award winning artwork so much and have so much pride in the plate that we are developing additional ways to show it off,” says Chesapeake Bay Trust executive director Jana Davis.

Beth Caro, owner of Tag & Title Service of Maryland in Edgewater and Chesapeake Bay Trust councilmember, has seen untapped potential to sell more Bay plates in her industry. With the help of the Trust’s marketing director, Kelly Swartout, Caro launched Tag Agents for the Bay, a program that educates title agents on the benefits of a Bay plate for drivers.

Sales of the plate fund environmental education programs and other clean-water projects in Maryland. Each Bay plate costs $20, and that’s enough to send one student on an environmentally based field trip and to plant two trees.

Not only do Bay plate owners get the benefit of knowing they’re supporting clean water, they also get a long list of perks, like coupons and preferred parking in some city garages. Bay plate owners can get discounted memberships to the National Aquarium, Bowie Baysox tickets, discounts at Helly Hansen, and a free standup paddleboard lesson, to name a few. To see all of the “plate perks,” click here.

To spread the word about the perks, the Trust offers flyers for businesses to put in their window and holds competitions among title companies. There are now 31 local tag and title locations listed on the Tag Agents for the Bay web page. And the success is evident: Caro says licensed tag and title companies in Maryland have sold more than 17,400 Bay plates so far in 2019.

“That means that the Maryland Tag and Title Agents planted 2,906 trees and sent 4,359 students on an environmental education field trip in 2019,” Caro says, putting the impact in perspective. 

The push hasn’t stopped there, though: the Trust took the same campaign to car dealerships, adding educational videos as an additional tool.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust will continue to educate those in the license plate business about the perks for drivers and for the Bay, in hopes of seeing even more colorful plates next year.

-Meg Walburn Viviano