BERLIN — There were only four entries files with only days to go in the stormwater photo contest, but given that the contest was about flooding, it should have come as no surprise than 20 more entries came in at the last minute to round out the field to an even two dozen submissions for judging.
Berlin photographer Krista Valliant won with a photo of a man peddling his bicycle through the flood near the corner of Cedar and William streets. First runner-up was Susan Schwarten for her photo of a woman and a dog kayaking in Powell Circle and second runner-up was a boy playing in the rain, knee-deep in water on William Street.
Each will receive a Berlin Chamber of Commerce gift certificate to participating shops, galleries, restaurants and other area businesses.
More importantly, they and the rest of the participants helped to raise awareness about Berlin’s flooding problems in anticipation of the movement to help plan for and finance its alleviation.
The contest was part of a kickoff program in partnership between town government, the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, Grow Berlin Green, the Town Creek Foundation and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to address Maryland’s recent requirement that municipalities and counties take more responsibility for managing stormwater runoff.
Rain washes chemicals and toxins that lay on streets and lawns into small rivers and streams that feed both the Chesapeake and coastal bays. In addition to reducing the water quality in those large estuaries, stormwater also contributes to erosion.
Stormwater management slows the runoff so it can filter back into the ground, where the nutrients belong and where chemicals have less of an impact.
Dealing with stormwater has been prohibitively expensive but as the issues comes to the fore, it is being viewed as a pay now or pay later proposition. Officials hope to fine a way to defray the costs so it can be more palatable to the residents who will have a share of the expense.
More than 100 people attended the two-day photo exposition and voted on the photos.
Monica Billing, one of the two university representatives answering questions and monitoring the voting said the turnout was unexpectedly high and credited the idea of combining the event with both the 2nd Friday Art Stroll and the Octoberfest.
Steven Theroux the other university representative said he believed the photo contest particularly was a useful tool for bringing people out.
Once they were engaged by the photos, people took the opportunity to find out more about stormwater management. Megan Hughes the university representative heading the project, said the first meeting, held earlier this month for District 1 residents was fairly well attended, with an audience of about 25 people. She added that as word continues to get out, she expects more people to participate.