On Maryland's western bank of the Chesapeake Bay, 400-year-old Annapolis is a colonial city evolving into modern, sustainable life. The state capital sits on a peninsula between the Severn and South rivers, encouraging ecosystem restorations, green practices and environmental designs throughout its domain.
Annapolis claims a place among the Sierra Club's "Cool Cities," and it's packed with residents devoted to North America's largest estuary and its wildlife, yet who still want an active community. Eco-minded residents find a variety of ways to pitch in, ranging from rain barrels to local stream cleanups.
Bike for free courtesy the Free Wheelin' bicycle rental program, which lends bikes seven days a week, and follow a network of greenways and bike trails. Each May, an annual Bike to Work rally day encourages bicycling as a main mode of transportation.
Sustainable restaurants include the Rockfish, which sports an organic rooftop herb and vegetable garden, serves up sustainable seafood and organic wines, and was among the first restaurants downtown to regularly recycle.
Fresh, local ingredients can be found at Annapolis' seven local farmers markets hosted throughout the week. This biggest market, held on Saturdays and Tuesday mornings, has the largest variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, plus jams and more. On Tuesday evenings, find free-range eggs, fresh grass-fed beef and Maryland goat cheese at the Tuesday Night Natural Market.
At Back Creek Nature Park, explore urban ecology solutions for shoreline restoration and habitat protection. This teaching park shows how stewardship and green practices can help reduce environmental harm in a city setting.
Other green spaces flourish throughout the city, including tiny "pocket parks" no bigger than a living room, as well as slightly more spacious urban parks that offer rest on shady benches surrounded by gardens brimming with native plants. Try Newman Street Park (off Compromise Street) by the City Dock for respite away from bustling downtown. Rain gardens, which collect and slow runoff, can be found throughout the city, including at the shopping mall, local churches and schools.
Each spring, a GreenScape program engages Annapolis communities cleaning up and planting common spaces with native plants and trees, provided by the city.
There's also hiking, boating and biking in Quiet Waters Park, which has a network of forest trails, and rents canoes and kayaks by the hour. Other city parks offer launch ramps into rivers and creeks for powerboats and sailboats. Biking trails can be found throughout the city, and the 13-mile Baltimore-Annapolis trail is a local favorite.
Environmental action groups headquartered downtown, such as Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Environment Maryland, get help from local volunteers to educate voters and lawmakers during the General Assembly session. Others, including Severn River Association and South River Federation, work year-round to improve local habitats and ecosystems with projects such as building up underwater oyster bars to encourage growth of water-filtering oysters.
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