ShoreRivers has taken a bold step in its growth as a formidable nonprofit working to improve the health of Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. By establishing the Nina Rodale Houghton Fund, the organization is establishing support in perpetuity for its Riverkeepers, who serve as the voice for the Sassafras, Chester, Wye, Miles, Choptank, Bayside Creeks, and Eastern Bay watersheds of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Earlier this spring, Nina Houghton, a passionate Chesapeake Bay environmental advocate, died peacefully at her home in Chestertown. Nina’s friends and family decided to perpetuate her passion for the Eastern Shore and a clean Chesapeake Bay watershed by establishing an endowment fund.
“Our vision is to build the fund over time to be large enough to support ShoreRivers’ four Riverkeepers from the fund’s growth and earnings. The four Riverkeepers are the heart and soul of ShoreRivers’ mission of science-based advocacy, restoration, education, and community engagement to protect and restore the health of our rivers,” says Jeff Horstman, Executive Director of ShoreRivers, and Nina Houghton’s son.
Jeff reflects on Nina’s life and the influences that helped create her passion for the environment. First, she was born into the Rodale family of Rodale Press, an American publisher of health and wellness magazines, books, and a guide for organic gardening, which started the organic movement. The publishing company also published such magazines as Men’s Health and Prevention, as well as a collection of bestsellers, including An Inconvenient Truth and Eat This, Not That. The Rodale Press was later bought by Heart Communications.
In the next chapter of Nina’s life, she raised her children while working for four years aboard a marine research vessel for the Mammal Motivational Institute (SEAMAMM) in Key Largo, Florida, studying and training seals and sea lions for applications such as salvage and marine rescue. It was in Florida that Nina met Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. after one of her seals traveled 300 to 400 miles to Arthur’s neighbor’s pool in Florida.
“My connection to the Eastern Shore began after my mother married Arthur Houghton and brought her four children, two dogs, and two Harbor Seals, and one Sea Lion to the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1972. After a long career in business in the Wilmington area, it finally feels like I am back home,” states Jeff, who began his second career initially working as the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper and then as director of the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy before it merged with the Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association to form ShoreRivers in 2017. He now serves as the organization’s executive director.
The vision of ShoreRivers is healthy waterways across Maryland’s Eastern Shore, accomplished through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. When asked about why he made the career change and became a Riverkeeper to begin with, Jeff comments, “No one was protecting the water and it was getting more and more polluted. My mother got involved as a volunteer. She wanted agriculture to get along with the water and funded the first Miles-Wye Riverkeeper program in 2010 before I came back to the area.”
“When I decided to get involved, she was thrilled to have me here,” he adds.
According to Rebekah Hock, Director of Development for ShoreRivers, “The Riverkeepers are our voices in the community. They are striving to make our waterways clean and accessible for our entire community. While we were successful in receiving grant funds and community support through our annual appeals for these four Riverkeeper positions, we needed a more permanent funding stream.”
“This was our first step to provide security for funding our Riverkeepers. It will also keep my mom’s work going in perpetuity,” adds Jeff.
In addition to regularly patrolling these waterways, monitoring river health, identifying pollution hot spots, looking for illegal pollution sources, and taking legal action to curtail polluters, ShoreRivers’ Riverkeepers also advocate for the waterways by developing and influencing state and local policy, lobbying for beneficial state legislation and regulatory change, testifying at bill hearings in Annapolis, working with local elected officials, and coordinating member involvement.
Nina Houghton spent nearly 50 years in Maryland. She was passionate about bringing together the agricultural, forest, and environmental communities to retain Maryland’s working landscapes and the industries they support while protecting and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. She helped found the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and was the initial funder of the Harry R. Hughes Endowed Scholarship Fund. She was an advisory group member of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and a Trustee of the Wye Institute. Equally invested in educational improvement and innovation, Nina played leadership roles with the University System of Maryland, the Columbus Center in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Medicine, University of Maryland College Park, Washington College, Goucher College, and the Aspen Institute.
Jeff quips, “Examples of Nina Houghton’s passion for the environment include driving all of her grandchildren to see all of the National Parks when she was a single 60-year old so that they would understand about our country’s natural resources.”
“I think she would be thrilled that people are trying to perpetuate her work, not just caring for the land, but trying to protect the water as well. That was important to her.”
Nina Houghton lived her passion for connecting environmental, agricultural, and educational initiatives for the betterment of the Chesapeake Bay. ShoreRivers was built on this same tenet. To help sustain Nina’s legacy by contributing to the Nina Rodale Houghton Fund, visit shorerivers.org/houghton-fund or send a check to ShoreRivers Nina Houghton Fund, 114 South Washington Street, Suite 301, Easton, Maryland 21601. For gifts of securities, contact Rebekah Hock at firstname.lastname@example.org.