- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2007

MAYO, Md. — Chris Farrow has picked up writing awards at school and was even named a delegate for a day at the State House.

Now, the Mayo youngster has been honored in an even cooler place: the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Chris is the first recipient of the aquarium”s Muddy Feet Award, which recognizes young people who make a difference in helping wildlife.

The award caps a busy six months for Chris, a redheaded 11-year-old who successfully lobbied lawmakers to protect diamondback terrapins.

Back in February, Chris read in the newspaper that a bill to halt the commercial harvest of terrapins was in trouble. He talked things over with his parents and decided to run a petition drive in the Edgewater-Mayo area.

The 275 signatures he collected, plus his testimony at General Assembly hearings, helped persuade lawmakers to pass the bill, which Gov. Martin O”Malley eventually signed.

Chris said he was happy to see his efforts pay off.

“I think it”s good because the terrapin is our state reptile,” he said. “It used to be nice in soup, but not anymore. Now it will be nice to see them in nature.”

Chris was part of a large group of advocates concerned that terrapins were being overharvested to satisfy the demand from out-of-state seafood markets and Asian restaurants.

Because of their long life cycle, it”s difficult for terrapin populations to recover from declines. Some feared that terrapins could die out in the Chesapeake Bay.

Vicky Poole, an exhibit manager at the National Aquarium, said she was impressed by Chris” passion and poise. She and her aquarium colleagues also testified at the hearings and brought along terrapins for a bit of show and tell with lawmakers.

“It”s so inspiring to us to see kids who want to make the world a better place,” she said. “It really does reinforce the work we do at the aquarium.”

Chris had a bit of experience in lobbying already: A few years ago, he and his classmates tried to get lawmakers to pass a bill establishing Children”s Day.

While the terrapin debate raged in Annapolis, aquarium officials had already talked about setting up an award for young people who go the extra mile for wildlife. Nominating Chris as the first recipient made perfect sense, Miss Poole said.

The award was a nice bonus for Chris, who got a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium with his friends after meeting the aquarium staff in Annapolis.

“I was just really surprised,” he said.

Chris was honored last month in Baltimore during a Disneymania Concert for Conservation at the Pier Six Pavilion.

A permanent exhibit about the Muddy Feet Award is being installed in the aquarium”s Children”s Discovery Corner. The exhibit will highlight the efforts of the latest winner, said Hillary Bates, an aquarium spokesman.

The Muddy Feet Award will be given out up to twice a year to honor conservation-minded children. Fifth-graders through 12th-graders are eligible, and they must be nominated by an aquarium staffer, a teacher or a community leader, such as a scouting leader.

“We”ve encountered lots of kids who are inspired by the aquarium or an animal to do something about a compelling environmental problem,” Miss Bates said. “We thought we should formalize a way to recognize some of the more extraordinary projects.”

Miss Bates said she hopes Chris is the first in a long line of inspiring young people to be honored by the aquarium.

“Certainly, Chris is a perfect example of the kind of thing we”re hoping to reward,” she said.

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