Chesapeake Insider

Katrina Jones


Today, we're chatting with the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) Program Manager for Education and Stakeholder Engagement, Katrina Jones.

Katrina, your friends call you the Dredge Queen. Tell us about your job with the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore. What makes you the Dredge Queen?

DredgeQueen is actually my geocache name.  When my environmental education team told me about geocaching, I thought it was a great way to connect with people visiting our site at Hart Miller Island.  Since the Port’s environmental education program and the outreach we do is centered around dredging, DredgeQueen sounded fun and appropriate. Our first geocache was placed at Hart Miller Island, a remnant island chain in Back River.  It was the Port’s first dredged material containment facility, built to receive dredged sediment from deepening the Baltimore Harbor shipping channels to 50’, and has restored over 1,100 acres of valuable habitat.

That sounds like a wonderful win-win situation for the environment and the economy. We need deep channels to keep our Port thriving, and we need material to keep our islands and shorelines resilient in the face of climate change. Tell us, what is one of your most memorable days on the job?

There are so many!  For example, hearing a child leaving one our community events say “it was the best day ever;” listening to a student repeat your message about conservation to an audience weeks after giving them a site tour; seeing the expressions on people’s faces when they learn that the Port of Baltimore is more than cargo and the economy, but that we also value the Chesapeake Bay, the environment and actively engage with students and communities; successfully connecting job seekers to employers at our now annual career and hiring event . .  . like I said, there are so many!

So, full disclosure here. You and I are “friends” on Facebook and in real life. You posted the most amazing picture of yourself on Facebook outside enjoying nature, and I was so struck by both the image and your sentiment. You wrote,

“This photo expresses a lot for me: the freedom and peace I feel when I experience nature; the warmth of the sun shining through the still-bare trees on a brisk spring day; safely walking the trails where others have trod, but feeling secure enough to venture off the beaten path; finding the first cache of CAM 2022; spending the day geocaching with my adventurous [BFF]! In moments like this, I'm grateful for what God has provided for me to enjoy in abundance! Get outdoors!”

Katrina, please expand on that powerful personal message for our readers.

I have always felt a sense of peace when outdoors, even though when growing up, it was more about playtime with my brothers and neighbors. During the pandemic, when it was determined there was less spread of COVID outdoors in open spaces, I started taking Fridays off and explored different walking trails in the area, usually with relaxing music playing through my earbuds.  One day, I forgot my earbuds and realized that I felt even better when taking a quiet walk listening to the music of nature – the wind rustling the leaves on the trees, the melodic call of the birds, water flowing through nearby streams, but also enjoying beautiful cloud formations and feeling the warmth of the sunshine.  Leading up to the moment of this photo, I’d been thinking about how the isolation of COVID had impacted the mental health of so many and how therapeutic being on the trails can be. I’d just tripped over a stone on the path and fell hard and fast, but could laugh hysterically about it. And I’d just found my first geocache for this year’s Cache Across Maryland challenge with my BFF.  The collision of all these things made me want to rejoice, so I did!

When did you first discover geocaching? I hope you will soon have a chance to try the National Park Service’s FindYourChesapeake GeoTour!

I am fortunate to work with a group of young environmental specialists/educators who provide meaningful field experiences for students at our various sites.  Several years ago, one of them told me about geocaching and I thought it would be great to put one at Hart Miller Island as a trial.  Soon enough, we would get messages from people visiting the beach or campground letting us know they’d found the cache and often wrote a nice descriptive note about the site.  We then placed a couple of geocaches at Masonville Cove, which is more accessible since it doesn’t require a boat.  In 2021, Masonville Cove was selected as one of the ten sites the Maryland Geocaching Society chose for the annual Cache Across Maryland challenge, which is designed to introduce geocachers to diverse nature or historic spaces in every corner of the state.  That began my first adventure and I’ve been hooked since.

Thank you for sharing a bit about your personal journey. I know you inspire people every day to love the great outdoors both at work and in your personal life as well. Tell us, where are some of your favorite places to explore and why?

Since I really like walking trails, my all-time favorite is Masonville Cove, not because the Port restored it, but because it has easy trails, is a beautiful nature site on the waterfront, in the city, with a great view of the downtown Baltimore skyscape and is never crowded.  It’s the perfect, peaceful place to unwind for city dwellers (except for the occasional commercial truck).  I also enjoy the trails at Patuxent Research Refuge, Adkins Arboretum and Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center, which appeals to the artistic side. 

And lastly, Katrina, you’re truly a Renaissance woman. Tell our readers about your involvement with Arena Players Incorporated, the oldest continually performing and historically African-American community theatre in the United States. In 2018, I had the true pleasure of seeing you perform there in Ain’t Misbehavin’.

Thank you, Jody, for your support!  I have been a member of Arena Players for many years.  The small stage in a historic, cozy atmosphere has been the source of many happy experiences. Some of my favorites include Amen Corner, Once on This Island and Purlie.  I love live stage performances, especially in community theater, because no two shows are alike.  The exchange of energy between the audience and the actors is magical!  However, I’m not performing on stage this season because I’m directing an original production called Ain’t That the Gospel Truth, which is based on a live radio show where the host interviews several musical artists, who then perform some of their original or favorite gospel music.  This is my directorial debut, so I’m both nervous and excited.  The show runs on weekends, May 20th to 22nd and May 27th to 29th; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 4 p.m. Arena Players is located at 801 McCulloh Street, Baltimore, MD. 

Hart-Miller Island State Park

Hart-Miller Island is located in the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of Middle River and is accessible only by boat.

Masonville Cove

Masonville Cove is 70 acres of water and 54 acres of cleaned-up wetlands, nature trails, and a protected bird sanctuary, all soon-to-be protected by a conservation easement and part of the Shores of Baltimore Land Trust.

Adkins Arboretum

Adkins Arboretum, a 440-acre native garden and preserve, is located on Tuckahoe Creek and includes portions of one of the region's most significant forested wetlands.

Patuxent Research Refuge

The Patuxent Research Refuge is the nation's only National Wildlife Refuge established to support wildlife research. Tour portions of 12,000 acres along the upper Patuxent River, and a visitor center on regional and national wildlife.

Jody Couser

Jody is the senior vice president of communications with the Chesapeake Conservancy. She has a public relations background and served as spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County, MD. 

April 27, 2022

Main image: Sergio Adantor, MDOT MPA
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