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What's Up Magazine

Towne Salute: Dick Blackistone

Oct 02, 2018 12:00AM ● By Brian Saucedo

By Caley Breese

Growing up with his summers spent on the water, Dick Blackistone would often be found fishing, crabbing, and boating at his family home in River Springs on the Potomac River in St. Mary’s County. Blackistone developed a passion for the Chesapeake Bay. So, when the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) invited him to volunteer in 2010, he jumped at the chance.

“When I started, I also volunteered for the Maryland Watermen’s Association, and they’re in the same building as Oyster Recovery Partnership,” he explains. “They asked me if I wanted to volunteer for ORP, and I just said, ‘Yeah, sure. I’ll do it.’”

Blackistone, 71, is retired after a 36-year career working in telecommunications at the old Western Electric Company (which later became AT&T), and then at
the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company. He lives in Gambrills with his wife, and when he isn’t spending time with his children and grandchildren, Blackistone enjoys volunteering.   

“With all of this volunteer work, Dick has become a familiar face to many throughout Maryland, and is a friend among restaurant owners and patrons, environmental groups, area residents, as well as the angling and commercial fishing communities,” Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Shell Recycling Alliance Operations Manager Tommy Price says.

Oysters are essential to keep the bay and its inhabitants healthy. One oyster can filter 50 gallons of water, as they are natural filter feeders. The Oyster Recovery Partnership, founded in 1994, is dedicated to the restoration and health of the Chesapeake Bay through public education, various hands-on environmental programs, and, of course, reclaiming oysters. 

Blackistone has a clear connection with ORP, and has worked more than 3,500 hours with the organization since he began volunteering eigh years ago. He helps the shell recycling team reclaim shells, as well as educates the public at ORP outreach events. Every Monday, Blackistone picks up 32-gallon trashcans filled with oyster shells from various businesses throughout the Chesapeake region. 

Price says Blackistone has helped the team collect 160,000 bushels since he began, equating to 5,600 tons being kept out of area landfills. From these numbers, about $364,000 has been saved by local businesses in waste collection fees.

“Dick is an integral part of our shell recycling operations, helping us reclaim used shells from hundreds of restaurants, which are then cleaned, aged, seeded, and used to create the Chesapeake Bay oyster reefs,” Price says.

Blackistone also appreciates the event and outreach work he does for the Maryland Watermen’s Association, as well as the Anne Arundel Medical Center Emergency Room. He’s been a volunteer at AAMC for 15 years, lending a hand where needed, often assisting the nurses, escorting patients to their rooms, and retrieving items from the pharmacy.

“Being retired is great because I can do what I want,” he says with a laugh. Blackistone likes to inform the public about the valuable work he does for ORP since he frequently gets asked questions when he’s making a trip in the area. 

“They come to the truck and say, ‘What are you guys doing?’” Blackistone says. “We explain the process to them, and everybody always says, ‘Oh, what a great thing to do! You’re helping the bay!’ I just like it. Everybody is nice, they care about the environment, they care about the bay, and they care about the whole process.” 

For more information on the Oyster Recovery Partnership, visit