Auto dealers compete to save the bay, help students


Anyone buying a new vehicle in the next few months just might help the Chesapeake Bay, students and teachers in K-12 education, and conservation and restoration programs in Maryland.

Auto dealers from Baltimore, and around Maryland, have entered a friendly competition to see who sends the most customers off their lots with “Treasure the Chesapeake Bay” license plates.

“Bay plates help to restore and improve our treasured Chesapeake Bay and local waterways,” said Bill Wheatley-Heckman, of O’Donnell Honda in Ellicott City. “With the planned defunding of environmental programs at the federal level, programs like this are so valuable.”

The new contest kicked off April 1, the official start of the spring car season among environmentally friendly automobile dealerships.

The contest winners are determined by the dealerships who send the most customers off their lots with the Treasure the Chesapeake Bay plates, sell the highest percentage of cars with Bay plates, and those who are most improved over previous years during the months of April, May, and June 2017.

Already, 138 automobile dealerships, named Dealers for the Bay, have signed up to participate in the contest, and friendly rivalries among neighboring dealerships and dealerships within car families have begun.

“What a fun way for our member dealers to show their support for the Bay and our communities’ rivers and streams during this busy car shopping season,” said John O’Donnell, President and CEO of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association, many members of which have already signed up to be Dealers for the Bay.

“Our dealerships love a friendly rivalry, and with this contest they can compete with each other, show their customers they care about our natural resources, and do good at the same time,” O’Donnell said in a news release.

Funds generated from the sale of the Bay Plate are distributed by a nonprofit organization, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, through grants that fund natural resources, K-12 education, conservation, and restoration programs.

Schools, students, teachers, community associations and other organizations tap into this funding to carry out projects across the state, in every county from the mountains to the coast.

“The Trust is so thankful to our Dealers for the Bay and to the hundreds of thousands of Marylanders who already have Bay Plates” said Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. “These dealerships, through their promotion of the Bay Plate, are helping get kids outside on field trips through their schools, trees planted with local civic associations, and gardens planted across our communities, all of which helps the Bay and its rivers and streams.”

A Bay Plate costs the car-buyer $20, and he or she is then eligible to join the Plate Perks program in which they get discounts generally worth more than $20 per year and preferred parking at businesses across the state.

Dealerships who sell at least 20 Bay Plates this spring will be able to get 10 more children out on field trips and six more trees planted in local communities, according to a news release.

If all 138 dealerships can do it, 1,380 more students will be educated and over 700 more trees can be planted.

“With proposed reductions in federal funding for the Bay, Bay Plates become an even more important source of support,” Davis said.

Winning dealerships in each category will be announced in September 2017.