FREDERICK, Md (WDVM) — This year’s Wertheimer Fellow, awarded by the Community Foundation of Frederick County, has worked tirelessly to bring color and vibrancy to Frederick’s Carroll Creek.

In 2012, walking along Carroll Creek was an eyesore of algae building, and an earthy odor. Longtime resident, Pete Kremers put his mind to the issue.

“It kind of started like ‘can we do this?’ ‘Could it work?’ And we also thought ‘What’s the harm in trying?” Kremers recalls.

The following spring, Kremers spearheaded Color on the Creek–an effort to plant tropical and perennial water plants in the stagnant creek waters to mitigate run-off that fueled blooms of algae.

The project started with 100 volunteers and has grown to about 700.

“The way the plants are all containerized we can move plant material around and we can make it so that every year you don’t see the same plants in the same place. It actually changes up, and we can change the color schemes basically to whatever our imaginations want,” Kremers explained.

Carlys Kline has seen first hand the work Kremers has put in to grow the plant population to about 4,000 plants.

“It has become a tourist attraction. We love to look at it, watch it. Watch the people take pictures all day long, there are weddings here now. Prom pictures are taken along the creek, not of that happened before Pete did this project,” Kline said.

But Kremers passion to transform the creek didn’t stop there.

It was also in the fall and winter that he noticed the stale creek needed some of that same color and vibrancy it shed off after the summer.

This idea became known as Sailing through the Winter Solstice

“Most sane people, most sane sailors they pull their boats out in the fall and put them in the spring,” Kremers explained, “Well, we’re doing the exact opposite.”

During the fall season, Kremers and a team of carpenters and volunteers restore 15 to more than 20 foot long boats and fit them with lights, sails, and elaborate decor that stands out in the bed of the creek at night.

The event has grown from a single boat to about 14 for this year. Each is locally sponsored. Money is raised by the teams decorating the boats, and that money to donated to local non-profits.

“The community pulls around these projects whether it’s this project or the water garden, that’s the reward. You’re bringing people together to do something that they believe them. I think that supplies the energy and the rationale and the justification, in my mind, to keep going,” Kremers said.