Volunteers Construct Oyster Reef Near Ravenel Bridge

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Volunteers construct oyster reef near Ravenel BridgeMore than 70 volunteers devoted a hot Saturday morning to construct a new oyster reef at the future site of the Memorial Waterfront Park near the base of the Ravenel Bridge in Mt. Pleasant.

The project was part of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program (SCORE), which depends on the cooperative work between scientists and volunteers to restore and enhance oyster habitat through the construction of oyster reefs at designated areas. The volunteers, ranging in age from 6 to 60 years, built the reef in less than one hour with recycled and bagged oyster shells placed along the intertidal zone at the Memorial Waterfront Park, which is set to open in May 2009.

The oyster reef, which contains about 100 bushels of oyster shells, will help to promote the recruitment of larval oysters and create a habitat where they can grow and thrive. In addition to providing a protective area for juvenile marine species, oyster habitats improve water quality by filtering up to 50 gallons of water a day and serve as natural buffers that can protect shorelines from erosion.

This particular oyster restoration and enhancement project location evolved when 10-year-old Reid Darby, of Mt. Pleasant, developed the idea for a school science project. Darby, who attends James B. Edwards School, also sought and won approval by the Mt. Pleasant Town Council for the oyster reef construction at the Memorial Waterfront Park.  Reid also hopes to establish an additional oyster shell recycling station at nearby Patriots Point.

Since the SCORE program was established in 2000, more than 6,000 volunteers have contributed more than 20,000 hours to help to create and monitor 146 reefs at 33 different sites along the coast of South Carolina. According to Nancy Hadley, SCORE coordinator for DNR, “Without consistent support from our volunteers, we would not have the ability and manpower to successfully create as many reefs as we have to-date. We are thankful for the hands-on support from the coastal communities which makes this program successful.”

The SCORE program hosts year-round volunteer opportunities including shell recycling, shell bagging, water monitoring, and the actual reef building. Placing the shells in mesh bags helps ensure that the shell will stay in the correct location on the shoreline. There the shells attract larval oysters that attach to the substrate and grow to form living habitats for other species such as shrimp, crabs and fish. As filter feeders, oysters filter as much as 50 gallons of water each day, controlling algal blooms and improving water quality in the process.

The SCORE work establishes a stewardship connection between the community and the oyster resource, and allows volunteers to enhance their knowledge base of the importance of oyster habitats in our coastal ecosystem.

DNR depends on the public’s involvement to recycle oyster shells and the SCORE program helps to promote shell recycling. All of the shells that are recycled and donated to DNR are placed back into the estuarine environment, and greater awareness of the need to recycle shells cannot be overstated. During the 2007- 2008 oyster recycling season, more than 15,000 bushels of oyster shells were recycled. Since 2000, the DNR’s Recycling and Restoration Program has received more than 64,700 bushels of oyster shells from the public.

The public is encouraged to recycle shells at any of the 19 oyster shell recycling drop-off locations that are found along the coast.

For additional information on the SCORE program contact Hadley at (843) 953-9841.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.