Oysters, Restoration, and Education! What an amazing way to spend a Friday on the Rappahannock River!  Thanks to several recent grant awards, Friends of the Rappahannock partnered with some local waterman and Ready Reef inc to host local teachers from Richmond and Lancaster Counties for a two day professional development program which culminated in a day spent on Lancaster Creek learning about oysters and oyster reef restoration.

For the past six months, Friends of the Rappahannock has worked with students and volunteers throughout the watershed to build 3 dimensional concrete oyster reef structures called oyster sentinels. These structures are being used throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed by a variety of groups. FOR decided to take the idea to the next level and worked with a local marine contractor Ready Reef to adapt the construction process so students and volunteers could participate and get a hands on understanding of the process and goals behind the effort.  We were able to build 39 structures with students!

After the oyster sentinels are constructed, they are taken to Gwynn’s Island at the tip of the middle peninsula where Ready Reef has their new headquarters.  Here they are placed into custom built upweller tanks where they are “seeded” with diploid oyster larvae called “spat”.  The structures are “cured” in the tanks for about 5 weeks in order to let the spat “strike” or attatch to the structures and have some time to mature before they are introduced to their final destination in the River.

For this project, we were fortunate to have a local waterman provide the use of his leased river bottom for us to place our structures where they will thrive to become a permanent fixture in of the ecosystem and improve the overall health of native oyster beds in the area.

We all met in Simonsons where we staged all the structures, loaded up our boats, and embarked out to begin the installation of the reefs!  It was a windy day on the Rappahannock River and with that came some “exciting” wave action.  This slowed us down for a little bit but once our A-team got their rhythm we were rocking and rolling!  Over the course of the day we were able to install all 39 structures and even had time to demonstrate how to build new structures with the teachers!  Overall the project was an amazing success and we are looking forward to continuing to work with all our partners and bring this program to new schools this coming year!

For additional information about this project or to learn how to get involved, please contact FOR River Steward Richard Moncure.

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