By Mary Reid Barrow
Take a walk along the main trail on either side of high tide at Pleasure House Point and you might see a real show out on the water.
Quiet Pleasure House Creek, edged in marsh grasses, is a serene home for water birds. But it sure comes alive when a big white barge, loaded down with a mound of crushed concrete, chugs into view.
The boat slows and suddenly, plumes of water spew out across the barge in torrents from water cannons in a little skiff that ties up to the barge’s starboard side. The force of the water reminds you of fire hoses and that’s not far off. The water cannons. were once used on New York City Fire Department fire boats
They whoosh water across the barge to blow the concrete into the water off the port side.
Barge and skiff travel slowly, not far off shore, until the barrages of water have cleared the barge of its cargo.
Walkers along the trail stop and watch the activity wondering what is going on. What they are seeing is LRNow building oyster reefs in a few months that would have taken oysters themselves many years to build.
Brent James, LRNow’s Oyster Restoration Coordinator, barge Capt. Mike Steelman and his crew have been heading out almost daily when the winds and tides are right to build these reefs in the creek. There will be six in all, an activity that will probably go on until April.
Construction continues whether rain, snow, or sleet, even on weekends, if the tide is right. But a pretty day at high tide is the best day to be a spectator. A good lookout point is the area where the trail curves around to the west and a great big hard-to-miss log, almost tree size, lies back in the wetlands off the trail.
When LRNow first began in 2002, only one percent of the Lynnhaven river was open to commercial oystering. Today almost 50 percent of the river is open, thanks to ongoing oyster restoration efforts by LRNow and many partners such as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, City of Virginia Beach and Dunn Demolition.
Oysters reefs of yore were all built of oyster shells. But oyster shells are in short supply and testing has proved that crushed concrete from construction demolition is a good substitute.
But it doesn’t supply the oysters. A layer of oyster shell with baby oysters already attached will be scattered on top of the crushed concrete to jump start the reef.
The oysters will have been bred and born in local water on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Oyster Barge tied up at the Brock Center at the mouth of Pleasure House Creek.
When the little oysters are put out on the new reef, it will be just like moving next door for them. And since they won’t be living far from home, they should thrive.
LRNow’s reefs are sanctuary reefs and these babies will be safe from harvesting. As they grow ,they will constantly filter the creek water and keep it clean and breed more hyper-native oysters to populate the river.
Keep your eyes open for Brent James and the big while barge as it travels Pleasure House Creek in the next weeks, wave to Brent and the crew and welcome the new little oysters to the neighborhood.
Do you have a favorite tree or plant with a story to tell? What relationships have you observed between plants and critters? Who eats whom? Who has babies where? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org