Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Murrells Inlet earlier this year worked side-by-side with natural resource specialists to build oyster reefs using more than 10,000 pounds of recycled shells.
They helped transport more than 350 bags of recycled oyster shells from Hobcaw Barony to create a reef in Oaks Creek, Murrells Inlet, Tuesday, May 22. It was a cooperative oyster habitat recycling project of Rotary, Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) Waccamaw Chapter and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) SCORE or South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement program.
Rotary President Elect Eric Gray said he thinks his members made a difference in giving back to the community. “During the work day I sensed a collective feeling of good spirit throughout everyone involved,” he said. “A group of individuals doing together what none of us could do alone. Hopefully, being good stewards of our surroundings will encourage others to do the same.”
In addition to Gray, other primary Rotary volunteers were Paul Suter, Hunter Brown, Chris Hucks, Matt Burroughs, Rod Swaim, James Jordon, Patrick Queen, Jay Hoodenply, Joey Ray, Billy Nichols, Richard Huggins, Lee Hewitt and son, Cloeman Hewitt, Andy Justice and Chris Hawley.
Most members met at Inlet Sports Lodge at 10:30 a.m. and then drove to Hobcaw Barony where they bagged shells. “Upon completion, we proceeded to Murrells Inlet shell landing around 12:30 p.m. where we had pizzas from Donato’s provided by Rotary and beverages donated by CCA,” Gray said. “A Rotary food delivery crew and support staff of Kari Collins, Sherry Maloni, Bobby Sunday, Denise Brown and Stoney Cantor helped during the lunch break.”
After lunch, Rotarians assisted in loading more than 10,000 pounds of recycled oyster shells into boats and barges, but had to wait for a thunderstorm to pass. Around 2 p.m., they were able to push off for Oaks Creek with five boats loaded down with volunteers. “The reef building was the easiest part of the day,” Gray said. “We laid the bags approximately five to six feet from the high water mark in Oaks Creek. We made it back to the landing around 4 p.m. and were able to stay dry.”
“It’s time civic-minded groups and individuals to help preserve the environment for future generations,” Gray said. “Wouldn’t it be a sad day if our children were not able to enjoy the waters of Murrells Inlet because of water quality.”
The head of the SCORE project was Mike Hodges who was the Rotary Club of Murrells Inlet luncheon guest speaker at the Inlet Sports Lodge, Tuesday, May 15. Murrells Inlet native Chris Hawley is the chairman of the Waccamaw Chapter and state board member of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina.
Chapter activities include working in pluff mud, oyster beds and Spartina grass to establish new oyster reefs as part of CCA’s “Topwater Action Campaign” to also improve water quality and provide an educational opportunity for students and citizens.
Oyster shell is a natural surface for spat or oyster larvae to attach to and help create new oysters and, in turn, new oyster beds, which are the foundation of the marine ecosystem in Palmetto State’s estuaries, according to DNR literature.
“While the intertidal oysters of South Carolina may still appear to be abundant, there is increasing evidence of negative effects from anthropogenic or man-made stressors such as non-point source runoff and wakes from increasing recreational boat traffic,” says the DNR.
“Planting of bare shell can also help trap sediments and absorb wave energy, reducing erosion of adjacent salt marshes. With careful site selection, replanting of the shell can restore oyster habitat by providing substrate for juvenile oysters, which grow to form a self-sustaining reef.”
Environmental officials say after the reefs are constructed, volunteers are trained to monitor water quality, reef development and reef/shoreline interactions. More than 15,000 bushels of oyster shells have been recycled since 2009.
The CCA group acquired equipment needed to both recycle and distribute oyster reef material in isolated locations of the state’s estuaries, including two 18-foot johnboats and two tandem axle trailers. For more information, contact Hawley at 455-0371 or email@example.com