Urbanna, Virginia is one of the oldest towns in America, and is home to the official Virginia State Oyster Festival – the largest oyster festival on the East coast. 60,000 to 70,000 visitors attend the festival each year to celebrate the humble oyster. When the native oyster population in the Creek began to struggle due to disease and historical overharvesting, residents joined together to Restore Urbanna Creek.
Oysters are the cornerstone of a healthy ecosystem- they improve water quality by filtering algae and sediment, and provide habitat for small fish and crabs. The goal of the Restore Urbanna Creek project is to restore a thriving population of oysters to the Creek. In the Spring of 2015, two oyster reefs were constructed using recycled shells. 8 million baby oysters, called “spat”, were grown on shell and placed on these reefs to begin the population growth.
The project will also include community engagement through workshops on oyster gardening, dockside aquaculture, and voluntary best management practices for local homeowners and marina operators. Students from Christchurch School and the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School will use this project as an educational tool to learn about water quality monitoring, reef building, and local restoration projects.
CEC leads project outreach and communication efforts for this project. In this role, we have created and maintained the Restore Urbanna Creek website, multimedia data management tools, social media outreach, community workshops, and a display at the Oyster Festival (including real-time water quality monitoring).
This project is funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. CEC coordinates this project in partnership with the Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation, and Christchurch School. The project includes Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School, Middlesex County Public Schools, Hampton Roads Sanitation District, Bay Design, Shores and Ruark Seafood, Friends of the Rappahannock, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.