On Saturday, Nov. 10, St. Mary’s College hosted an Oyster Fest on the back lawn of the River Center. The event started at noon and ended at three o’clock, with a groundbreaking ceremony beginning promptly at one o’clock. Most of the attendees of the event were community members and their families, particularly from Lexington Park, though there were a few staff members who attended and a small scattering of students. The event included the serving of fried oysters and hot dogs, as well as drinks and other refreshments.
The event was held not only so attendees could enjoy refreshments and food; it was also to raise awareness about the oysters living in the area. St. Mary’s County has been working on a project to repopulate the oysters in the St. Mary’s River and build up the reefs, which would result in clearer water because an oyster’s job is to filter water. Once the oysters have finished repopulating in one area, the baby oysters will be moved to another area of the river to repopulate again and filter more water. Each time they reproduce, the baby oysters will be moved. The Lexington Park Club provided a $3,000 check that would contribute to the continuation of this project.
The groundbreaking ceremony began with a short speech given by President Urgo. He said, “The establishment of the oyster reef is an inspiring example of the type of community partnership St. Mary’s College enthusiastically supports. It is an environmental effort that supports not only the health of the St. Mary’s River, but that of the Chesapeake Bay as well.” Urgo’s main role in this project was to “make sure the College participates,” and participate they did. He said, “This has been a group effort involving over 50 St. Mary’s College students over the past year, as well as over 175 local volunteers who love this magnificent river.”
Regarding the benefits of this project, as well as the effect on the Chesapeake Bay, Biology Professor Chris Tanner concurred in his own speech, saying, “Even though the reef here is not huge, we should see an increase in oysters in this area and this should lead to clearer water. We’re hoping that this serves as a model for building reefs elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay.” He also pointed out that the goal of this project is to “bring back oysters overall.”
At the conclusion of the speeches, the crowd looked over to the river, where there was a boat preparing to drop a small ball full of spats, or baby oysters, into the river. The intention was that the oysters would repopulate in that area, and then their offspring would be moved later.
A resident of Lexington Park, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I think this is an extremely important thing for people to do, not just the project, but also this event. It helps raise awareness for people who didn’t really know what was going on, especially if they came to the [groundbreaking] ceremony.”