published September 18, 2016 in the Star Democrat

I am blown away by the enthusiasm of those individuals who are helping to restore the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. We hosted an orientation meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13, for new oyster growers who signed up to participate in the Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program this year. Of the 96 new growers who joined us for the upcoming growing season, 34 attended our orientation at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton. I would like to thank the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and the Envision the Choptank initiative for collaborating with us and making this such a successful event.

Partnering with us that morning was Matt Pluta of the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy. Pluta spoke about Best Management Practices (BMPs) that waterfront property owners can implement on their own land in order to reduce runoff, sediment, and pollution into our local waterways. Pluta is collaborating with the Envision the Choptank initiative to promote BMPs and to assist homeowners in actually applying them.

These beneficial measures include simple tools like installing rain barrels to more elaborate features like bioswales and large rain gardens, all of which divert rainfall from going into ditches (that eventually empty into our local rivers) and facilitate reabsorption of moisture into the ground.

Of the participants at the orientation meeting, 22 raised their hand to learn more about applying these BMPs on their own properties. The best part is that through the Envision the Choptank initiative, land owners may qualify for partial or full funding for the cost of implementing these BMPs. Included in the process are free consultations to asses your land and step by step follow through with making your property more environmentally friendly. If you live in the Tred Avon, Harris Creek, or Broad Creek watersheds and would like more information on how to implement good stewardship practices on your land, contact Matt Pluta at 443-385-0511 or matt@midshoreriver

After Pluta’s presentation, I spoke about the role of oysters in the ecosystem and how growing oysters and increasing the number of oyster reefs are a fundamental part of restoring the health of the Bay. Attendees also learned about the weekly maintenance involved in caring for their oysters, which is mainly comprised of dunking the cage like a tea bag and setting it out on the dock for an hour (with a timer set of course!) in order to kill the fouling growth on the cage. I shared that our program, the Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative (ORRI), is in its sixth year and how we have expanded from 16 growers in our initial season to 334 growers with 1,050 cages this year. According to MGO Operations Manager, Tommy Price, that qualifies us as the second largest coordinator for MGO in the state of Maryland.

This wonderful growth also means that we are increasingly dependent on volunteer participation to execute our oyster deliveries. On the morning of Sept. 29, volunteers will gather at Easton Point Marina to sort spat-on-shell and fill cages for delivery to our growers. All of the delivery routes are pre-printed so that each volunteer has clear instructions to follow. We provide breakfast fare and a bagged lunch for the road so that everyone is well charged for the morning’s activities. The oyster deliveries are always a fun time for us to get our hands dirty and oftentimes new bonds of friendship are formed amongst the volunteers. We are in need of 7 volunteers who have pickup trucks or vehicles with trailers to be drivers. We also need 15 general volunteers to help out. If you are available to volunteer from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, we would greatly appreciate your help. Please contact Kelsey at 410-822-9143 or at www.oystersfor

Scott Eglseder is the founding sponsor of the Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative.