Celebrate National Estuaries Week by cleaning up an oyster reef

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Oyster reef in Carolina Beach State Park. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Coastal Federation.
Oyster reef in Carolina Beach State Park. (Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Coastal Federation.)

Like the convergence of bodies of water that create estuaries, a trifecta of designated days will meet this weekend, and the North Carolina Coastal Federation is marking those with an event in Carolina Beach State Park.

In celebration of National Estuaries Week, the non-profit organization is hosting a shoreline clean up at an oyster reef that was built in the park by volunteers a couple of years ago.

“It’s a site where we’ve done restoration work before,” said Jessica Gray of the NC Coastal Federation. “We try to maintain and promote living shorelines with marsh grasses and oyster reefs, which provide habitats for young aquatic animals.”

Estuaries, which are formed when fresh water (such as rivers) meet salt water (such as the ocean), are unique ecosystems that not only serve as habitats for many marine animals and plants, but also help maintain human food supplies, according to Gray. Carolina Beach State Park is located where the Cape Fear River and Snow’s Cut (which leads to the Intracoastal Waterway) meet, making it the perfect place to celebrate National Estuaries Week.

According to the group Restore America’s Estuaries, which the NC Coastal Federation is a member of, the protection and preservation of estuaries is important to the country, both economically and ecologically. The group’s website states that 75 percent of America’s commercial fish catch occurs in these waters

“For the 110 million Americans who live near estuaries, they are linchpins in people’s quality of life: for their scenic beauty, for their recreational opportunities, for their bounty, for their abundance of life and for their mere presence,” the website states. “Restoring estuary habitat is the only way to ensure that this quality of life is protected and improved.”

Saturday is also National Public Lands Day and the beginning of Take A Child Outside Week.

“Since we’ll be in a state park and we’ll be outside, we decided to tie it all in together,” Gray said.

The event starts at 10 a.m. and will go until 2 p.m. In addition to the clean up, there will be activities for kids and adults. The NC Coastal Federation will provide trash bags, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own sunscreen and water bottles as well as wear closed-toe shoes or boots and clothes that can get wet. Signs will direct participants to the clean up site once they enter the park.

The NC Coastal Federation is also looking for volunteers for their oyster reef building projects in Morris Landing (Oct. 7 and 21) and Oak Island (Oct. 14). There will also be a volunteer and fundraising event at Bill’s Front Porch Pub and Brewery, located at 4238 Market St. in Wilmington, on Oct. 18. Volunteers will be bagging oyster shells that will be used for reefs, while the brewery will be making and selling a special beer. For every pint of the special Old Bay Oyster Salt beer they sell, according to Gray, they will donate $1 to the non-profit coastal organization.

For more information on these events and more, visit the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s website.