First Lady Katie O'Malley Participates in Oyster-Reef Building Activity with Kids at Assateague Park
ASSATEAGUE ISLAND, MD (August 14, 2009) – Today, First Lady Katie O’Malley visited with kids at Assateague State Park and helped to build an oyster reef. Two groups of kids were present at the event – Coast Kids, an environmental education program sponsored by Assateague Coastal Trust, and Coastal Stewards, a summer youth employment program. Both programs encourage in Maryland youth an interest in and ultimately, increased stewardship of the Atlantic Coastal Bays.
“I am honored to be here today and to join Assateague State Park, Coast Kids, Coastal Stewards and other Marylanders across the bay in their efforts to increase the bay’s oyster population,” said First Lady Katie O’Malley. “We encourage our children to be inspired through the knowledge of discovering the ecological importance of oysters to our bay.”
The First Lady helped the kids dig holes in the sand to build a structure composed of concrete that will harden and be delivered to become part of an oyster reef at the mouth of St. Martin River (or Isle of Wight), where baby oysters can attach to the reef and grow.
“Oysters are critical to the health of our ecosystem, and also have a significant impact on our economy and our culture,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. “It’s wonderful to see these young people – tomorrow’s stewards –taking part in our efforts to restore a healthy oyster population to Maryland’s waterways.”
Oysters are keystone species –their filtering action helps clean our waterways, whole oyster reefs provide habitat for a multitude of aquatic species. The Bay’s oyster population continues to suffer, due to disease, sediment runoff and loss of habitat. To date, Maryland’s oyster restoration program has rehabilitated over 1,200 acres of oyster bars: 915 of those acres are now being actively managed as sanctuaries or harvest reserve sites. This past week, nearly a million oysters that have been growing in the Tred Avon River since last fall are being collected and planted in a sanctuary in Oxford, an effort made possible through the Marylanders Grow Oysters program.
Kids participating in the Coastal Stewards program, funded by President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the National Park Service and the Ocean City-Berlin Optimist Club, also gave a presentation at the event about their experiences during this summer internship program. Coastal Stewards is designed to provide training and the opportunity to perform meaningful work –being interpreters at Assateague State Park, Assateague Island National Seashore and other local parks to educate thousands of families about the nature and heritage of the Eastern Shore - to build skills for future careers in the field of science and into the Maryland Park Service or National Park Service.