Oyster castles eyed at Windsor Castle Park

Published 7:55 pm Tuesday, February 4, 2020

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

The James River Association and the town of Smithfield are in talks to implement a “living shoreline” at Windsor Castle Park. 

Proposed to be located just north of the kayak launch on Cypress Creek, t would serve as a means of preventing land erosion, according to officials.  

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The project would be made possible through an $80,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, according to Interim Town Manager Sandy Wanner. 

Living shorelines — a construction of natural and environmentally beneficial elements, built for the purpose of deterring further shoreline erosion — are the General Assembly’s preferred method of shoreline restoration, as opposed to more artificial fortification methods, such as bulkheads or rip rap, information courtesy of the James River Association. 

Town Council is scheduled to vote on an agreement with the James River Association and collaborative partners on the project at its Feb. 4 meeting, according to Interim Town Manager Sandy Wanner. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Bay Environmental, Inc. would perform the construction of the shoreline project. The corporation is an environmental services company based out of Chesapeake.

The proposed shoreline project would include structures that allow for oysters to grow and prosper, but developers aren’t firm on exactly what type of structure will be used. One structure, called oyster castles, are built with square, composite blocks and attract oyster colonization. 

The way it would work, oyster castles or another type of structure that would promote oyster proliferation would be constructed roughly 15 feet from the existing shoreline, and then that space between the structures and the existing shoreline would be backfilled in with sand, according to a diagram on the project. 

As it’s been proposed, three 50-ft. oyster castle structures would be build out in the shallows of the creek, requiring roughly 1,000 blocks.   

Over time, oyster castles become a fully encrusted, self-sustaining reef, according to information provided by the town. 

Other items/ tasks in the project proposal include permit applications, tree limbing and tree removal, sand filling, installation of plants, path restoration and goose exclusion fencing materials, according to town documents. Preliminary plans show two trees being removed. 

Rip rap shore lining and other, more artificial methods of strengthening shorelines have become less desirable in in terms of shoreline fortification in recent years, according to Bay Environmental, Inc. Vice President Jim Cahoon, who presented on the proposal with James River Association Restoration Coordinator Ryan Walsh. 

Town Council member Beth Haywood referenced another section of the park’s shoreline — located north of the kayak launch along the Cypress Creek western shore, near the park’s cemetery — that had sloped severely because of erosion, and asked if that section could be addressed. 

While Cahoon acknowledged that that area of the park had been more negatively impacted by erosion compared to the proposed living shoreline location near the kayak launch, he added that the grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation didn’t provide enough funds to properly secure it. 

On reducing erosive factors, Mayor Carter Williams suggested extending no wake zones along Cypress Creek as a method of reducing erosion at the section of shoreline north of the proposed living shoreline site near the park’s cemetery. 

Cahoon said that, however, it appeared to him that the erosion there was mostly from stormwater, but added that coastal erosion was probably also taking place. 

On that note, Haywood requested that Walsh be on the lookout for larger grants that may be able to address the sloped area of the park near the cemetery. 

Bay Environmental, Inc. performs environmental services in the realms of development, redevelopment and maintenance projects, in addition to property transactions and spill response, information courtesy of the corporation. {/mprestriction}