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Photos: Central Pa. firms volunteer to support oyster restoration efforts in Chesapeake Bay

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Representatives of local architectural, engineering and contracting firms gathered last week along the Susquehanna River in Columbia to do what they do best: Build.

But instead of erecting new warehouses and retail shopping centers, nearly 100 volunteers assembled concrete reef balls, each weighing 200 to 300 pounds. Built from fiberglass molds, the three-dimensional hollow balls are used to expand a man-made oyster reef in the Chesapeake Bay.

After they are dropped into the bay, the balls host thousands of tiny baby oysters who attach to the structures and grow into adult oysters. One reef ball can help grow 3,000 to 4,000 baby oysters.

Oysters help filter algae, sediment and other pollutants in the bay while the reef balls also provide habitats for small fish, crabs and other organisms. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.

The Lancaster County event was organized by the Central Pennsylvania chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services and held at the Susquehanna Heritage Columbia Crossing River Trails Center.

Society President Shawn Barron, of Manor Township-based Rettew Associates Inc., said he hopes to see the first-time event become an annual community service project for the organization.

So does the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which drops hundreds of reef balls into the bay each year.

“This is about the health of the bay,” Barron said.

Reef-ball building projects have become common in other states, including Maryland and Florida. Society member Rick Elyar, who lives in Maryland and has worked on these projects, helped spawn the idea in Lancaster County.

“This is a first for Pennsylvania,” he said, as he worked with 19 teams of volunteers in Columbia to build the balls.

Kinsley Construction delivered the reef balls to the Maryland Oyster Restoration Center on Friday. Other companies involved in the SMPS project were:

Photos by Amy Spangler

Additional Photos

Kinsley Construction Inc.'s team uses an air compressor to inflate a rubber bladder to form the hollow center of a reef ball. The team, from left, is Chelsea Trabert, employee development coordinator; Debbie Casale, marketing coordinator; Brian Wilt, preconstruction specialist; and Jasmine Bryan, senior marketing coordinator.
Kinsley Construction Inc.'s team uses an air compressor to inflate a rubber bladder to form the hollow center of a reef ball. The team, from left, is Chelsea Trabert, employee development coordinator; Debbie Casale, marketing coordinator; Brian Wilt, preconstruction specialist; and Jasmine Bryan, senior marketing coordinator.
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