NAPLES — A project devised by a young Boy Scout to help clean up polluted Naples Bay played out perfectly Saturday when he and a team created a new oyster reef in the southeast corner of the bay.
For Bradley Brock, 16, it was the possible stepping stone to his Eagle Scout award, but the choice of project meant far more to him.
“I knew that (City of Naples) Natural Resources Manager Mike Bauer had done a previous project building an oyster reef in the bay,” Brock said, “so I decided to add to it.”
The idea, he said, is to try to restore oysters to their natural habitat, and help balance the eco-system because they are filter feeders, he said.
“The bay has a high freshwater content, and oysters are tolerant to variations in salinity.”
Along with Bauer, Brock arranged for about a ton of oyster shells to be transported to Naples from a pit in Central Florida.
Among the sponsorships he secured along the way were dock installation company Garland & Garland, which supplied the barge for the transportation of the shells from Naples Landing to the site.
About 20 volunteers, including Boy Scout colleagues from Troop 168 pitched in to help, and the 400 bags were in place by around lunchtime.
Environmental specialist for the City of Naples, Katie Laakkonen, said Brock’s project was a perfect fit for the ongoing Naples Bay Restoration Project.
“The shells provide a substrate for the oysters to attach,” she said. “We’re restoring what we’ve lost.”
Bauer said the bay has two major problems: too much fresh water pouring in from the Golden Gate canal, and pollution containing everything from fertilizer, to street oil to pet waste coming in through storm water drains.
“Also, over time we’ve lost 90 percent of the sea grass beds, 80 percent of oyster reefs and 70 percent of the mangroves,” Bauer said.
He said oysters filter an incredible amount of water each hour, effectively taking harmful materials out of the bay.
“This creates a cleaner environment and more habitat for fish and crustaceans to live,” he said.
“Plus,” he said of Brock’s project with a chuckle, “it’s cheap labor.”
The timing of this project is perfect, he said, because now is the start of oyster spat season, when young specimens will be looking for suitable substrate to inhabit.
Brock, son of Collier County Clerk of Courts Dwight E. Brock, will now write a report and present it to the Eagle Board of Review for consideration for his Eagle Scout award.
“I’m excited that it’s finished,” he said. “I hope it has a lasting impact on the environment.”