Oysters have played a large role in shaping Southern Maryland for generations, even as their numbers dwindled to just a fraction of what the once abundant bivalve was before European settlers arrived.
The Southern Maryland Oyster Trail website aims to help document the current oystering industry in the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, as well as connect everyday folks to the area’s heritage. The website tracks oysters from the water to the table, sharing important information on oyster farms, the state aquaculture program, the local watermen’s association and attractions.
The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission recently adopted the management of the Oyster Trail website, at the invitation of the project originators, Morgan State University’s Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory in St. Leonard, and in partnership with the economic development and tourism departments in St. Mary’s and Calvert counties.
The Southern Maryland Oyster Trail was first conceived by environmental nonprofit True Oyster Restoration Initiative, as a tourism marketing catalyst to increase public appreciation for oyster farming, including where and how oysters are grown and harvested as well as the economic, cultural, gastronomic and ecological assets the industry contributes to the region, according to a release from the agricultural development commission.
The Oyster Trail website marylandoystertrail.com currently hosts a self-guided destination tour of oyster farms and other oyster-related sites and attractions primarily located in Calvert and St. Mary’s.
“SMADC was awarded a Rural Maryland Council grant to build on the good work already started by PEARL and to expand the website content to include oyster producers region-wide,” Shelby Watson-Hampton, the commissioner’s director, said in the release. “We are excited to take on this important marketing project to support and promote Southern Maryland’s oyster industry.”
SMADC plans to update the existing website and reformat the content in line with its other guides and marketing programs. It will showcase producer profiles (hatcheries, aquaculture farms and wild harvest) as well as provide information on where to buy locally harvested oysters. Also featured will be regional restaurants and stores that offer local oysters, experiential tours, museums and other sites where the general public can explore and learn about the oyster’s unique cultural and maritime heritage.
“In the upcoming weeks, we will be reaching out to Southern Maryland’s oyster producers to update the website listings,” Susan McQuilkin, SMADC marketing specialist, said in the release. “We’d also like to hear from Southern Maryland oyster-related sites, events, festivals, support organizations and associations to enhance the guide resources and visitor experience.”
Interested producers and venues, for no charge, can submit information to be listed on the site.
For more information and to access the guide application form, visit the News and Announcements page at SMADC.com. To request a printed application contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-274-1922, ext. 1.