Dozens of volunteers joined the National Park Service and the University of Central Florida on Saturday in a project to help restore the living shoreline along De Soto National Memorial that has been eroded by tropical storms and boat wakes.
Volunteers spent several hours placing bags of oyster shells, previously filled by volunteers, along the shore at different areas in the park. Later, young red and black mangroves, grown by volunteers, were planted behind them.
“These shorelines are really important for natural armoring, but they are also protecting some archeological middens sites,” said Linda Walters, a marine biologist at the University of Central Florida.
Native American shell middens are piles of refuse from over a thousand years ago, she explained.
“Natural Parks have a mandate to protect the shoreline and so we’ve had over 60 volunteers doing just that,” Walters said. “Our goal is to use natural materials to stop the erosion.”
Walters — along with her students, alumni and volunteers from the Coastal Conservation Association — have teamed up before with Margo Schwadron from the National Park Service Southeast Archeological Center, working to rebuild the living shoreline on the Canaveral National Seashore.
After having some success on the East Coast of Florida, they joined forces again for the De Soto project testing similar methods.
Schwadron is very familiar with De Soto, one of the parks assigned to her, after surveying the entire park 20 years ago for her masters thesis. At that time, the park had kind of been written off, she said, but the results of her survey proved that there had been a prehistoric village of hunters, fishermen and gatherers.
“There was a huge shell mound site,” Schwadron said.
The Native Americans had once lived on top of the mounds, but around 1910 when roads in Manatee County were first being constructed, the mounds were mined for building material.
“We’ve lost a lot of that. We did find this site has a lot of archaeological material still intact that is very significant and important to protect,” Schwadron said. “We’ve known that this park has had trickle erosion.”
The National Park Service has made efforts in the past that include building the large hill near the entrance with it’s rocky cliff.
“Every year they have had to add more rocks,” Schwadron said.
A Boy Scott troop and other volunteers from the community also came out to help on Saturday.
Tom Emge, of Melbourne, was carrying small mangroves to the second area the group was working on Saturday, near De Soto Point. It was his first time to the park, Emge said, but he had previously joined the Coastal Conservation Association and the efforts to restore the shoreline on the Canaveral National Seashore.
“As a fisherman I hear a lot about ‘I wish the lagoon would come back,’ ” Emge said referring to the Indian River Lagoon. “Instead of wishing, I decided maybe we should do something about it.”
He assisted in the efforts to rebuild Mosquito Lagoon, which is located in the northern part of the Indian River Lagoon system, and became a lifetime member with the Coastal Conservation Association.
Emge said he also likes working with the young people.
“My contribution is small compared to the rest of the group, but I enjoy it,” Emge said.