High school students help fortify the living shoreline at the Okaloosa Island Boat Basin

On Friday, April 21, 2023, the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) teamed up with the Okaloosa County Coastal Resources Team to fortify the living shoreline at the Okaloosa Island Boat Basin.  […]

The Leadership students first packed the bags with shells, then transported them to the boat basin. (Okaloosa County Public Information Office)

On Friday, April 21, 2023, the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) teamed up with the Okaloosa County Coastal Resources Team to fortify the living shoreline at the Okaloosa Island Boat Basin. 

  • The YLC, which was formed in January 2021 by Okaloosa County in conjunction with the Okaloosa County School Board, comprises students representing each high school within Okaloosa County. 
  • It is under the leadership of Commissioner Mel Ponder and Superintendent Marcus Chambers.

The idea for the project was first presented in February by Angelique Patterson, a senior at Choctawhatchee High School and Chairperson of the YLC. The proposal involved installing another layer of bagged oyster shell along the existing oyster breakwaters, which would further stabilize the shoreline. 

The Leadership students first packed the bags with shells, then transported them to the boat basin. (Okaloosa County Public Information Office)

According to Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg, Commissioner Mel Ponder had originally reached out to him to ask if there were any projects that may be a good fit for the YLC, which led to their collaboration on this project.

On the day of the event, approximately 30 students, volunteers, and chaperones worked to fill about 200 bags with oyster shells provided by the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance. Fogg explained that the students first packed the bags with shells, then transported them to the boat basin. After that, the Coastal Resource Team placed them along the living shoreline.

The Leadership students first packed the bags with shells, then transported them to the boat basin. (Okaloosa County Public Information Office)
Alex Fogg and Mike Norberg of the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team place the bagged oyster shells along the living shoreline. (Okaloosa Public Information Office)

Fogg emphasized the importance of using green solutions like living shorelines to fortify the shoreline, rather than relying on concrete, sea walls, or other engineered structures. 

  • “You can build living shorelines where you have some rock or bagged oyster shells to lessen the effects that waves have on the shoreline,” he explained. “But on the other side of those oyster shells, grasses and other natural processes can occur to help stabilize that shoreline.”

Both the students and the Coastal Resources Team expressed gratitude for the collaborative experience. 

“The Coastal Resources Team, and everybody involved in this project, was super thankful that the students participated and volunteered their time to come and do this,” added Fogg. “But they were thanking us as much as we were thanking them.” 

The project’s success has led to hopes for a continued partnership between the YLC and the Coastal Resources Team for future endeavors.

Alex Fogg and Mike Norberg of the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team place the bagged oyster shells along the living shoreline. (Okaloosa Public Information Office)
(Okaloosa Public Information Office)

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