Oyster Trail to debut July 11 in Mobile as interactive public art and restoration project

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University are among a group of partners and sponsors who have helped establish The Oyster Trail, an interactive public art and restoration project of the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program to raise public awareness of the role oysters play in the Gulf Coast ecology and economy.

The trail will be comprised of a dozen fiberglass replicas of oysters, each measuring 5 feet in size, and featured in parks, in hotel lobbies, on sidewalks and in other locations throughout Mobile.

The debut of six of the trail’s oyster sculptures will take place at 5 p.m., July 11, at Wintzell’s Oyster House, 605 Dauphin Street in Mobile, and at five other locations throughout downtown Mobile. The final six sculptures will be presented later in the summer.

Each mollusk featured along the trail has been designed and painted by local Mobile artists and modeled after an oyster that was especially selected by P.J. Waters, an Extension aquaculture specialist, along with other volunteers, as representing an ideal shape. Each sculpture will bear a critical oyster fact as well as the name of a local sponsor and artist.

“The trail is designed to raise awareness of the indispensable role oysters play not only in the Gulf Coast’s economy but also in its ecosystem,” Waters said “While people may be somewhat aware of the role oysters play in the area’s economy, they aren’t as aware of the ecological value they serve in Mobile Bay.”

In time, as more oyster sculptures are added along the trail, tourists will be provided with maps and offered the opportunity to embark on scavenger hunts.

“This is a great way to interact with some really cool public art, and if you learn about oysters along the way, that’s good too,” Waters said.

Partners and sponsors in this effort include the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Auburn University Marine Research and Extension Center and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.

Other partners and sponsors include Wintzell’s Oyster House, the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, Hampton Inn and Suites, the Mobile Arts Council, the Downtown Mobile Alliance, the Alabama Coastal Foundation, 100-1000 Restore Coastal Alabama, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and Felix/Bluegill Restaurants.

Waters said the trail would not have been possible without the support of these partners and sponsors as well as thousands of environmentally conscious residents in the Mobile area.

Waters leads the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program, which, for more than a decade, has been involved in efforts to improve the oyster habitats in the Mobile Bay region. In the past 15 years, the program has been responsible for restoring nearly half a million oysters, enough to restore about 26 acres.

For more information about the Mobile Oyster Trail, go to http://masgc.org/oyster/TheOysterTrail.htm.

(Submitted by Jim Langcuster.)