Artificial Reefs Installed off Providence, RI

Photo by Timothy Burling, On the morning of Saturday, June 18, visitors to India Point Park, in Providence, RI, witnessed something unusual. This tranquil park, at the confluence of the Providence and Seekonk rivers, normally attracts walkers, joggers, sunbathers, fishermen, and yoga and tai chi practitioners. But, on this day, there were also people splashing in the river.

With the tide low, the water didn’t reach much higher than their knees. They placed sculptural forms, about 3’ in diameter and made of metal frames and concrete plates, among the wooden pilings just beyond the seawall. Parkgoers curious enough to ask, learned they were watching the deployment of 9 artificial shellfish reefs — the culmination of nearly 4 years of collaborative research and planning among many of the state’s public and private universities.

The installation couldn’t have gone smoother, according to Emily Vogler, a landscape architecture professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and one of the project’s leaders. Timed for the four-hour window surrounding low tide, the team finished securing the reefs just before the water got too deep to work in.

Now all they can do is wait and see if oysters and other shellfish actually settle on the structures. Because upper Narragansett Bay is closed to shellfishing, the plates couldn’t be seeded with larvae prior to deployment. Instead, shellfish larvae will need to find their way to the reefs naturally.

Read more about the installation of artificial shellfish reefs off Providence, RI.