Governor Terry McAuliffe attended the much awaited ribbon cutting ceremony which officially opens Virginia’s Oyster Trail. The Virginia Oyster Trail is a public-private partnership of stakeholders that began working together over two years ago to brand “Virginia Oyster Travel and Virginia oysters”. The trail offers visitors a way to enjoy Virginia’s seven different oyster regions, as well as experience the unique culture of watermen in the Chesapeake Bay. The trail is described by www.virginiaoystertrail.com, as “ a visitor-directed experiential “journey of discovery” program featuring Virginia’s Oyster regions; with unique waterman/aqua-artisan sites, inviting community narratives and many hospitality, creative, culinary, cultural and activity points of interest to be found along the way. Fundamental to its visitor experience attributes, the program focuses on increasing awareness of the benefits Virginia Oysters have on local economies; with emphasis on community development, environmental stewardship, entrepreneurial growth, health attributes and the cultural integration of Virginia’s distinctive aquaculture way of life.”
Our own Nature Conservancy representative Margaret Van Clief represented us here on the Lower Shore as part of the management team as a conservation consultant/representative for The Nature Conservancy. Ms. Van Clief provided much of the boots on the ground reporting in this story.
The event took place at the Tides Inn in Irvington and in attendance alongside Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, wasbSecretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, as well as President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation Rita McClenny. Watermen and women from each of Virginia’s oyster “flavor regions,” and members of the Virginia Oyster Trail management team were also there.
Sherri Smith of the Artisans Center of Virginia Executive Director provided an introduction to just what the trail is and how important it is to our economy. Governor McAuliffe delivered an animated speech praising Virginia oysters and Virginia wine, noting “In addition to growing, harvesting and selling the best oysters, our watermen are providing good jobs in their communities, generating revenue and tax dollars throughout their region, and helping improve the environment of the Chesapeake Bay as their oysters filter millions of gallons of water each day. We’re not shying from that awesome pairing!”
The ribbon cutting actually turned out to be an oyster shucking, with the Governor at the lead table. After the ceremony, oysters and wine from each of the seven flavor regions designated by the Oyster Trail (Seaside, Upper Bay Eastern Shore, Lower Bay Eastern Shore, Upper Bay Western Shore, Middle Bay Western Shore, Lower Bay Western Shore and Tidewater) were available for tasting. There were also oysters from Tangier.
Our own Mills Wehner, co-owner with husband Jon of Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek, was also in attendance. Mills has been one of the major proponents of the oyster trail, beginning work two years ago. Mills told the Richmond Times Dispatch, “I see great synergy between wine and oyster trail development throughout Virginia. The two are natural complements, and very few places in the world can boast both delicacies in food-wine pairings and market the experience together. I hope to see more Virginia wine and oyster events created with partners from these communities. In fact, the Virginia Oyster Trail will welcome Virginia wineries as trail sites with very favorable and attainable criteria.”