Oyster beds created for wildlife restoration in new Crissy Field marsh

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Next month engineers at the Presidio are about to open the gates and let waters from San Francisco Bay flow into their newest creation. It's a wildlife habitat that promises to be spectacular. And to get ready, they've been busy adding rooms for some special guests.

If you're a certain species of sea life, this may be the hottest beachfront property in the Bay Area. Wildlife specialist Jonathan Young and his colleagues at San Francisco's Presidio are hard at work on what will soon be a thriving underwater community for oysters.

"They will be landing on and recruiting, or landing and growing on these over the next year. So we're going to know, within 12 months we're going to hopefully be seeing small little recruits or baby oysters growing on these reef balls," explains Young.

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The reef balls are made up part of crushed oyster shells donated by Bay Area restaurants. The Presidio team has begun placing them on the bed of what will be a historic expansion at Crissy Field. It's the restoration of Quartermaster Reach, which will become a thriving marsh that will essentially extend from the Bay upstream to the Presidio watershed.

"This is just an opportunity to bring back a piece of the lost landscape that was San Francisco," says Lew Stringer, associate director of Natural Resources at Presidio Trust.

He says the plan is to open the newly constructed culverts and let the water flow in slowly to protect the soil. Reefs and other marsh plants will stretch from the banks, recreating a habitat that was once abundant.

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"An Ohlone village was very close by. And they were living and harvesting shellfish and oysters and muscles in this exact location," said Stringer.

Oysters and other sea life are already thriving at Crissy Field's existing marsh area. And wildlife technician David Harelson believes the food chain could quickly move inland.

"We're going to be getting a lot of fish in the upper tidal area as well which will be really exciting. Stickleback, marine perch, we'll probably get some small striped bass, rays, maybe monkey-faced eels, maybe a small leopard shark," says Harelson.

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And by the end of the year, hikers should be able to begin exploring for themselves -- along pathways that will wind past the new Oyster habitat, through the marsh, and with a little imagination, back in time.

Dec 8. is the target date to open the trail connecting Crissy Field to the Presidio watershed.
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