The program educates and engages the community in the fight for clean water. 

Calusa Waterkeeper, a leading environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the Caloosahatchee River and its watershed, is thrilled to announce the successful completion of its Vertical Oyster Garden (VOG) workshop, held at the St. James City Civic Association on April 8, 2024. In 2023, the organization kicked off the VOG program and held workshops at FGCU. The organization plans to host several VOG workshops in 2024 to engage individuals, communities, students, and businesses in the fight for clean water.

The workshop, attended by an estimated 30 enthusiastic participants, marked a significant milestone in Calusa Waterkeeper’s ongoing efforts to promote clean water and environmental stewardship within the community. Under the guidance of trained Calusa Waterkeeper volunteer rangers, attendees constructed Vertical Oyster Gardens (VOGs), which will serve as vital tools in water filtration and habitat restoration efforts.

Vertical Oyster Gardens are a nature-based solution for improving water quality. Suspended from docks, these structures provide a natural habitat for new oysters and other filter feeders to grow while simultaneously filtering out pollutants and excess nutrients from the water. By deploying VOGs at homes along the Caloosahatchee River, Calusa Waterkeeper aims to enhance water quality and inspire community members to participate in conservation efforts.

“This workshop represents a significant step forward in our mission to protect and restore the health of the Caloosahatchee River,” said Connie Ramos-Williams, Executive Director of Calusa Waterkeeper. “By engaging the community in hands-on projects like the Vertical Oyster Garden workshop, we’re fostering a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness between clean water and our quality of life.”

The Vertical Oyster Garden workshop exemplifies Calusa Waterkeeper’s commitment to education, advocacy, and community engagement. By empowering individuals to take tangible actions to improve water quality, Calusa Waterkeeper is laying the groundwork for a more sustainable and resilient future for Southwest Florida.

“We’re excited to see the impact that these Vertical Oyster Gardens will have on water quality in our region,” said Calusa Waterkeeper Captain Codty Pierce. “It’s inspiring to be part of a community-driven initiative that not only benefits the environment but also fosters a sense of stewardship among residents.”

“After Hurricane Ian the only part of our dock that remained was the portion that held a dozen Vertical Oyster Gardens and they were all intact,” said John Connelly, a participant in the workshop. “The water around my VOGs is visibly clearer and cleaner.”

Moving forward, Calusa Waterkeeper remains dedicated to expanding its educational programs and collaborative initiatives to further promote the importance of clean water and environmental conservation. Together, with the support of dedicated volunteers and community partners, Calusa Waterkeeper will continue to make strides towards a healthier and more vibrant ecosystem for all.