The Big Bend Shellfish Trail and Map was produced with a grant award of $20,000 received by the Levy County Board of County Commission. One of five collaborative grants awarded across the Big Bend counties—Dixie, Jefferson, Levy, and Taylor—the funding encouraged partnerships to strengthen the region’s economic vitality while simultaneously ensuring the ongoing health of its natural resources. “A number of partners participated in the creation of Florida’s first Shellfish Trail and the largest trail of its kind in the United States. This project showcases our working waterfront communities and encourages economic growth in Levy County and in the Big Bend Region,” said Levy County Commissioner John Meeks.
Over the past two years, the Levy County Visitors Bureau with UF/IFAS implemented the project by developing a map and website that features a section of the Big Bend Region. The trail provides people with information about where to buy and eat local shellfish, how to take an active role in protecting water quality for the shellfish industries within the Big Bend Region. The trail highlights where recreational scalloping is allowable, where to learn about commercial production of clams and oysters, locations of recreational boat ramps, and locations of working waterfronts in this region. The trail locates shellfish vendors, restaurants, seafood markets, marinas, bait & tackle shops, provides information on working waterfronts, and identifies key areas to protect water quality and habitats.
The grant was provided by The Conservation Fund, a national organization that makes conservation work for America with support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Earlier research on the region’s economy demonstrated the critical link between the area’s incredible land and waters and its economic health. The Conservation Fund created the grant program to enhance this connection and support the needs expressed by the region’s leaders.
“The Big Bend Shellfish Trail Map will encourage support of local jobs and businesses, such as clam farmers, oystermen, crabbers, shrimpers, accommodations, restaurants, shops, and all service industries. By bringing more people into the region to participate along the Gulf coast trail our communities will see economic growth due to visitor participation and buying of local shellfish products,” said Carol McQueen, Director of Levy County Visitors Bureau.
Leslie Sturmer, University of Florida IFAS Extension, Shellfish Specialist said; “Oyster trails can be found in many coastal states, such as Alabama, Maine, and Virginia. There is even a clam trail in New Jersey. But nowhere in the nation is there a shellfish trail. This project showcases the diversity of our shellfisheries and aquaculture industries along the Big Bend of Florida.”
The official opening of the Big Bend Shellfish Trail and ribbon cutting ceremony will be during the 48th Annual Cedar Key Seafood Festival, October 21, 2017 at 1:00 P.M., Cedar Key City Park Pavilion. The public is invited to participate in this historic event.
For more information, call 877-387-5673 to receive a free map. To view an online map, brochure and road trip itineraries, click here.