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Newly dedicated oyster reef honors mass shooting victim

Mary Louise Gayle helped secure the land where that oyster reef sits now. She was one of the victims of the Virginia Beach mass shooting in 2019.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A group dedicated to cleaning the Chesapeake Bay just completed a huge project!

The Lynnhaven River NOW organization built an oyster sanctuary, using more than 6,000 bushels from local restaurants.

But this reef is different from the others. Mary Louise Gayle had helped the organization secure the land where that oyster reef sits now. She was a Virginia Beach city employee and one of 12 people killed in a mass shooting at the city's municipal center on May 31, 2019.

Brent James with Lynnhaven River Now worked alongside Gayle in helping to clean the bay. Recently, James and other members of the organization held a memorial ceremony at the newly installed oyster reef, where they revealed a plaque with Gayle’s name, as a dedication to her.

Credit: City of Virginia Beach
Mary Louise Gayle was a right-of-way agent in public works for 24 years.

About 50 people, including Gayle's daughter, sailed out to see the dedication.

Oysters help filter and remove excess nutrients like nitrogen from the water which improves the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and helps it recover from pollution.

Restored oyster reefs also provide critical ecosystem services including shoreline protection and habitat for fish, crabs, and other aquatic life.