(NORFOLK, VA)—When respected and beloved environmental journalist Scott Harper passed away last fall after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer, his family decided the best way to honor him was to cast his cremated remains in a reef ball and place it in Chesapeake Bay waters to aid in the Bay's oyster restoration efforts. Harper's family and friends will cast his Eternal Reef Wednesday, May 7, and it will be deployed in the Lafayette River on Friday, June 6.
"Scott was passionate about everything in life, including his work covering the environment," his widow, Jane Harper, said. "I can't think of any better way to honor him than to let him give back in death, as in life, to an area that he loved so much."
Normally deployed in oceans, an Eternal Reef provides an opportunity for a person who is cremated to have his ashes in a permanent, underwater memorial that fosters new growth. The Scott Harper reef ball will be one of 50 placed in the Lafayette River among a group of smaller reefs specifically designed for this habitat.
On May 7, Harper's family and friends will participate in casting (constructing) his reef ball at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Virginia Oyster Restoration Center, located at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science's small boat basin at Gloucester Point, Va.. They will mix his ashes with special, environmentally friendly cement, then press handprints and other memorabilia into the damp mixture. Volunteers will also prepare 50 other reef balls to aid in Bay restoration. The event will be from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
On June 6, Harper's reef ball will be deployed in the Lafayette River. Jane Harper, the Harpers' three teenage children, and other family and friends will board a boat to say their final goodbyes as his reef ball is lowered onto the Knitting Mill Creek reef. The boat will depart from Haven Creek Boat Ramp in Norfolk, Va., at approximately 11:00 a.m. People can also view the deployment from the Colley Avenue Bridge.
"Knitting Mill Creek is the last spot where I worked with Scott as he covered our oyster restoration project with his typical thorough and investigative style," said Tommy Leggett, CBF's Virginia oyster restoration and fisheries scientist. "It's particularly fitting that he finds his final rest in this special place that was such a big part of his reporting work."
Harper was an award-winning journalist who covered the environment for The Virginian-Pilot from 1994 to 2013. Last August, just months prior to his passing, CBF presented him with its 2013 Virginia Conservationist of the Year Award for the hundreds of articles he wrote about the environment, conservation, citizens, Bay policies, fisheries, wildlife, and restoration. In February, the Virginia Senate approved a memorial resolution, SR 39, to honor him as well.
In awarding the Virginia Conservationist of the Year Award, Ann Jennings, CBF Virginia executive director, said, "For nearly two decades, Scott's extensive coverage has helped inform, educate, and engage the more than 1.6 million residents of Hampton Roads and the elected officials making Bay restoration policy."
While it normally produces much larger reef balls, Eternal Reefs specially designed a smaller one for the Scott Harper project to accommodate the unique needs of the Lafayette River area of the Chesapeake Bay. The reef balls will stand 17 inches tall and weigh approximately 300 pounds.
"Our Eternal Reefs normally range from 700 to 4,500 pounds and stand between two and four feet high for marine deployment," George Frankel, Eternal Reefs CEO, said. "We were happy to accommodate the needs inherent in this project and develop a smaller reef so the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Scott's family can support restoration projects in a new way."
About The Chesapeake Bay Foundation
CBF works across the Chesapeake Bay watershed to reduce pollution and restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. CBF uses environmental education, advocacy, restoration, and litigation to ensure Virginia and the other Bay states implement clean water blueprints to restore the Bay by 2025. For more information, go to cbf.org/blueprint.
About Eternal Reefs Inc.
Eternal Reefs, Inc. is an Atlanta-based company that provides a creative, environmentally enhancing way to memorialize the cremated remains of a loved one. The company incorporates cremated remains into a concrete mixture used to cast artificial reef formations. The artificial reefs are dedicated as permanent memorials while also bolstering natural coastal reef formations; the process is as highly interactive as families desire and they report it's as therapeutic for them as it is for the environment. Round, hollow and vented, these reefs weigh between 700 pounds (2' high x 3' wide) and 4500 pounds (4' high x 6' wide) and are placed in ocean habitats. Since 1998, the company has placed more than 1,500 Memorial Reefs in 20 US Government permitted locations off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia, substantially increasing the ocean's diminishing reef systems. Contact Eternal Reefs Inc. at eternalreefs.com.