I now believe in a place called Bivalve. And Shellpile, for that matter.
There was a time when I thought that such a place couldn’t exist. It just sounded too silly. But my mom would every so often, when talking about her days growing up in Port Norris, would mention Bivalve and Shellpile and the oyster boats.
This past June, we took the long drive down to enjoy Delaware Bay Days, an annual celebration of life along the Delaware Bay, where the bay meets the Maurice River. Not since I was a little kid had I been down to this part of Cumberland County, when we would visit family relatives. They have long since passed on, like so much of the life that used to be here. The festival is part of a larger effort to help bring some life back to this remote part of the state.
Let’s talk about the drive down. Unless you live in Cumberland or Cape May County, be prepared for a long drive. And you’re going to get lost, no matter what directions you may have; we managed to botch our directions there AND back. But we pushed on, finally crossing over the ‘wild and scenic’ Maurice River. If you get to see this sign, whoop it up, because you’ve made it:
Once you get to Port Norris, you turn onto High Street and the last mile of your journey to the village of Bivalve.
I think calling Bivalve a village might be stretching it a bit, but there are a few people who still do live down here. And you quickly see reminders that things are not what they once were.
There was a time when Bivalve was brimming with activity due to the oyster trade. But diseases killed off the oyster beds, first in the 1950s and then again in the 1990s. There are effort taking place to once again bring back oysters to this area. And they’re making some strides, but the journey back, like our trip down, is going to be a long one.