By Capt. Jim Kalvin:
There’s been a lot of gloom and doom lately regarding the cumulative effect of creeping regulations curtailing access to our aquatic resources. I’d like to put that aside and concentrate on a very positive aspect of our water world that is the shining jewel of the southwest Florida boating scene.
Actually, this project is composed of 36 shining jewels!
Billed as the largest artificial reef project in the western hemisphere, the Paradise Reef Project is the brain-child of Naples attorney and angler Peter Flood. Working with Diane Flagg, chair of the Economic Task Force in Collier County, the project was submitted to utilize BP restoration funding to construct 36 artificial reef sites that would enhance opportunities for fishermen, photographers, SCUBA divers, eco-tourists, and all of the peripheral services that they require. The project received the support of Collier County, the City of Naples, the City of Marco Island and the Marine Industries Association of Collier County.
BP supplied the initial $1.3 million for the project, and private funding added another half million dollars to get the ball rolling. A year and a half later, we have 36 new reefs that will be there for the next 500 to 800 years. From 10 to 26 miles offshore, the reefs stretch from Marco Island to north Collier County. The main structures are done, and boy are they producing!
Mr. Flood has the project in full-steam-ahead mode even now—securing private donations to purchase and place reef modules to tie the main structures together. Five of the locations have been named for local families with “Legacy” donations of $100,000, and reef modules can be “bought” for $2,500 with your name, the name of a loved one, or a business or non-profit on a plaque affixed to the structure.
This is the consummate public/private partnership, and no tax monies were used. Two years ago at the dedication ceremony, I said I hoped this project could be a template to be utilized in other areas. My hope is stronger today, as the results are visible and irrefutable.
A documentary film was made by award-winning cinematographer John Scoular, in conjunction with Executive Producers Lance and Harry Julian, showing the project from conception to execution. Award winning underwater cinematographer Andy Casagrande provided stunning footage. The film has been nominated for an Emmy!
The final product can be seen at: http://video.wgcu.org/video/2365794811/
A short trailer can be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/145743717
Contributions to the project can be made by mailing a check payable to Community Foundation of Collier County, 1110 Pine Ridge Road, Suite 200, Naples, FL 34108. Enter Artificial Reef on the memo line.
Not only will this project help the entire aquatic eco-system of southwest Florida, an annual injection of tourism dollars are estimated to reach 30 million dollars per year once the reefs reach maturity.
Standing Watch is Florida’s largest boating coalition. It advocates for reasonable access for law-abiding citizens balanced with science-based resource regulations. For information, go to standingwatch.net.