The problem was as vast as the ocean – or in our case, the Gulf of Mexico, floor. Over time, the reef system in the Gulf waters bordering Collier County in SW Florida had been destroyed by hurricanes and shifting currents. For fish and other marine life, there was nowhere to run – or hide – and the impact on Collier County’s environment and tourism industry was significant and growing more severe.
Enter Peter Flood, local Naples attorney and dedicated fisherman with a big idea: gather 18,000 tons of “clean” recycled and donated concrete, sink it 12-30 miles from shore and create six 500-ton reefs, each the size of a football field. Result: a world-class system of reefs where marine life would be restored and grown, recreational divers could explore freely, and environmental scientists could study and learn from the ecology of our region.
This post is part of the #CF100 Series of blog posts. The Council on Foundations is marking the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first community foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, by highlighting the roles of community foundations with this series.
Peter Flood understood that big projects need big – and diverse – partnerships. He joined forces with world-renowned scientists and with Collier County’s Economic Recovery Task Force to begin the planning.
Then, he reached out to the Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund set up by BP in the wake of the 2010 oil spill, and also to local city and county governments to apply for the grants that would help make the reefs a reality. The project was awarded $1,315,000 – the largest BP grant for a single project – and the permits from each government agency are ready to put in place.
Finally, to weave it all together, Flood and the Community Foundation of Collier County joined forces to provide two services: establish the Artificial Reef Project Fund to accept the grant monies plus all public and private legacy donations and to administer funds to the City of Naples, City of Marco, and Collier County, based on stringent guidelines.
At the Community Foundation of Collier County, the Artificial Reef Project is an opportunity for the Foundation to provide the administrative and financial stewardship services that it does so well and to work collaboratively with a variety of organizations and donors to make a positive impact on our local environment and our economy.
Our commitment to strengthening our community immediately and forever is born out in projects like this. Flood tells us that fish will start congregating just 12 hours after the reef is created and that the reef has a life expectancy of 800 years. That’s a legacy.
Craig Jones is Marketing Director at the Community Foundation of Collier County.