Published: Jan 14, 2013 6:23 PM EST
Updated: Jan 14, 2013 6:44 PM EST

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Pieces of the old Matlacha bridge are settling into a new home.Right now, they're transforming into an artificial reef off Charlotte County.

What you see is the second and last barge to dump sections of the Matlacha Bridge out here at the Novak Reef site. Each barge carries 250 tons of bridge which is going down 30 feet into the water. 

With a groan and a splash, decades of history sink to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Fisherman Jim Davidson has a front row seat to the amazing spectacle. "It's fun to see! We're recycling the bridge," he said.

The pieces, from the end-caps bearing the name Matlacha Pass, to the railings, extend the Novak reef. The Novak reef is located about three miles from Gasparilla Pass near the Charlotte-Lee County line.

The Novak site itself is an artificial reef made up of I-75 bridge spans. This section of it will be re-named to honor the Matlacha bridge.

Captain Kyle Potts donated a Harley-Davidson to raise money to make this project a reality. "I've been transiting the bridge for quite some time now as a resident on Pine Island, its nice they put it to good use," Potts said.

$30,000 from the local community funded this project. Many hope the bridge's watery grave will bring new life to the area, creating a habitat for local sea creatures.

A total of 500 tons, about 20 percent of the old bridge, will be used to promote tourism to southwest Florida through fishing and diving. It will be monitored every year for five years. 

Supporters of the old Matlacha Bridge reef project aren't done fundraising just yet. They're looking to make a memorial to the old bridge on land. 

For more information, visit the group's site at