Foundation helps FGCU program build reefs to restore oyster habitats

FGCU researchers and nationwide partners continue to look for unique solutions to Southwest Florida’s water crisis. The FGCU ice hockey team breeds ground for nature’s own water filters with broken hockey sticks. Once an environmental concern, these sticks become repurposed to help marine ecosystems in need.

The Rink2Reef oyster habitats waterways restoration program has 45 artificial reefs made with broken hockey sticks throughout Southwest Florida waterways to date, and Sunday Naples Area Board of REALTORS (NABOR) helped the program build more reefs to restore oyster habitats.

Credit: WINK News.

“They’re carbon composite material,” FGCU prof. Dr. Mike Parson said. “So they don’t break down easily, so you’re throwing them in a landfill. And they’re just sitting there.”

The partnerships of the FGCU ice hockey team, FGCU’s marine school, and NHL Green turns what was once trash into an environmental treasure.

“So what we’ve done is we’ve taken these broken hockey sticks and we’ve repurposed them, built these simple Lincoln Log structures,” said Bob Wasno, resource coordinator at FGCU’s Vester Marine and Environmental Sciences Research Field Station and volunteer coach for the hockey club. “And with these Lincoln Log structures tethered on our local docks, oysters are able to grow all over this vast area.”

Wasno said each oyster that grows on the artificial reefs can filter around 50 gallons of water daily.

“We estimate that 400 oysters can grow on a single unit,” Wasno said. “So 400 oysters times 50 gallons, we’re talking 20,000 gallons of water per day can be filtered when one of these is fully functional.”

Credit: WINK News.

The NABOR Leadership Class of 2019, FGCU students and staff gathered to continue building the artificial reefs. The Naples realtor foundation funded the day’s event helping build awareness for the FGCU program’s mission.

“We wanted to tackle a project that was going to be important to the community as well as our neighbors, our customers, and our businesses,” said Renee Hahn, NABOR member. “And what more is there than clean water?”

The artificial reefs built by NABOR, with the supervision of Rink2Reef, will be installed Saturday, Oct. 5 at Celebration Park Naples in East Naples. The effort is also being done to help continue education on the water crisis in Southwest Florida.

The Rink2Reef project is also supported by Fort Myers City Council, which will spend $10,000 to build 40 reefs to be installed at city-owned piers. Councilman Fred Burson said he will also cover half the cost for residents in his ward who want a reef at their own piers.

“It’s just done to encourage all residents to do anything we can to help clean the water in the river,” Burson said.

The program is just getting warmed up: NHL teams and hockey clubs nationwide want to join the effort.

“The word of mouth has gotten around,” Wasno said. “It’s a great little program.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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