NABOR and Rink2Reef install artificial reef in East Naples canal

Broken hockey sticks are most likely looked at as junk before they are looked at as tools to solve water quality and improve habitats. But that’s exactly the foundation for a project that began at FGCU years ago. And it’s a movement that groups in Southwest Florida have also taken part in.

Rink2Reef assisted Naples Area Board of REALTORS (NABOR) during installation of an artificial reef in a waterway surrounding celebration Park in East Naples Saturday.

“As a board, it not only affects our industry, but we live in the community,” said. “We don’t just sell here. We’re a part of it, so we want to make sure that we maintain clean water for generations to come as well,” said a member of NABOR.

NABOR organized the installation event through the RINK2Reef program, an effort that combines FGCU, FGCU hockey and National Hockey League. These artificial reefs are assembled with used hockey sticks, providing home to oysters that filter water.

Now the canal at Celebration Park will have healthier, better-filtered water. Broken hockey sticks are taken off the ice and assembled into artificial reefs, which are then brought to the water. The hockey sticks provide surfaces for oysters to attach and provide their natural filtration system.

“If there are baby oysters floating around in the water, they now have a place to settle,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, an FGCU professor and director of the Vester Field station. “They can get established, grow, start filtering the water before it gets out to the gulf,” said Parsons.

The natural water filters also help us with the water crisis related to red tide and nuisance algae.

“They prevent the nutrients from getting out to red tide because they’re removing the algae before it gets out there, before it gets out to the gulf,” said.

The project has allowed hockey players at FGCU to find a new purpose for their broken twigs.

“We had hockey players that were just talking about, ‘Oh yeah oysters filter water, water quality is important, nutrients are important,” said. “And they’re not marine science majors; they’re not science majors.”

The first reef from the batch that were constructed last month was installed at the event this weekend. Fifteen more oyster reefs from that batch will be installed in this waterway, and the project will continue to move forward in effort to restore oyster habitats, cleaning the water in the process.

Rink2Reef is also receiving donations of broken hockey sticks from professional teams to help build more reefs for our local waters.

“The idea is the more area you have, the more hard surfaces you have, the more oysters you can have and the more water gets clean,” Parsons said.

Anywhere there is a dock, there is a home for a reef made of broken hockey sticks, program leaders said. Anyone who wants to get involved in Rink2Reef can do so either by organizing stick donations at rinks near them or starting their own chapter of the program.

Dr. Parsons is passionate about this program and will help to make it successful. “I will personally come, help install it, and monitor it to be sure that oyster spat are actually attaching to it so they’ll be able to filter the water.”

MORE: Rink2Reef – Hockey Sticks to Oyster Reefs Restoration Program

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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