Archive for October 23rd, 2008

October 23, 2008

Fire at the Environmental Learning Center

I recently wrote about a study conducted on the worth of the Indian River Lagoon as a resource from many perspectives including its use in education along the eastern Florida coastline.  I forgot to mention one fantastic center also involved in IRL education, the Environmental Learning Center. 

The ELC is located in Vero Beach and sits on some fantastic mangrove forests with incredible oyster reef growth as well as seagrass bed habitat in the immediate area.  I had a fantastic opportunity to volunteer with their Lagoon Days programs in the past and look forward to pitching in in the future.  Students are given the chance during these excursions to kayak, seine, study, explore, and fully experience the estuary system and its habitats. 

I certainly enjoyed my time at the Center because of its southerly position on the Indian River Lagoon system.  Many species of wildlife that are not commonly found in the upper reaches of the IRL system – particularly near Banana River and Mosquito Lagoon where I have lots of experience – are abundant near Vero Beach.  In particular I can remember bringing up silvery lookdowns as well as enormous sea robins and small grunts and several species of macroalgae that were extremely rare in the IRL north of Sebastian Inlet.  Turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) is also more common towards the southern end of the estuary as water temperatures are typically higher throughout the year allowing for long term survival of the plants. 

I hadn’t checked in to the ELC website in many months and was astonishment to discover that a large fire wiped out part of their campus on June 30th of this year.  Apparently lightning struck their wet lab building and bathrooms and both buildings were a complete loss.  The facilities at the ELC were gorgeous and were heavily used by visitors and field trip programs alike.  This is a terrible loss to environmental education efforts in the area. 

The ELC does plan to rebuild but even with donations in time and talent from area architects and construction companies the cost for the buildings is still high.  The ELC needs donations!  If you can spare something for them to rebuild their campus and to continue to serve as a focal point in the Vero Beach area for lagoon and marine conservation please consider contributing to their Fire Fund

Perhaps one bright spot in this unfortunate incident is the fact that the ELC, along with their partners, plan to rebuild using sustainable materials and to engineer the buildings in the greenest way possible.