Adventures - Right Here In Pinellas County
by Anne McKay Garris
Oysters shells in mesh bags are piled up by these young Tampa Bay Watch adventurers. The shells, held in place by the bags, are a natural and inexpensive way to stabalize the shoreline of Tampa Bay
December 5 will be a big day for Tampa Bay. Not the region -- the Bay, that big, beautiful body of water out there that welcomes us home when we've been away from our home in the sunshine too long. December 5 is the day Tampa Bay Watch is celebrating 15 years of restoration of Tampa Bay. The job is not done yet, but the organization that started replanting grass beds and restoring oyster beds 15 years ago, has made great progress.
People who enjoy adventures on and in the water will gather at the Tampa Bay Watch Marine Center, 3000 Pinellas Bayway South at Tierra Verde, for lively music, refreshments, and a silent auction to benefit the TBW programs. Best of all, there will be the exchange of "sea stories." Those people who have participated in some of what the TBW modestly calls, "Tampa Bay Watch volunteer opportunities" will tell of building oyster domes and helping place them around the shore line to provide a hard surface where oysters can attach themselves. These people have learned that oysters are filter systems that clean up the water around them. Building oyster domes is hard, happy, dirty work, but they enjoy doing it in the company of others who share their love of the water, and the oysters on the half shell that will result.
Other bay-going folks will talk about the sea grass beds that provide protection for miniscule sea life before these valuable sea creatures grow big enough to fend for themselves. These are the people who have waded in the shallows, carefully replanting the grasses where they have become depleted by the activities of nature as well as humans in their boats.
Perhaps the most excited will be the folks at the 15 year celebration who have enjoyed the annual Ecotours put on by Tampa Bay Watch each year. This Day On The Bay tour gives groups of water enthusiasts a look at the fascinating secret world of Tampa Bay, along the edges, in the shallows. The Ecotour includes mangrove forests, oyster beds, sea grass beds and a bird rookery as well as intriguing moments at the Center's touch tank for a close up of the some of the creatures of the Bay. This tour is a way to give visitors a memory to treasure. Even many people who have lived here all their lives have never watched a live sea shell make its laborious way across the sand, leaving a telltale trail behind. Ecotour adventurers have -- and more.
One suspects, however, that the most exciting "Tampa Bay Volunteer Opportunity" might be the annual Great Bay Scallop Search.
There was a time when the delicious bay scallops were plentiful. Unfortunately, pollution and red tides caused problems that eliminated the seafood delicacy from Tampa Bay by 1960. Some of the success of TBW efforts to improve water quality can be seen in the return of the scallops. Each year there is a treasure hunt as eager seekers search the bay in carefully lined out grids. What excitement there is, as adventurers find, and count, the scallops which have been gradually making a comeback.
If you want to hear some truly excited stories about adventure with Tampa Bay Watch, look for some of the youngsters at the celebration. They are the lucky ones who have attended summer camp at TBW. They will tell you about the snorkeling, creature collecting and identification, kayaking and island exploring they have done. Young people ages 6 to 14 attend these camps. They will probably never again be satisfied to spend time simply glued to the tube. They have enjoyed the adventure of exploring a mysterious part of our world.
The public is invited to the December 5 celebration at Tampa Bay Watch where information about the Center's programs and how you can participate will be plentiful. You are asked to RSVP for the party by November 28 at www.tampabaywatch.org.
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