Turtle Talk: New Living Reef Habitat in Grayton Beach State Park
Last week, the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) began installing the first set of near shore reefs at Grayton Beach State Park here in South Walton County.
For all you sea turtle fans, this new reef installation (consisting of approximately 58 towers) will be in the shape of a sea turtle when viewed from above!
The new reef will be over 300 ft in length and beach accessible for snorkeling, diving, kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming. Soon there will be many species of fish and various sea-life near the living reef habitat.
SWARA is a grass-roots organization dedicated to the construction, deployment, and monitoring of permitted artificial reefs in Walton County’s Gulf of Mexico coastal waters for the benefit and health of environment and community. The organization was created out of concerns over the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Their underlying question was simple:
“What can we do to help our community become more aware of our unique natural resources by enhancing their connection to this environment?”
SWARA’s solution was to spearhead the creation of a series of near-shore artificial reef systems along Walton County’s Gulf of Mexico coastline and the Eastern Choctawhatchee Bay.
This reef system in Grayton Beach is just the beginning of many artificial reefs that will be created along the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast.
Building these beach-accessible, artificial reef habitat systems is a unique approach to connect man and nature in order to enhance quality-of-life, environmental awareness and even economic opportunity.
The SWARA organization believes these connections provide a Win-Win for the local environment – and the people and creatures that love and depend on it.
For sea turtles, these reefs will provide the opportunity to wedge themselves under ledges and against the structures so they can take a turtle nap.
Eventually, the reef will make for a pleasant and protected spot to rest for our annually nesting sea turtles and their new hatchlings, such as those that made it to the waves early Sunday morning at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. (See the three-part video of the hatchlings on our Facebook page here.)
Great things are happening in South Walton County!
Our organization, Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles, is thrilled to be able to share the forward thinking actions of our local friends. We are very excited for everyone who was involved in this reef project from the initial vision to its completion.
We also look forward to partnering with SWARA and the many other such proactive organizations aligning here in Walton County to ensure that we keep education and conservation at the forefront of our plans for the future!
For more information on this project, we encourage you to check out the SWARA website, as well as the excellent reporting done by our good friends over at WaltonOutdoors.com.
— Linda Voorhees and Gayla Schaefer