The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve announced on March 25 that the National Estuarine Research Reserve System has awarded more than $613,000 for construction, retrofitting and renovations at the GTM Research Reserve and the Princess Place Preserve in Flagler County. The project, which begins in September, includes cabins for visiting investigators and public use, museum upgrades and an Americans with Disabilities Act compatible nature trail.
“This grant will provide construction for three eco-friendly visiting investigator lodges at Princess Place Preserve, in cooperation with Flagler County, to enable access to Pellicer Creek for research and education related to mangrove expansion into salt marsh habitats, the planned NERR sentinel site in this location, and ecosystem services,” said Michael Shirley, Ph.D., Director of the GTM Research Reserve. “The Environmental Education Center will be brought into the 21st Century becoming the community’s epitome of high-tech, hands-on, and experiential-learning opportunities for students, teachers and the public.”
On-site overnight facilities will allow for immediate access to the estuarine system and support the establishment of additional nearby long-term research projects. Research at this site will also provide many learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as teachers in training. Some of the construction concepts for these planned visiting investigator and eco-tour facilities will include solar power, energy efficient appliances and lighting, low flush toilets, recycled and renewable building materials, cisterns and rain barrels, Florida-friendly landscaping, and fire wise design.
“We will also be able to continue “green” renovations to the Environmental Education Center,” added Kenneth Rainer, education coordinator at the Reserve. “These makeovers will benefit a variety of audiences including individuals with different learning styles, people with disabilities and individuals who are geographically distant. Also, ADA-compliant trails will be constructed with a demonstration area, as well as installation of interpretive paneling at our outdoor kiosks.”
The GTM Research Reserve is one of 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves around the nation focused on researching, educating, and protecting the natural biodiversity and cultural resources within the estuary. It is managed by Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Environmental Education Center is located at 505 Guana River Road, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 32082.
For more information about the GTM Research Reserve, please call 904.823.4500 or visit www.gtmnerr.org.