County supports Mote education initiatives
The Charlotte County Commission will be voting on a resolution today to approve $85,000 in funding that would allow Mote Marine Laboratory to develop a marine science educational program for Charlotte County residents.
At Monday’s pre-agenda meeting, the commission considered a recommendation from the Marine Advisory Committee to approve a grant using money from the Local Boater Improvement Fund for the creation of a community science program that includes, among other things, a six-part lecture series featuring Mote scientists, a Science Cafe, and a part-time outreach coordinator to educate and interact with the public at community events.
“I think it’s positive,” said Commissioner Robert Skidmore, who chairs the multicounty West Coast Inland Navigation District. “Mote does a lot of good stuff for boaters. It’s not tax dollars, it’s boater improvement funds. If (boaters) can derive benefits from their fees I think that’s what the money is intended for.”
Earlier this year, headlines were made when it was announced there were plans to build a Mote research facility and aquarium on a parcel of land on the northwest corner of the former City Marketplace, between the 100 blocks of West Marion Avenue and West Retta Esplanade. The proposed facility would bring together education, research and science under one roof while complementing existing, as well as future, dining, retail and other mixed-use possibilities, Mote officials said.
In May, the Punta Gorda Community Redevelopment Agency voted unanimously to donate the use of two boat slips at Laishley Park Marina, where two Mote biologists plan to begin working this month.
According to Mote’s local project coordinator, Tom Kerr, Mote is in the process of working with the Charlotte County school system to develop a curriculum and hopes to begin the education initiatives in the fall. The program is similar to one the organization runs in Sarasota County, where it has provided education to 20,000 adults and children in 2011, as well as some 41 high school and 125 college internships.
Charlotte County Commission chairman Chris Constance asked Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium & Special Project vice president Daniel Bebak how the educational programs would benefit boaters.
“With all those programs, we talk about the waterways, the harbor and (Gulf) in Sarasota,” Bebak said. “Part of that is to understand the ecosystems better, understand the wildlife better, and how to interact with the wildlife and environment in a safe manner,” Bebak said. “We’re on the water all of the time, so boater safety is very important to us.”
When asked by Constance if Mote’s goal includes safer waters for manatees and dolphins, Bebak said, “I think it means safer waters for all those things — and boaters.”