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~Coastal America Partnership recognizes Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center as a Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center~


The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is the first NERR to receive this designation.

NAPLES Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is the newest member of Coastal America’s prestigious network of Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers, one of 25 designated learning centers in the country designed to educate and engage the public in protecting coastal ecosystems.

Governor Rick Scott said, “We are proud that Florida is home to the first reserve ever to receive this prestigious designation. Rookery Bay is one of the many reasons Florida will attract more than 100 million visitors next year.”

The network creates a partnership between federal agencies and marine education centers across North America like the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, with a shared goal of educating and involving the public in protecting our nation's coastal and marine ecosystems.

"Education is crucial to making sure all Floridians do their part to protect our environment," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "We must educate all of our citizens on how they can personally prevent pollution. It is critical that all of us are dedicated to getting the water right and protecting our estuaries."

The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has provided environmental education to local students and the public in the Southwest Florida for more than 25 years.

“We are very proud to add the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to our network of Coastal America Learning Centers,” said Ralph Cantral, Director for the Coastal America Partnership. “The outstanding education, outreach, and research efforts of the Reserve will add many new opportunities for our existing system of 24 centers which extend from Alaska to Mexico and California to New England and Canada to provide critical information about our coastal and ocean ecosystems to their many visitors.”

Rookery Bay becomes the third CELC designated in Florida, and the first site in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. The Reserve was honored during a ceremony with federal and regional partners on Friday.

“It is quite an honor to receive this designation, and an accomplishment we have worked toward for a few years,” said Gary Lytton, Director for Rookery Bay Reserve. “Our programs and facility are a perfect fit for this network.”

Through the Coastal America partnership, Rookery Bay Reserve will gain access to the scientific resources of 13 federal agencies that can offer items such as ship time, technical expertise, exhibits, and educational materials, as well as chances to collaborate on research projects. The arrangement also provides the government agencies access to thousands of visitors at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center each year.

Rookery Bay Reserve’s designation ceremony was scheduled in conjunction with National Estuaries Day to give the community an opportunity to interact with members of the Coastal America Partnership through educational booths and activities on Saturday. In addition to the two-story visitor center where exhibits explain the importance of estuaries, Rookery Bay Reserve annually invites residents and visitors to experience this estuary first-hand through free guided kayak and boat tours, stand-up paddleboard demonstrations, lab tours, marine life touch tank, films, live music, food and more.

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters between Naples and Everglades National Park on the Gulf coast of Florida. It is managed by The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Coastal Office in cooperation with NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

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