Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Ocean Reef presents grant to Friends of John Pennekamp
By Holly Houser, Ocean Reef Press Editorial Assistant
Last month, Ocean Reef Club, Ocean Reef Community Association, Ocean Reef Conservation Association, and the Rod & Gun Club presented Friends of John Pennekamp, a newly-formed citizen’s support organization (CSO), with an $81,000 grant to replace vital mooring balls in the Pennekamp Park waters.
Established in January, Friends of John Pennekamp is a non-profit 501c3 with the mission to raise funds in support of necessary environmental projects for John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. The organization is made up entirely of volunteers and includes Ocean Reef Members Jack Salisbury and John Davidson, both Friends of John Pennekamp board members.
“Once we got the CSO up and running, Paul Rice – the manager of John Pennekamp State Park – prioritized the replacement of the mooring balls that were lost during Hurricane Irma as the number one project to be addressed,” explained Salisbury, who is Chairman of the Ocean Reef Conservation Association and a Rod & Gun Club board member. “In response, the four Reef organizations discussed the project and decided they would fund the full amount of $81,000.”
Ocean Reef’s grant not only covers the cost of replacing the lost balls, but also provides funding to install seven additional and much-needed mooring balls in Pennekamp Park.
Salisbury explained that mooring balls, which are buoys attached to a downline and secured to the sea floor, are imperative to reef health because they allow boaters to tie directly to a ball instead of dropping an anchor, which can often harm coral.
“It’s important that Ocean Reef continues to help their neighbors,” Salisbury said. “Pennekamp Park covers water from the shore out to three miles. Those are areas that a lot of Ocean Reef Members use for snorkeling, diving and fishing. Tying up to the balls avoids the need to anchor and helps protect the coral from getting damaged by anchoring. It’s also easier to tie up your boat because you simply slip a dock line through the end of the mooring ball line to tie up, creating a win-win for the boater and the reef.”
The Club’s grant is the first major donation Friends of John Pennekamp has received. Ann Helmers, the CSO’s President, expressed gratitude to Ocean Reef for providing such a significant contribution.
“As a new group, it was an unbelievable privilege and honor to know that Ocean Reef was so proactive and enthusiastic in not only suggesting how they could help but in providing necessary resources,” said Helmers. “It really is a blessing and we’re so appreciative to everyone at Ocean Reef. We hope to be able to begin installation on the mooring ball project as soon as possible.”
Looking into the future, the mooring ball program is one of several projects the CSO plans to undertake. Among them are a new accessible playground, a boardwalk trail for Dagny Johnson, and a new visitor center.
To find out more about the CSO, visit pennekampparkfriends.org.