Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Having a Ball for the Sea Mandarin Students Continue Reef Plan

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Having a Ball for the Sea Mandarin Students Continue Reef Plan

Article excerpt

The sounds echoing off the back walls of Mandarin High School Friday morning had the feel of a drum festival -- thump, thump, thump ad finitum, with an occasional swoosh counterpoint.

It wasn't music, but people hammering the sides of fiberglass molds from which will arise reef balls: hollow, gumdrop-shaped concrete balls used to jump-start the Charles H. Kirbo Memorial Reef reef on the Atlantic Ocean's sandy bottom.

Students from Alex Water's marine biology class have been making some of the artificial reef for the past year. But Thursday, volunteers from the Bank of America helped funnel concrete slurry into the R2-D2-shaped molds from a Tarmac concrete truck.

"Watch out for the splats," 19-year-old student Dan Hardie said as he hammered.

Waters is the project coordinator for the artificial reef project that saw 500 reef balls dropped off the coast June 3 to bring the bottom there to life. He had no outside help to mold the 15 balls the school made for the reef last year, but then Team Bank of America offered to help.

"I am doing it because I am interested in the ocean and want to preserve it for future generations, and this is a good project," said one of the three volunteers, Helen Preece. "I wish I could scratch my name in the inside so everyone would know that I worked on it. These things will draw bigger and better fish."

"This is a first, and I think it's nice. It shows there is some additional support in the community," Waters added. "Now we have some people who are involved hands-on who will hopefully be able to spread the word and let people know about the project."

Bradenton diver Todd Barber came up with the idea in 1993 of using concrete balls filled with holes to lure fish, plants and crustaceans to underwater sites. Since then, Reef Ball Development Group has helped make 100,000 balls ranging from 35 pounds to a 4,000-pound ''ultra ball" in more than 200 artificial reef projects worldwide. …

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