JENSEN BEACH — They wanted "reef
They got reef blobs.
But after a second, more successful effort, Environmental
Studies Center teacher John Wakeman still plans to add "reef
ball maker" to his resume.
On Wednesday morning, Wakeman and other environmentally
minded teachers and scientists learning the art of reef ball
making found the "quick-drying" concrete they used had turned
into a soupy mess overnight.
"We popped the molds and they kind of collapsed," Wakeman
said. "It looked soupy."
But the group didn't give up.
A second attempt Wednesday — this time mixing their own
concrete — produced more satisfying results.
So the competition is on.
Students participating in the environmental camps at the
Environmental Studies Center and visiting the Florida
Oceanographic Society's coastal center this summer will get a
chance to prove that kids can do it better than adults the
first time around.
"I think the children can do this and be real excited about
it," said Peg Clifford, a third-grade teacher at Palm City
Elementary School who plans to have her students build the
reef balls and learn about marine life next year.
Funded by Martin County's artificial reef program, teachers
and scientists met this week at the center to learn the art of
building reef balls, which will be deployed in two areas of
the lagoon this summer.
The reef ball project will serve two purposes, said Kathy
FitzPatrick, the county's coastal engineer.
"It's a combination restoration and education project," she
said. "You learn about the environment and why they work, and
you make them and then deploy them. They'll be monitoring to
see what's happening, too."
Dozens of reef balls, which will be sunk near the pier at
Indian RiverSide Park and along the shores behind the Florida
Oceanographic Society, will be the first artificial reefs in
The patented reef ball design has been used in Lake
Okeechobee, offshore in Palm Beach County and even in nations
as far away as New Zealand, said Larry Beggs, vice president
of the Bradenton-based Reef Ball Development Group.
To build a reef ball, the sneaker-clad adults broke into
teams and assembled strange, crater-shaped fiberglass molds.
They threw in a little sand — to add crustacean-attracting
texture — then sprayed the mold with sugar water to prevent
the concrete from sticking.
Then they inserted a boat buoy the size of a basketball
into the mold, surrounded it with little inflatable balls and
poured in concrete.
The end result should have been a dome with holes where the
balls had been, but the concrete they used Tuesday was a
pre-mixed, quick-drying kind that didn't live up to its
Fortunately, the batch made Wednesday turned out solid and
ready for lagoon life.
"We know not to use that kind of concrete," FitzPatrick
said. "We learned all the things that can go wrong."
*Reef balls are concrete reefs in the shape of hole-ridden,
*Over the summer, dozens will be placed in the Indian River
Lagoon around the pier at Indian Riverside Park and along the
shore behind the Florida Oceanographic Society.
*The reef balls will shelter juvenile fish and provide a
place for oysters to grow in the shallow lagoon.
*For more information, go to