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Nature Foundation starts
project for artificial reef

POINTE BLANCHE--The Nature Foundation has started a project to create an artificial coral reef close to the island's coastline to ease pressure on the natural reef. A total of 150 reef balls made of cement, sand and gravel are being made with the help of the Reef Ball Foundation, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The project will directly impact the island's tourism product, since it will provide a coral reef over time for divers and scuba divers to enjoy, according to Nature Foundation Marine Manager Andy Caballero. The reef will also help create awareness of reef systems, while being a "nice place to go diving."

Funding for the project is coming from the Dutch Recovery Fund through the St. Maarten Tourist Office.

Todd Barber, President of the Reef Ball Foundation, and Kathy Kirbo, executive director, are training and giving guidance to the local foundation and its counterpart Nature Reserve of the French side in making the reef balls.

Some persons from the nature park of Curacao are also here to lend a hand. They also have practical knowledge in this area after having carried out a similar project on their island. A volunteer from Texas University, who is a specialist in coral reefs, is also helping out with the project.

The training will last for one week, after which the local group will be equipped to make and place more reef balls in the course of time.

The reef balls will aid the propagation of a coral reef that is good for scuba diving, Barber stated.

The mold used to make the balls will remain on the island to be used in future projects of this nature, said Barber, whose foundation has been involved in 4,000 similar projects in 40 countries. In total, the Reef Ball Foundation has placed about half a million reef balls.

The Reef Ball Foundation's goal is to restore the reef eco-system and create educational awareness for the protection of natural coral reefs.

Persons interested in seeing how the reef balls are made are invited to visit the site next to Reggae Cafe. Persons who would like to volunteer can contact the Nature Foundation St. Maarten at 542-0267 or www.artificialreefs.org

Links to Reef Ball Photos during construction

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