Marsh Exploring

Reece Kelly, 9, left, of New Smyrna Beach looks for marine life in the net of John Vazquez, 9, during the Marine Discovery Center's School Holiday Adventure Camp in New Smyrna Beach in December.

Earlier this spring, the restored salt marsh at the Marine Discovery Center hit an important milestone.

The on-site Mosquito Lagoon Marine Enhancement Center, a partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and others, harvested its 20,000th plant from the donor marsh.

The new harvest mark was set when Dr. Linda Walters and her team from the University of Central Florida used the marsh to collect 100 plugs of Spartina alterniflora. The plants were harvested for use in living shoreline stabilization projects on public lands, including at Canaveral National Seashore, Tomoka State Park, Gamble Rogers State Park and Washington Oaks State Park.

Dr. Walters estimates she has harvested about 5,000 plants from the site to be used in conjunction with mangroves and oyster bags in her shoreline stabilization projects on Florida’s east coast.

Through grant funding and coordinated partnerships, more than 45,000 cubic yards of fill material was moved from the 22-acre site that housed New Smyrna Beach High School from 1963 to 2006. The site was graded in 2014 to restore original tidal-marsh elevation to create a salt-marsh habitat as well as an appropriate upland slope for native plants.

Volunteers, scientists and MDC staff hand-planted more than 25,000 native plants during summer 2014.

The marsh is now home to a variety of fish, crabs, birds and plants, which have been monitored by college science students and various science agencies. Donations of cord grass and mangrove propagules will continue to benefit restoration projects throughout Central Florida.

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