TDC Grants to Enhance Indian River Lagoon, Local Tourism

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Stretching more than 150 miles north to south, the Indian River Lagoon – one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in North America – is a true ecotourism experience and one of our greatest resources on the Space Coast.  People from all over the world come to the lagoon for fishing, boating, paddleboarding, hiking, viewing wildlife and simply getting back to all this beautiful nature we are so privileged to have in our backyard.

The Indian River Lagoon, also known as the IRL, actually is a grouping of three lagoons (Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River, and the Indian River Lagoon) that together occupy more than 30 percent of Florida’s east coast.  Keeping the IRL healthy is of paramount importance to the community, including our tourism business and all the positive economic impact tourists bring to Brevard County.

So it was welcome news when it was announced in December that eight conservation-related projects focused on the IRL will receive grants from the Brevard County Tourist Development Council.  Through a new Tourism + Lagoon Grant Program, a total of about $325,000 is being awarded to the selected lagoon projects.

To be eligible for a grant, candidates were asked to show how their projects would both enhance the IRL’s health and contribute to tourism on the Space Coast.  The projects were aligned into categories such as habitat restoration, improved waterway access, shoreline litter control, and living shoreline protection.

“Many of these conservation projects will ensure not just the sustainability of the Indian River Lagoon itself, but also that the Space Coast’s back-to-nature image and reputation will be preserved and further promoted, through the continued outdoor tourism that its waters bring to our region,” Bonnie King, the executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism, told us.  “This amazing estuary is a fragile, living thing, and its protection also means a better quality of life for all of us in Brevard County.”

“The projects that were turned in were incredible,” Laurilee Thompson, who chairs the TDC’s Beach Committee (which ranked the project submissions), told Florida Today.  One project, called “Biorock,” is a Florida Institute of Technology initiative that seeks an environmental alternative to plastic for oyster restoration and living shorelines along the IRL.  It will receive $39,090 in funding.

Brevard Zoo received two grants: $45,000 for an oyster shell recycling program and $27,900 for an effort to expose the Space Coast community and visitors to shoreline restoration.

The Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department also got two grants.  Its Titusville causeway shoreline stabilization feasibility study will receive $48,400 and its vessel debris removal program will get $48,500.

Keep Brevard Beautiful will receive $27,500 for litter removal along State Road 520 and $39,600 for litter removal on the State Road 528 causeway.

Finally, a grant of $49,875 is going to the Marine Resources Council for shoreline and restoration enhancement work at the site of the Ted Moorhead Lagoon House in Palm Bay.

The eight projects were selected from among 20 submitted for review through the new Tourism + Lagoon Grant Program.  Funding for the grants comes from Brevard County’s 5-percent Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.

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