St. Petersburg, FL (February 13, 2019)– Construction has started on a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC), thanks in part to recent gifts from Tampa’s The Saunders Foundation and the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation. The project, organized as part of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground program, is expected to be completed by summer.
SYCC is a marine-focused conservation education center on the shores of Tampa Bay that provides exciting learning opportunities for youth and families. It’s part of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) program dedicated to Creating the Next Generation That Cares™ about conservation. The campus, which includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility with an outdoor classroom, hiking and kayak trails, a wildlife observation tower, and a Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, was developed in partnership with TECO Energy, the Florida Aquarium and FWC, with support from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. In its inaugural year of 2017, over 11,000 youth and adults participated in SYCC educational fishing, kayaking, wildlife viewing and marine science programs.
“The new boardwalk and fishing pier will flank a five-acre saltwater pond and marsh next to the center’s educational building,” said FYCCN Director Rae Waddell “The generosity of our partners and the support of the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida means more youth and families will be able to experience fishing and wildlife viewing and learn about conservation.”
A year-end gift from The Saunders Foundation closed the final $28,000 funding gap. The Southern States Millwright Council and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) donated $50,000 and $20,000 respectively. “This is not your conventional conservation project with one or two partners,” noted USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “This is a union-led, private-public partnership that involves multiple non-profits, labor unions, union volunteers, a state agency, state wildlife foundation and industry partners. We are thankful for everyone’s persistence and support through two years of collaboration, strategic planning and old-fashioned hard work to make it all come together.”
USA members are also providing the volunteer labor for the project as part of its nationwide partnership with Pure Fishing, Inc., the country’s largest manufacturer of fishing gear, to improve the infrastructure for outdoor recreation and learning at many of the country’s best-loved parks and preserves. Union volunteers are expected to donate in excess of 1,000 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $50,000 to complete the pier and boardwalk, pushing the total project value even higher. “We are equally thrilled that ground has been broken on the boardwalk and pier,” said Connie Parker, stewardship and government relations director for Pure Fishing, Inc. and a Foundation board member. “This is a first-ever national coalition including a state agency, for-profit business, not-for-profit entity and trade union all for conservation. This addition to Suncoast’s campus will ensure that outdoor activities, like angling, are accessible to all children.”
Other donors to the project include the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation ($10,000), Cornelia and Dick Corbett ($45,000) and Ben Hur Construction of St. Louis, which is contributing $100,000 in in-kind construction costs. The Foundation is also donating $240,000, bringing total cash and in-kind commitments to $600,000.
Learn more about the conservation education and outdoor recreation programs at Suncoast Youth Conservation Center by visiting http://www.fyccn.org/suncoast.
About the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida
The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and other public and private partners to conserve Florida’s native animals and plants and the lands and waters they need to survive. Since its founding in 1994, the Foundation has raised and donated more than $32 million to conservation and outdoor recreation and education. More information can be found at www.wildlifeflorida.org.