Thursday, August 11, 2011

What's a NERR?

What, indeed, is a NERR? It's an odd-sounding acronym for something that's uncommon if not downright rare, and quite wonderful to have as part of your community. A NERR is a National Estuarine Research Reserve, a place set aside for the pursuit of knowledge about these delicate ecosystems and their denizens. Flora, fauna, and the all-important habitat itself. If you live in northeast Florida, especially St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra or Jacksonville, you have a NERR in your own backyard. And you may not even know it. You may spend a day at the beach at crowded Mickler's Landing, not realizing that just 3 miles south is a pristine, undeveloped beach, uncrowded, with room to spare. It's knowledgeably overseen by expert staff, carefully kept safe by dedicated DEP officers and SJC Sheriff's deputies, and patrolled by committed volunteers who help ensure the well-being of inhabitants like nesting sea turtles. You can put $3 in the box, or you can buy an annual pass for about $60.

Formerly Guana River State Park, the area known today as Guana Tolomato Matanzas NERR is right out there, waiting for you. The top photo is what it looked like this evening. The other photos are of a beautiful bright red piece of natural coral sponge that washed up, broken from its mooring, perhaps by the remnants of TS Emily. This was tonight's gift of the Great Mother Ocean; virtually every visit yields something as magical. And these are your treasures, too. Go out, and see for yourself.

Coming soon: details about Oceanwise, the annual fundraising event hosted by the Friends of the GTM Reserve organization. This event involves a silent auction, so don't be surprised if you hear me asking for donations. Although the Reserve is a unique partnership between the federal and state governments, there's never enough money to support research helping populations like sea turtles and North Atlantic Right whales, to bring teachers and students to sea science in action, to maintain parking lots and get the idea. But you believe in all these things, so maybe you won't mind too much when I knock on the door. Oceanwise. What wisdom could be better?

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