County schools will reap benefits of a new Reef Ball program
scheduled to begin operations at the start of next school
Meanwhile, Palm City Elementary will have students see what
the Reef Ball program is all about, starting this week. The
students will be the first in Martin County to see the
equipment to make the unique Reef Balls.
At a glance, a reef
ball looks a little like a golf ball, which has been cut in
half — except the average reef ball is 4 feet wide and 3 feet
high. It is made of concrete and weighs about 400 pounds.
"Once you have the molds and other equipment to make Reef
Balls, you can start with little ones no more than 36 inches
wide, weighing about 35 pounds," said Todd Barber of
Bradenton, chairman of the Reef Ball Foundation. The
Foundation is a non-profit charity.
The top end of Reef Ball construction goes to a huge Reef
Ball, weighing about 9,000 pounds. Barber is currently in
Costa Rica, meeting with officials of the Central American
country, to discuss placement of Reef Balls in Costa Rican
Before departing from Miami International Airport last
Friday, Barber took time to explain that Reef Balls have been
made since 1993.
"We have molds for 10 sizes and nine styles. By making
various sizes and shapes, we can produce a thousand or more
different Reef Balls," Barber said.
Kathy Fitzpatrick is a trained construction engineer and
works for Martin County. She is in charge of the Reef Ball
program in Martin County, with tie-ins to the Martin County
"There is a lot more to this program than making and
placing Reef Balls," she explained. "We will be teaching boys
and girls about the environment and things they need to learn
to keep our waters clean."
At the center of this new Reef Ball project is a trailer,
which is outfitted with the molds and other equipment needed
to make Reef Balls for placement in local waters.
"A lot of time and effort goes into getting government
approval to have areas in the Indian River where we can place
Reef Balls," Fitzpatrick said. "First, we have the
responsibility of doing no harm to the environment."
Besides the school children of Martin County, residents of
Martin County will have the opportunity to make use of the
Reef Ball equipment for beach protection (against erosion) and
placement at designated offshore artificial fishing reef
Barber explained that a rubber bladder can be placed inside
a Reef Ball, to act as a float in placement of the ball.
"You can easily tow a floating Reef Ball with an outboard
boat to an offshore site," he said. "Once you are over the
selected site, you can puncture a hole in the bladder and the
Reef Ball will slowly sink to the bottom. A diver can remove
the punctured bladder for re-use."
All sorts of marine life especially juvenile fish quickly
set up housekeeping inside the Reef Ball.
"Our studies show that juvenile fish will stay inside the
Reef Ball during high tide, for protection from predators,"
One of the exciting new developments of Reef Balls, is
placing of a small piece of living coral on top of the ball.
"In a short time, the living coral spreads and covers
nearly the entire Reef Ball. In other words, it creates a new
living coral reef," he added. "It is amazing to see a concrete
Reef Ball turn into a large, living coral."