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Volunteers sought to help with growth of artificial reef

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

By VICTOR A. HILL, Staff Writer

Members of the Marco Island Rod and Gun Club will head into the Gulf of Mexico with seven concrete modules in tow next month.

Those modules will be sent to the bottom of the ocean Aug. 6 to become part of an artificial reef a haven for fish of all kinds south of Marco Island near the Ten Thousand Islands.

Up to 15 modules could be added to the reef, but only if enough boaters are willing to volunteer their time and vessels to the cause.

"We want to build a bigger reef than just seven (modules)," said Don Brawley, president of Eternal Reefs Inc.

Eternal Reefs is a Georgia- based company that offers an alternative to traditional burials.

Ashes of loved ones are mixed with concrete and formed into the modules used to create artificial reefs, the idea being that a person can give something back to the environment in death by creating habitat for fish.

Brawley is working in cooperation with the Rod and Gun Club to deploy seven modules with human remains, but he wants to place eight more modules in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We want to do a nicer project. We want to create habitat," Brawley said. "We think 15 will make a nicer reef."

Werner Wackerman, a member of the Rod and Gun Club who serves on the club's artificial reef committee, agrees.

The club advocates the creation of artificial reefs because they provide havens for both fish and fishermen who enjoy catching those fish. The club holds permits for two of Collier County's 22 artificial reefs and allows Brawley to advertise the Ten Thousand Islands reef for anyone who wants to be "buried" there.

Any additions to the reef that are environmentally sound are welcome additions, Wackerman said.

"To me, this is a terrific opportunity for the people in Naples and Marco, and anybody else, that comes down to that region for fishing or for diving," he said. "I wish there was more interest in the whole thing."

Modules will be towed to the site using volunteer help and inflatable bladders to keep the modules afloat. A charter boat will ferry family members of the deceased to the reef's location for a memorial service during the deployment.

Boaters willing to volunteer their time and boats to tow modules can contact Brawley at Eternal Reefs. The number is (888) 423-7333.

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