Florida Conservation and Technology Center and the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center
APOLLO BEACH – Have you been wondering what’s going on with the construction of the big blue building and surrounding area on Dickman Rd. near the Manatee Viewing Center? Well, exciting is what it is. It’s the new Florida Conservation and Technology Center (FCTC) that is coming to life before our eyes and this facility is going to blow your mind.
Photos: Florida Conservation and Technology Center Sign (early construction February 2016) and the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center
Florida Conservation and Technology Center (FCTC)
When complete, the Florida Conservation and Technology Center will include the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center, a marine fish hatchery, a sea turtle hospital, research facilities for the Florida Aquarium that is working on projects to help save Florida’s coral reefs, and a renewable energy demonstration center.
The FCTC project, a partnership with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC), Tampa Electric (TECO) and The Florida Aquarium, is an amazing mix of conservation education and cutting-edge technological research, right in our own backyard.
There are longer term plans associated with this project, such as a centralized Welcome Center that will serve both the FCTC and the Manatee Viewing Center, but as you can see from the construction equipment, the project is moving forward now!
Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC)
On April 12, 2016, the FWC opened the pretty Key West-looking ‘blue building’ that you see from the road. That’s the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center. It’s an amazing facility for our youth.
Photo: Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and new SYCC Indoor Classroom
I had the great fortune to return last week to visit with Dr. Kathy Guindon, the Director of the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center, and tour the new facility, a 6000 square-foot building, with indoor and outdoor classroom space. The SYCC serves as a marine-focused educational hub for FCTC and is part of the wider Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), a youth network run by the FWC.
On April 14, even with final touches still to be completed in the building, SYCC began welcoming school groups who have been participating in both fun and educational programs.
Dr. Guindon explained, “We’ve had school field trip groups 2-3 times per week since we opened. We teach conservation education curriculum appropriate for 3rd – 12th grades. Since most schools are out now for summer, we’re also beginning to host groups like a local 4H club and scout troops.”
Photo: Sea life to study
Members of the wider Florida Youth Conservation Center Network (FYCCN), such as schools, camps, youth groups, parks, nature centers, and more, can participate in activities at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center. The goal of the FYCCN is simple – ‘inspire children to be excited about the outdoors and outdoor activities and grow a passion for conservation. Centers have different activities depending on location.
“When students come here for a program,” Dr. Guindon says enthusiastically, “we want them to leave with knowledge and a skill for life. So, for example, if they are here for a kayaking program the kids will learn about biology and science as well as getting hands-on with kayaking and learning how to kayak.”
Photo: Dr. Kathy Guindon, Director SYCC, and Samantha Teehan, Educational Specialist
A Busy Summer and New Welcome Room at the SYCC
The SYCC is expecting a busy summer. Although full summer camp programs will begin in 2017, several groups have already booked programs for this summer. In August all marine-science teachers in the Hillsborough County school district will be doing their in-service training here.
Dr. Guindon and her team are currently hard at work getting the ‘Welcome Room’ of the SYCC completed, hopefully by August. Construction is happening now. When complete visitors will have a chance to view and get hands-on with educational exhibits relating to land and sea conservation from the surrounding area.
Each exhibit will be educational and several will include hands-on experiences. There will be a touch tank that will change regularly depending on what is found in the surrounding Newman Branch Creek and Tampa Bay; posters and information on animals seen in the area, including most recently bobcats, red fox and coyotes; there will be information on fishing and fishing ethics and nautical charts; and, illustrations depicting how the immediate area has changed from a palm tree farm to a restored natural area.
Photo: Welcome Education Center Rendering, project completion due in August 2016.
Next Steps and Future Plans
Soon, construction will also begin on the board walk that will extend over the Newman Creek, and include a large fishing pier. There are also future plans to extend the board-walk to and observation deck that will look into the future sea turtle hospital. “We already have the architectural drawings complete,” Dr. Guindon says. “Now, we’re working on funding.”
More Details and Contact Information
LOCATION: Physical address is 505 Ellsberry Rd, Apollo Beach, FL 33572; however, SYCC entrance is located on Dickman Rd., south of the Manatee Viewing Center.
When the SYCC is fully operational in 2017 programs will include:
- Hiking excursions
- Kayaking excursions
- Educational programs
- School field trips
- Summer Day Camps
- Adult and family programs!
For information on programs happening now please contact Dr. Kathy Guindon, SYCC Director, Kathy.guindon@MyFWC.com; (727) 235-3171.
Lastly, stay tuned for more stories on the sea turtle hospital, coral research projects and SYCC programs.
Photo: 1 of 8 planned coral research greenhouses and FCTC and SYCC location map