Just six miles off the coast between Jacksonville and St. Augustine is one of the most innovative and ambitious reef building projects in the long history of the artificial reef development of the First Coast area. 500 reef balls, varying from the size of a basketball to the size of a sedan were deployed in 2000.
The project is in honor of Charles H. Kirbo, who served as an advisor to President Jimmy Carter and was a trustee of the Carter Center and a trustee of the T.M. and Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Trust. The reef was built thanks to a grant from the Kirbo Charitable Trust and the Reef Ball Foundation.
With the volunteer work of students at Mandarin and Fletcher High Schools, St. Augustine High School and Jacksonville University and local organizations such as the JOSFC and the Jacksonville Reef Research Team, construction of the Reef Balls was done by Reef Innovations. Designed to mimic and provide the same environment as natural coral heads, the modules provide habitat for many types of marine life. They are designed to be stable on the ocean floor, and have been proven not to move even after hurricane force winds have passed. Local schools and the Reef Research Team will be studying these deployments as they develop and habituate with sea life. Students from local high schools and colleges will be trained to collect data, like water quality and fish counts, to contribute to a database of information on the productivity of the placement.
The project is far from over. Placement of additional Reef Balls is planned for the future and the study project is ongoing.