Local snorkeling fans have something new to be excited about: a new set of rocks to snorkel around at Red Reef Park. Let’s go over some facts about it and take a close look!

Red Reef Park has always been is a favorite destination for snorkelers of all levels. When you’re driving along the beach it’s the park across from Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. The small jetty that’s become habitat for fish is an artificial structure, but has become covered with sea life including patches of the signature red coral that gave the park its name.  It’s a great place to enjoy the beach, the wooden boardwalk view, or have a cookout at the picnic tables with charcoal grills.

Before beach restoration efforts there used to be a giant natural reef right off shore, a marvel to snorkel. Then, because sand had covered the reef entirely, the decision was made to replace some of what was lost. Three groups of stone blocks were dropped offshore in the late 80s and the small jetty structure that’s still prominent came shortly after, in the 90s. The original 3 groupings have mostly sunken under the sand, but their tips can still be seen hosting sea plants and tiny fish.

This most recent reef restoration effort is big. 15 additional modules, groups of boulders, are now sunken between 150 and 200 feet off shore, just south of where the original groupings were dropped. Fish have already started to take advantage of their newest homes. It will be very interesting watching the progression over the next few years from barren rocks to living reef.

The stones used are extremely heavy, unlikely to be moved by current or storm. Here’s a video that shows what’s going on underwater around these blocks now. The City posted a really good video of the project on Facebook that shows a drone view of the barge used to drop them.

I got excited to hear tax dollars were being spent on something I personally enjoy so much. Here’s  some questions answered by the City of Boca Raton’s Communications & Marketing Manager, Anne Marie Connolly, about the project. Rather than trying to paraphrase what she told me, I decided to preserve her words as accurately as possible for you.

  1. Does this Project Have a formal name? How about a nickname?

Red Reef Park Snorkel Reef

  1. How many groups of new blocks total?

15 modules of limestone rock

  1. What’s the area that’s taken up by the blocks?

Over 1600 sqft

  1. How close to shore are the closest blocks to shore?

Between 150-200’

  1. Why was this area picked as the place where the blocks were dropped?

To create a larger recreational area for snorkeling.

  1. Who is the marine biologist and/or the study that determined the placement of the blocks?

The City of Boca Raton and their Coastal Consultant ATM determined the location

  1. How much does each block cost?

Each module is made up of several individual limestone boulders and the cost varies, however the total cost of the line item in the bid document to “furnish and place Limestone Boulders at Red Reef Park”  is $427,680.  Please note this cost is just the cost of boulder placement there are many other costs that go into this project.

  1. Where were the blocks quarried from?

Lake Point Restoration, Port Mayaca site

  1. How long are blocks like these expected to last? Is it likely they’d ever fall apart?

The rocks are not expected to break down

  1. How long are these new blocks expected to stay above the sand if beach restoration continues at the same rate it had in the past?

The City does not place sand directly onto red reef park.  The City has a program both north and south of the Red Reef Park.  However, sand does naturally migrate to the South and does move into this area.

  1. How long would the blocks be expected to stay above the sand if beach restoration loses its support and funding?

If beach projects were not constructed there would be less sand in the overall system which could potentially mean less sand movement into the Red Reef Park Area.

  1. Are the blocks, when finished, going to be single level or will there be blocks dropped on top of blocks to create multi level block piles?

The design has some of the modules as single layer and some of the modules as double layer.

  1. Will the buoys that warn boats remain in place? The current buoys are temporary, permanent buoys will be installed in the same general location in the near future.

Yes, currently, there are temporary buoys in place, but permanent ones will be installed.

  1. What kind of fish are expected to use this new habitat? What fish species populations will grow?

Once colonized, the new reef is expected to attract fish species like those that currently exist in the area including Sergeant Majory, Parrotfish, Bar Jack, Spottail Pinfish, Molly Miller and more.

  1. What should the public know about visiting the new snorkeling attraction at Red Reef?

The snorkeling area extends further than the previous reef so we urge residents who explore further into the water to be aware of their surroundings and if possible, snorkel with a buddy. Additionally, we urge boaters that may be passing through that area to be mindful of the snorkelers and maintain their distance from the buoys and swim area.

  1. Do you have any underwater photos of the reef before beach restoration?

This is a new reef just constructed over the past month, there have been no beach projects since const. of this new reef.

  1. When will the project be officially “completed” and what’s the last step that needs to be completed before the project’s work in the water is complete?

The project is officially complete. The final step is to replace the temporary buoys with permanent ones.

If you’re planning on checking out the new underwater modules yourself then please take the time to check the water conditions. It’s most ideal to snorkel when the water is flat and glassy – when there’s low turbidity and good water clarity.

You can check out what the wave conditions are right now on the Boca Beach Cam. Looking at the Deerfield Pier underwater cam can sometimes be indicative of the visibility.

It’s also HIGHLY recommended to snorkel with a buddy and don’t be ashamed of bringing a pool noodle or float, in the spirit of a diving flag. Although there are buoys that mark the site, keeping boaters away, it’s always a good idea to increase your visibility above water while you’re enjoying the sites under the surface.

What’s hot now are full face snorkel masks. They range from $12 dollar kid’s versions to a couple hundred bucks. It’s also a lot easier to snorkel if you’re using flippers.  Be safe, be prepared, and be ready to have some fun!

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