Phil Foster Park, Palm Beach County’s access point to the world famous Blue Heron Bridge dive has become a well known destination in the SCUBA Diving Community. The beauty and diversity of its marine life has universal appeal and it has become one of Florida’s top dive destinations. “We have people fly in from Europe to dive this site,” stated John Wildner of the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. Talking about the sites appeal, Wildner remarked, “This location is such a fabulous place to dive,” and he understands the number of visitors the Blue Heron Bridge dive brings to the area each year.
The County of Palm Beach recognizes the importance of SCUBA Diving in their local economy and has implemented programs to promote the area in the diving world through positive management of resources and an aggressive artificial reef program. This good stewardship has helped open access for divers at Phil Foster Park and the Blue Heron Bridge, bringing positive benefits to the entire community.
As part of an ongoing effort by the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to increase reef habitat, thereby increasing recreational and environmental preservation opportunities, a new artificial reef will be constructed at the Phil Foster Park site. “It was serendipitous that this location evolved and we’re just trying to assist it,” remarked Wildner.
The location chosen is south of the Blue Heron Bridge causeway in a sandy area and is being referred to as the Phil Foster Park Snorkel Reef. Plans call for deployment of 500-600 tons of material that will be a combination of boulders, concrete, and prefab artificial reef modules previously tested by ERM. According to Carman Vare, Environmental Program Supervisor at Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners, the new reef will be constructed in an East-West line with 10 to 15 distinct areas, each 12 to 20 feet in diameter. These areas will be spaced 50 to 100 feet apart with boulders scattered between. Vare described it as “A breadcrumb effect,” where a diver can navigate along the reef following the structure. Dispersed among the reef material will be specially constructed prefab reef modules. These small strong structures are specially designed with crevices and ledges to provide habitats for a wide range of marine life. Vare said, “We are looking forward to a tremendous diversity of species,” and went on to say the reef will be constructed with ledges and discrete areas to provide the most attractive habitats.
Recognizing the popularity of this area as a dive destination, ERM staff is trying to minimize the impact on SCUBA Divers and Snorkelers and is keeping the SCUBA Diving community informed about the project. In outlining the County’s plans, John Wildner stated, “We’ve taken a lot of time and effort to be sure this doesn’t affect the divers.” Construction on the project will begin the week of July 9, 2012 and plans are to have work completed by the end of the month. Diving and snorkeling will still be allowed during construction, but divers may be asked to avoid specific areas. The area directly below the Blue Heron Bridge Span will not be affected. In order to minimize the impact on divers all equipment and staging will be removed from the park each afternoon and night diving will continue to be open.
In it’s efforts to keep the diving community informed, the County Staff has asked that this information is released to as many divers and dive shops as possible. We have attached the fact sheet on the project so that it can be printed and displayed or posted on websites.
For more information about Phil Foster Park please contact:
Palm Beach County
Parks and Recreation Department
Finance and Support Services