WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Birds, oysters and even hermit crabs have a new place to call home at the Palm Beach Resilient Island Project in Lake Worth Lagoon.
It’s not often you’ll find a new island, but that’s precisely what those familiar with West Palm Beach will find. It’s been built up for animals and marine life to thrive on.
While one group of volunteers would typically be hard at work for Carrier Global Corporation, they paused recently to help plant 1,000 mangroves.
"It is actually pretty easy," volunteer Korinti Recalde said. "The sand is OK. There's not that many rocks, though. Yeah, it wasn't so bad."
It’s fun that Recalde said has meaning behind it.
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"Being out here today, planting these mangroves helps to create a legacy for the company in engaging with the community," Recalde said. "What's also interesting is our headquarters is only ten miles away, so this is our own backyard."
Palm Beach County and The Nature Conservancy collaborated by building a tiny remnant island to an acre.
"We have a number of what we call interventions," said Joseph Schmidt, climate project manager with The Nature Conservancy. "We've got some breakwaters. We've got some areas for oyster reefs, and we've got an intertidal mangrove flat that we're planting today with volunteers from the carrier corporation."
An elevated bird nesting island was also created.
"Essentially pulling all of these things together…provide different protection value and incorporating them together to create kind of a larger or more synergistic a project," Schmidt said.
The 20-mile-long lagoon stretches from North Palm Beach to Ocean Ridge. Wildlife such as manatees, green sea turtles and more than 100 species of birds call this estuary home.
And while this island is unique in its build, the county built over 20 others over the last 20 years. Schmidt calls the county a pioneer.
Over the last century, development and dredging dramatically altered the landscape, replacing mangrove habitats and natural shorelines with seawalls and other human-made structures, and they would become dead zones.
"There's no oxygen in them. And so that was an opportunity to create habitat," said Benji Studt, public outreach supervisor with the Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management:
Studt said the county has done over 200 acres of habitat restorations. Now, they can add one more.
With the mangroves planted and the island now complete, volunteers are hoping the enhancements will lead to a thriving ecosystem for all types of marine life.