Manatees are Florida’s resident marine mammals.
Exhibits and programs spotlighting manatees, Florida’s resident marine mammals, premiered last week to enthusiastic visitors at the new Florida Power & Light Co.-sponsored free attraction, Manatee Lagoon — An FPL Eco-Discovery Center, in Riviera Beach, Florida.
A Feb. 5 ribbon cutting with local dignitaries in attendance heralded the new 16,000-square-foot facility, which aims to provide education plus entertainment. FPL’s President and CEO Eric Silagy explained that his company wished to dedicate public space for the endeavor in conjunction with its new Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center.
"A key commitment was that FPL would provide an easily accessible, public space for the community and visitors to observe and learn about manatees," Silagy said. "We are extremely proud of this wonderful facility, which will educate visitors about the environment and how we can all work together to protect it and all who inhabit it. It also will explain the role power plants play in sustaining these beloved treasures."
With free admission, an observational boardwalk, outdoor picnic areas and pavilion, café and gift shop, the center offers manatee-themed art installations and educational exhibits on manatee life and migration. The warm waters surrounding FPL’s plant have spurred yearly manatee migration cycles, to the delight of observers.
"These creatures occupy a special place not just in the ecosystem, but in the hearts and minds of everyone who recognizes the important role they play in Florida's future," Ernie Marks, regional director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said.
Manatee Lagoon is open year-round, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
"A few years from now, we would like to hear that a child's visit to Manatee Lagoon inspired a dream of becoming a veterinarian or marine biologist after learning about these wonderful animals and the ecosystem," Silagy said. "Or, when they understand how our power plant works next door, an engineer."
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