Manatee Viewing Center celebrates 25 years as a free and unique environmental treasure in Apollo Beach
Jan. 15 and 16 free event will feature Radio Disney©, children’s activities, fun for all ages, manatee watching and more.
APOLLO BEACH, January 10, 2011
Marking 25 years as a refuge for the endangered manatee, a unique nature-watching destination and an environmental education facility visited by more than three million people, Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center invites the public to join the celebration 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jan. 15 and 16.
The event will include fun activities for visitors of all ages, including arts and crafts tables, children’s games, Radio Disney©, giveaways, appearances by local professional sports mascots and more. This is in addition to the center’s regular features, which include a hurricane simulator, interactive displays about the manatee and its habitat, a 900-foot tidal walk, butterfly gardens, an expanded gift shop and more.
“We’re excited to celebrate 25 years of dedication from people committed to the future of the manatee and its habitat – and who have worked tirelessly to teach the public how to protect these incredible mammals,” said Wendy Anastasiou, environmental specialist at the Manatee Viewing Center. “Visitors love the manatees, which are here because of Big Bend Power Station, but our volunteer docents and hosts are the center’s heart and soul.”
When the water temperature of Tampa Bay is 68 degrees or colder, manatees gather in the clean, warm water discharge canal of Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station, sometimes by the hundreds. Manatee Viewing Center visitors can see the mammals up close from the center’s multiple boardwalks and vantage points.
The manatees regularly began to find refuge from the cold in the canal in the late 1960s, when the then-new Big Bend Power Station began taking in water from Tampa Bay as a cooling source. The water then flowed, clean and warm, back out to the bay. The start of Big Bend Unit Four in the 1980s brought the manatees closer to the east end of the canal, where it was easier for people to see them. The 50-acre center has hosted more than three million visitors since 1986 and welcomes about 10,000 schoolchildren each season.
In addition to manatee and habitat protection, the Manatee Viewing Center’s messages include sustainability, energy efficiency and other examples of environmental stewardship. Native and Florida-friendly gardens demonstrate responsible planting. The center has new, energy-efficient LED lighting in its parking lot and hosts Tampa Electric’s largest solar panel array, rated at 23.8 kilowatts. The electricity the array generates – enough to offset the carbon dioxide four typical-size cars would produce in a year – flows to the grid that serves the community when not used by the center.
Even the center’s new, bigger gift shop is an example of sustainability. The modular office space previously housed offices for Big Bend Power Station’s selective catalytic reduction (SCR) project. The SCR project was part of Tampa Electric’s 10-year, $1.2 billion environmental investment program that ended in June 2010. As a result of SCR upgrades, emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter at Big Bend Power Station have been reduced by 88 percent, 90 percent and 71 percent, respectively, below 1998 levels.
The Manatee Viewing Center’s regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, during its Nov. 1 through April 15 season. The facility is accessible to people with disabilities, and parking and admission are free. Visit the Manatee Viewing Center online or call 813-228-4289 for more information.
Tampa Electric Company is the principal subsidiary of TECO Energy, Inc. (NYSE: TE), an energy-related holding company with regulated utility operations in Florida, including both Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas System. Tampa Electric serves almost 667,000 customers in West Central Florida. Other subsidiaries include TECO Coal, which owns and operates coal production facilities in Kentucky and Virginia, and TECO Guatemala, which is engaged in electric power generation and energy-related businesses in Guatemala.