After winning approval from the St. Petersburg City Council this week, Tampa Bay Watch will run a marine education center at the new downtown Pier, a smart collaboration that will enhance the pier’s purpose and broaden its audience.
Tampa Bay Watch, founded in 1993, runs scientific and educational programs from its facility in Tierra Verde. Thousands of schoolchildren visit its waterfront campus every year, learning about the importance of protecting estuary habitats and keeping the oceans clean. Its programs are in high demand, and the 3,000 square feet it will lease at the Pier, including a "wet classroom" and hands-on exhibits, will allow it to further spread its message of conservation and environmental stewardship.
Tampa Bay Watch is a good fit for the Pier, whose envisioned scope has grown considerably — perhaps too much — to become an arts destination, tourist draw, event center, playground and restaurant hub. But preserving and protecting Tampa Bay is a natural function for the Pier, which will be situated on St. Petersburg’s treasured waterfront.
Tampa Bay Watch has a steep fundraising goal to meet — $250,000 by Aug. 1 and $825,000 overall. But the new Pier should be an educational asset that is accessible to everyone, and this would be a worthy addition.