Marine research and sailing dock officially opens at New College

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- by Abby Weingarten

A long-awaited marine science research and sailing dock, which underwent construction over the summer on the New College Caples campus, is now complete.

At 5 p.m. Tues. Oct. 26, New College President Patricia Okker will unveil the dock to the local community during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and opening reception. She will be joined by New College Associate Professor of Biology Jayne Gardiner, Ph.D.; thesis student Cecilia Hampton; Board of Trustees Chair Mary Ruiz; Florida Rep. James Buchanan; Florida Rep. Fiona McFarland; and former Florida Senate President Bill Galvano.

“The bay is so often our classroom at New College, and this new dock will help our faculty and students continue to conduct invaluable research that will enhance the health of our beautiful Sarasota Bay,” Okker said.

The new dock will bolster New College’s traditionally strong and popular programs in marine biology and environmental studies, as well as its summer marine biology education programs for teens in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

New College professors and students regularly study the effects of red tide; monitor the health of sharks, manatees, dolphins and other marine life; and conduct research to improve the sustainability of mangroves and various native plants in the region.

The dock currently serves the marine biology program’s 32-foot pontoon research boat, Limbatus; a smaller research skiff; and a rigid inflatable rescue vessel. It also provides boat slips for the College’s sailing team and waterfront recreation program, along with two boat lifts for individuals with mobility issues.

The L-shaped dock is six feet wide and extends 294 feet west from the shore of the Caples campus and then 144 feet to the southwest. The dock site is about 50 feet south of The Ringling museum sea wall, and it was selected for its environmental compatibility and proximity to deep water.

The New College construction team, headed by Construction Projects Coordinator Itza Frisco, worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District to ensure full compliance with the stringent permitting requirements governing Sarasota Bay.

The key companies behind the project were: the Tignor Group, P.A. (engineers in charge of dock design and permitting), ATP Engineering South, P.L. (electrical and waterline design), Willis Smith Construction (construction management), Custom Dock & Davit, Inc. (building subcontractor) and Hall Darling Design Studio (historical analysis during the permitting process).

The dock was constructed with environmentally-friendly materials: Surestep PVC open deck grating, designed for maximum sunlight penetration to underwater aquatic life; and high-density polyethylene piling wraps that protect the water from any chemicals in the treated wood pilings.

“The bay is one of Sarasota’s greatest natural assets,” Gardiner said. “With a dock that expands access to the bay, we can conduct more environmental and marine science research into this natural ecosystem, which benefits both our students and the bay itself.”

Community support for the construction of the dock was also integral to its success.

As Okker said, “This incredible resource for marine science research and waterfront recreation will serve our entire community for years to come.”

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.