At 5 p.m. on April 15 each year, Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center closes its doors to the public at the end of its season – and something big happens.
Work to get ready for the next season begins.
Sure, the manatees that love the clean, warm water discharge canal at Big Bend Power Station have other places to go when the weather’s hot. But for the TECO team members and volunteers who welcome many tens of thousands of visitors to the center starting each Nov. 1, there are improvements of all kinds to make that can only happen in the off-season.
“The popularity of [Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center] is something you can feel even during the months we’re closed just based on all the work going on,” said Stan Kroh, manager of Land & Stewardship Programs with Tampa Electric’s Environmental, Health & Safety department.
In addition to the ongoing construction at the nearby Florida Conservation and Technology Center, Kroh cited three types of upgrades currently getting a lot of attention at the Manatee Viewing Center, which offers free parking and admission for visitors:
Comfort: Benches are going in on the boardwalk leading from the habitat trail to the 50-foot observation tower that made its debut last year. The tower itself will also get new benches.
“Our guests told us that they would appreciate more opportunities to sit and enjoy the scenery or just rest for a bit,” Kroh said. “We listened.”
Environmental Data Collection: Also at the observation tower, a new meteorological station will produce weather data – temperature, wind speed, humidity – and other information that will help Tampa Electric plan for future technologies to generate reliable, affordable electricity for the community at Big Bend Power Station.
Convenience: Wider boardwalks will accommodate more crowds who marvel at manatees and marine life in the clean discharge canal, while improved drainage in the parking lot will make it easier to get from your car to the facility.
In addition, an added mooring ball will enable more people to tie up their canoes and kayaks if they want to access the observation tower by boat.
“Every year is exciting at the Manatee Viewing Center, and this one will be no different,” said Kroh, who added that in the spirit of the center’s focus on environmental education, summer is a time to use water wisely.
If your yard doesn’t have a rain barrel, consider installing one – the Southwest Florida Water Management District offers these instructions. In addition, here are 12 ways to conserve water this summer from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“Conservation fits right in with everything that Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center is all about,” Kroh said. “We look forward to seeing people of all ages experience that in a variety of free, fun ways – and a whole lot more – when the new season starts Nov. 1.”