OUR HISTORY, OUR MISSION
Environmental Stewardship in Action
Tampa Bay is the largest estuary in the state of Florida, encompassing 400 square miles of open water and 2,300 square miles of highly developed watershed that supports industry, agriculture, and a diverse population in excess of 2.4 million people. Estuaries like Tampa Bay are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the world. More than 70% of all fish, shellfish, and crustaceans spend some part of their lives in the protected waters of estuaries like Tampa Bay. Residents from the Manatee River to Clearwater Harbor and from Hillsborough Bay to the Gulf of Mexico depend on Tampa Bay for commercial and recreational activities.
Tampa Bay Watch is working to preserve the delicate ecological balance that exists in Tampa Bay. A nonprofit organization established in 1993, Tampa Bay Watch performs a variety of habitat restoration and protection activities throughout the year, utilizing thousands of volunteers to help the bay recover from its environmental problems. Individuals of all ages from community groups, scout troops, schools and others participate in salt marsh plantings, storm drain markings, oyster bar creation, coastal cleanups, and wildlife protection each year, demonstrating environmental stewardship in its purest form.
The efforts of Tampa Bay Watch to restore and protect the bay's habitat through stewardship and community awareness provide effective long term improvements to the bay, and empower our community with the knowledge to counteract our environmental problems. Learning how to achieve and maintain a healthy environment is a legacy that will touch our children and their children for years to come.
The Tampa Bay Watch Marine & Education Center
During the first half of the 20th century, the island known as Cunningham Key was just another small spot of land in the pristine waters of southern Tampa Bay. In the 1960s, however, the Department of Transportation began to dredge bay bottom areas and create nearby roads and causeways. Cunningham Key became part of a causeway system connecting Tierra Verde to Fort De Soto. The site was originally filled as a work site for equipment and manpower used in the construction of the Bunce’s Pass Bridge to Fort De Soto Park.
As time went on, Cunningham Key held a single family residence and their business, Rita’s Bait Shop. The area became a popular enclave for commercial fisherman and their vessels, as well as recreational boaters who would stop in to the bait shop for supplies. Over time however, the buildings, seawalls and land fell into disrepair, and eventually the business was abandoned. In 1997, the property was put up for sale.
Pinellas County and the State of Florida Greenways Program worked together to secure the Cunningham Key property with the goal of establishing it as the base for Tampa Bay Watch’s environmental protection and restoration programs. The property was purchased in 2000; and Tampa Bay Watch maintains a management agreement to implement its programs from Cunningham Key.
Temporary offices for Tampa Bay Watch staff members were built in 2002. The permanent facility, which includes staff offices, a large community center, a marine education center and USCG-permitted lighthouse, was completed in 2005. Today, the facility stands as a testament to the power of vision combined with hard work, and represents a promise to preserve and enhance the beauty of our natural surroundings.
©TAMPA BAY WATCH, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
3000 Pinellas Bayway South, Tierra Verde, FL 33715
Tel: 727-867-8166 | Fax: 727-867-8188