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Ostego Bay Foundation celebrates 28 years

October 30, 2019
By JORDAN HESTER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Ostego Bay Foundation was founded in 1990-1991 as a non-profit for the purpose of wanting to build a Marine Science Center. Last Saturday, they celebrated their 28th anniversary with a little get together with friends of the center and everyone who has help them come along was invited.

A massive resource for the community, not only with educational experiences, as with the foundation's collection of historical Estero Island artifacts and their marine tanks to showcase the best of local marine wildlife, but with their commitment to helping Fort Myers Beach out in the ways they can: Providing expert opinions on waterways, wildlife, and ecological efforts to anyone who needs them.

Joanne Semmer, the president and primary operator of the Foundation has been a resource to the island for decades. She was brought in for the "Sea of Uncertainty" documentary after the BP oil spill. The foundation is a licensed oil spill cleanup organization that operates an environmental response team of trained volunteers to respond to any such situations. They've trained members of many area fire and parks and recreation departments, marinas, fishing businesses and others as oil spill first responders.

She helped the Foundation set up its Florida Master Naturalist Program for naturalists and eco-tour operators in partnership with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences.

Semmer was on the first committee to write original policy for the Florida Clean Marina program and is also a University of Florida fellowship graduate of the Natural Resources Leadership Institute Program.

The Shrimping Tours and Nature walks she provides are also limitless sources of information and history about the island that many inhabitants aren't explicitly aware of. She provides intensive tours of the local shrimping efforts, including Trico Shrimp, both at their loading docks and how they operate on a regular basis.

Here are a couple of comments from Joanne.

What got the Foundation started?

Joanne: The San Carlos Island Community was doing long-range planning with 1,000 Friends of Florida back in 1990/91 and a Marine Science Center was on the list of things we would like to see on the Island. We created the 501(c) non-profit Foundation in anticipation of finding land and building a facility. My brother Bill Semmer had bought the Bonita Fish Company property and I asked if we could use the building for three months to show the public what we wanted to do. We had such a great response from the public that we have never left.



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