New floating dock taking shape at JU Marine Science Research Institute

Work is well under way on a $200,000 floating dock being built near the JU Marine Science Research Institute and replacement of an older crew/rowing dock that will enable the Institute to berth a state-of-the-art pontoon boat to be used as a floating classroom for students.

The floating dock system and classroom/research vessel, the result of six years of brainstorming, planning and paperwork, will position the Institute as a leading marine research facility. The dock and boat will be used by faculty, researchers, visiting professors and community stewards. Having the waterfront redevelopment will allow for additional scholarly marine research, said MSRI Executive Director Dr. Quinton White.

The docking structure will consist of an 8-foot gangway and 2,112-square-foot, fiber-reinforced polymer floating dock with a 20,000-pound boat lift and independent piling system to be used specifically by the research vessel. The ultra-strong materials being used mean the dock will be very stable and comfortable in all kinds of weather.

The complete floating docking system will be large enough to accommodate the research vessel and four boat slips, which can be used by the agencies residing in the MSRI, including the St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Institute’s high school marine education program, offered in conjunction with the Duval County Public Schools, will also benefit from the new dock, as will the JU varsity sailing and crew teams.

The research vessel will be a versatile platform for class exercises. On board, students will be able to engage in sampling and observation of river life and have access to equipment such as microscopes. The Coast Guard-certified pontoon vessel will be equipped with student-oriented design, lab stations, electrical power and the capability to accommodate classes of up to 28 people. Use in classes is set to begin later this fall.

The floating classroom was funded largely by a $131,000 pledge from Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Kurzius and a $75,000 challenge grant gift from JU Trustee Chuck Wodehouse, and the new dock largely by a $100,000 challenge grant from donors W.C. and Susan Gentry and a $63,000 gift from the Kurziuses. George Register is the engineer and contractor.

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