By Anna-Marie Menhenott
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- When funding for field trips for local children to sail on the Indian River Lagoon was cut, it wasn't only the children who suffered.
Captain Bob "Chop" Lege has taken more than 40,000 children out on the lagoon, and when the funds were no longer available, he felt the lagoon suffered as well.
"We educate children on how much the lagoon has to offer them and how to take care of it," Captain Chop said. "If the younger generation doesn't know the importance of the lagoon, how are they going to be able to preserve it?" he asked.
When the St. Lucie County 4-H program, led by extension agent, Sue Munyon, heard about Captain Chop's plight, they decided to do something about it. The program received a grant through the St. John's Water Management District National Estuary Program which afforded them to once again provide field trips for local children to visit the lagoon.
"Field trips are so expensive with the price of busses and gas and all that goes into a trip," Debbie McManus, St. Lucie County 4-H program specialist said. "To be able to alleviate some of that expense and help the schools and Captain Chop educate children on the importance of the lagoon, let them see some of the wildlife and give them a break from the school setting and take a trip on a boat is really something we're proud of."
The children are bussed to Fort Pierce City Marina and take a 90-minute trip around the lagoon to learn about some of the many fish, plants, birds and other wildlife that inhabits the area. They also learn about keeping the waters clean and how to make it a safer place for the dolphin and manatee that swim in the water.
The St. Lucie County 4-H program boasts more than 300 members and 23 clubs. There are also many members who take part in the school enrichment programs offered throughout the county.
"We have a farm on Picos Road in Fort Pierce that has one of nearly all types of farm animals," Ms. Munyon said. "Students take field trips to the farm and learn about where their food comes from and how certain things are made and processed. They also have a chance to sign up for 4-H and they have the opportunity to see the many different aspects of the organization. We're not just about raising pigs and cows and showing them at the county fair. There are many different clubs like photography and marine science, many different activities and different ways for students to give back to the community through our programs."
For more information about 4-H, visit www.stlucie.ifas.ufl.edu/4-H. For more information on tour times with Captain Chop, availability and prices, call (772) 464-4445 or visit www.IndianRiverLagoonBoatTours.com.