Leadership Opportunities at New Manatee Education Center

Leon Fooksman
Leadership Palm Beach County
March 22, 2015

Just south of the FPL plant in Riviera Beach is a new center that will inspire visitors to preserve and protect Florida’s environment and wildlife -- specifically manatees. The Manatee Education Center will teach visitors about this endangered species and the diverse marine life.


Thomas Bean (Class of 2013), FPL’s Director of Public and Community Engagement, explains how the leadership community can promote this unique center.


1) Explain the mission/goals of the Florida Power & Light Company Manatee Education Center in Rivera Beach. 

Thomas Bean: For more than 30 years, FPL has diligently protected manatees and worked to educate our customers about these gentle, warm-blooded sea cows. Manatees warm themselves during the winter months near natural springs or warm-water outflows of coastal power plants such as the newly modernized Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center. Hundreds of manatees migrate to this site and gather there every year when the temperature gets chilly. 


On a piece of property located just south of the power plant overlooking the outflow area, FPL is building an innovative, two-story, Key West-style building that will actively engage visitors by providing learning opportunities about endangered manatees and wildlife in the surrounding waterways. Amenities will include a manatee viewing area, exhibit and meeting space, free admission and parking, picnic area, pavilion and a manatee webcam.


At FPL, we are working together with the communities we serve to make Florida an even better place to raise families and to do business and this includes creating this new center that will inspire visitors to preserve and protect Florida’s environment and wildlife.   


2) Why did FPL decide to open the center in Palm Beach County?

Thomas Bean: For years, prior to 9/11, local Palm Beach County residents and winter visitors could park and walk right up to the water next to the old power plant. Following 9/11, power plants implemented much higher levels of security, which resulted in the manatee viewing area being closed to the public due to its close proximity to the plant.


In 2011, when FPL made the move to replace the 1960s-era-oil-and-gas-fired Riviera Beach plant at this site with a new combined-cycle natural gas plant, FPL’s plans included a permanent manatee viewing area adjacent to the plant that would be open to the public. Today, that viewing area has expanded to an actual center that is poised to offer numerous opportunities for visitors to learn about this endangered species and the diverse marine life in the Lake Worth Lagoon.  


3) What can the Leadership community do to help promote the center?

Thomas Bean: First of all, help us spread the word that this new center is coming soon! Then, once the center is open, come visit and bring your friends and family members.  FPL wants this center to serve the community on many levels – as a place to come learn about the gentle sea cows that inhabit our local waterways and as a beautiful venue in our community that showcases the diverse ecosystem present in the Lake Worth Lagoon.  There will be many different ways to experience the center, from the unique waterfront location to the dynamic and engaging exhibits, to marine-life expert lectures in the upstairs space to guided tours led by trained docents, and we will gratefully accept help from Leadership Palm Beach County’s extensive network of local leaders to help us spread the word about this new community destination.

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