Siesta resident Greg Anderson generously leads the way through canal waters
By Ned Steele
As a teenager growing up on Siesta Key, Greg Anderson used to swim its inland waters with youthful joy. Once, he even water-skied around the entire island.
The canal water “was so clean and pristine,” he recalls. “Beaming with fish, energy, and life.”
Alas, no more.
So, when Anderson, now retired from owning an asphalt-concrete business, saw an opportunity to participate in the canal’s regeneration, he stepped forward without hesitation.
At a Siesta Key Association meeting he heard Jean Cannon, the cleanup’s leader, describe how scientists would soon be monitoring the results of her mini-reef installation project.
There was just one problem: The scientists, with all their advanced degrees, and Cannon, with all her unwavering optimism and persistence, had not yet found the ideal way to actually get around on the waters to do the testing.
Enter Anderson, a lifelong boat owner: “I told her, I’ve got a brand-new boat. I’ll take you guys out.”
That was a year and a half ago, and Anderson has been doing just that ever since. About once a month he loads up to 10 passengers – researchers, government officials and volunteers – onto his 30-foot boat and captains a scientific cruise of the canal.
For Anderson, it’s a chance to get out on the water while doing some good for his community. But for the scientists and Cannon, it’s serious – and precise – business.
It turns out that a typical waterborne vessel is not the most stable or secure vehicle for loading and using sensitive, fragile scientific equipment. But Anderson’s boat is a “tri-toon,” a triple-pontooned 30- by 10-foot floating platform that provides the researchers with additional stability and maneuverability, “almost like an oil rig,” he said.
Drawing minimal water, the unnamed vessel (“I never name my boats,” Anderson said) can slip in close to the shoreline and docks where Cannon’s mini-reefs have been installed. The scientists can take and process their samples effectively.
Anderson, who lives on the canal, has three mini-reefs attached to his dock. He has encouraged several of his neighbors and friends to install the devices on theirs.
And while Cannon expects the next year to yield meaningful scientific evidence of the mini-reef project’s success, Anderson is already sold.
“I see dolphins coming in to the canal, manatees coming in and out,” he said. “This is working.”