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Rising Stars: Meet Peter Clark

Today we’d like to introduce you to Peter Clark. 

Hi Peter, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
After working as an environmental chemist, I became an environmental planner with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) and eventually took over as their Director of the Agency on Bay Management. During this time, I helped initiate the process that led to the inclusion of Tampa Bay in the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. In 1986, I spent two days working with community volunteers transplanting seagrass beds which really opened my eyes to how much the community wanted to get involved with actual projects. I began to get more involved with volunteer groups. Since my job at the TBRPC was a briefcase and tie affair, my after-work and weekend restoration projects were a way to satisfy my desire to do more hands-on projects. I started Tampa Bay Watch in a spare room of my home twenty-eight years ago and it has emerged as a celebrated community-based habitat restoration program that has made a serious impact on the improving health of the waters of Tampa Bay. 

As President and Founder, I focus on major gifts and development; a skill that I have successfully developed over the years. I want to apply this expertise to develop a new capital campaign and fundraise to create additional restoration and education programs in our community. I also work on community outreach and advocacy, as well as provide guidance for restoration, education, and development. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Tampa Bay has come a long way – water quality is best in the bay since the 1950s, seagrass having recovered 20,000 new acres since the 1980s, and fish and wildlife are returning to the bay as a result of those improvements. We should all be proud of the fact that because of our financial and community commitments over the last 30+ years we have seen such monumental progress. Yet we face a continued population growth that threatens to undermine the achievements we all have grown to enjoy. One of my greatest concerns is the separation of our children from the natural environment. So many students that have come to Tampa Bay Watch as part of their field trips have never been on a boat before, or to one of our many wonderful beaches. It is so hard to imagine but it is a reality for many. What we consider gains in technology are removing the next generation from enjoying the amazing resources right in our backyards. How can we expect our children to continue to protect the bay if they do not learn to love it? 

And that is the challenge of Tampa Bay Watch moving forward. While involving the community in bay protection activities 25+ years ago was the seed of our institution, addressing the critical need for the next generation to experience and understand the value of a healthy bay is essential. Join us as we begin the next chapter of our organization — as always it will be the community that truly makes the difference. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Tampa Bay Watch is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering a healthy Tampa Bay watershed through community-driven restoration projects, education programs, and outreach initiatives. 

Incorporated in 1993, Tampa Bay Watch is the first organization of its kind in the southeastern United States and has proven highly effective in mobilizing the Tampa Bay community to participate in restoration and protection activities. Under my tenure, Tampa Bay watch has coordinated more than 250,000 volunteers, students, and campers, installed 15,000 oyster reef units and 2,500 tons of oyster shell to create more than two miles of oyster shell reef communities, planted more than 1,000,000 salt marsh grasses to restore 250 acres of coastal tidal ponds to Tampa Bay. In 2005, Tampa Bay Watch completed construction of the $4 million Marine and Education center in Tierra Verde, and in 2019 the new $3 million Discovery Center on the St. Pete Pier. The efforts of Tampa Bay Watch to restore and protect the bay’s habitat through stewardship and community awareness provide effective long-term improvements to the bay and empower the community with the knowledge to counteract environmental problems. 

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
In addition to Tampa Bay Watch there are a number of organizations to get involved with making a difference in our community. Be sure to invite families and kids in particular. Our children are our future and need to take a hands-on role in their environmental future. Look for developing environmental concerns in our community — climate change, red tide, and other large-scale algae blooms that limit the advancement of restoration in Tampa Bay. Find the right fit for you and your family and you are more likely to be in a position to advance the recovery of Tampa Bay or other ecosystems that are important to you. 

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