Hernando Sun Writer and Photographer
The Mermaid Chase Paddling Race held on Saturday, April 13 is a fundraising event for coastal restoration projects that usually have an educational component. Over forty participants competed to win a mermaid medal while they enjoyed one of Hernando County’s great river trails along Jenkins Creek.
The event also highlighted Sea Grant education and restoration projects headed up by Brittany Hall-Scharf, a University of Florida Sea Grant Agent. The first year’s event helped build a salt marsh pond at Gulf Coast Academy which taught students how to grow coastal plants and work with scientific equipment.
“They have a field trip next month and get to plant the plants they have grown all year,” said Brittany Hall-Scharf. “They love it.”
Last year's event funds went towards a marine mammal rescue, a first responders group. This group of trained adult volunteers helps by responding to stranded marine life, such as sea turtles, manatees or dolphins.
This year’s Mermaid Chase Paddling Race proceeds will go towards water quality sampling.
Volunteers will take water samples every month in coastal areas and occasionally collect water samples offshore. Collecting and analyzing water samples provides important data about the water quality within the Hernando County area.
The Sea Grant program has only been in Hernando County for about 3 years, so Hall-Scharf says that events like the Mermaid Chase Paddling Race and the Coastal Clean-up (another fundraising awareness event in September, also held at Linda Pederson) gives them much-needed exposure on their projects and programs for the community.
Hall-Scharf explained, “It brings awareness to coastal restoration and education projects in general,” Scharf said. UF/IFAS Sea Grant offers events, classes and citizen science programs throughout the year.
Mermaid Chase Paddling Race Results
1st- Larry Cox with a new record of 39:04
1st-Jennie Duziak with a new record of 37:11
1st- Cat Nicoletti with a new record of 55:04