By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
When Garrett Ard started his Eagle Scout project four years ago, the goal was to honor the memory of his late grandfather, Capt. Gloyice Ard, a longtime Gulf Coast charter boat captain.
The culmination of all the work involved in such an endeavor recently sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico – in the form of an artificial reef.
What Ard didn’t realize at the time was when the repurposed boat slipped beneath the waves the project also honored the heritage of another Gulf Coast captain. The shrimp boat, the Southern Heritage, used in the project was captained by the late Paul Rogers.
Garrett said he was sitting around a campfire when the idea of building a reef in Alabama’s unparalleled artificial reef zones popped into his head.
“Growing up on the coast, building a reef made sense,” he said. “We didn’t have to do a project that big for my Eagle Scout project, but we decided to go big or go home.”
Garrett’s mom, Kimberly, said guidance from Lee Kibler, the Scoutmaster from Elberta, Alabama, helped Garrett proceed with the reef-building plan.
“Lee said the project needs to fit the scout,” Kimberly said. “He said not every project fits the scout’s capabilities. We just felt like Garrett’s capabilities were up to this project.”
Garrett then started fundraising for the project. He made presentations to the Alabama Reef Foundation and the Orange Beach City Council. The Reef Foundation chipped in $5,000, and Orange Beach City Council donated $10,000 to the fund. Garrett’s presentations to several more community organizations added to the coffers, and one of his dad’s connections provided additional funding.
“We were having a Gulf Council (Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council) meeting in Orange Beach, and I asked Garrett to come because there was somebody there I wanted him to meet,” said Garrett’s dad, Capt. Tom Ard, who has a fleet of four charter boats. “It was Buddy Guindon, one of the largest commercial fishermen in the Gulf. He has a huge seafood market in Galveston (Texas). He donates to a lot of different projects.
“I told Buddy about the Eagle Scout project, and he and Garrett had a nice talk. Buddy gave us a very generous donation of $5,000. He realized the reef would help recreational fishermen, charter boats and commercial boats. I can guarantee you commercial boats will be catching snapper off the reef for the public market.”
Although the donations were secured, the Ards ran into an obstacle. Suitable reef material was difficult to find, especially in their price range.
“The original idea was to use a barge, but we couldn’t find one or it cost too much money,” Garrett said. “John Giannini at J&M Tackle was going to donate two big shipping containers.”
Tom happened to call David Walter (aka Reefmaker of Walter Marine) and asked about finding reef material. Walter told him about an old shrimp boat that would make a quality reef.
“I asked him how much he wanted for it,” Tom said. “He said $30,000. I told him we had $25,000, and he said, ‘I’ll take it.’”
Because Walter Marine is so busy deploying reefs all over the Gulf, the Ards had to wait in line. When it appeared the shrimp boat reef wouldn’t happen before Garrett’s 18th birthday, they had to amend their reef-building plans to meet the Boy Scouts’ requirement.
With guidance from the Mobile Boy Scouts office, a smaller reef operation preceded the big deployment, but it was also an operation that would have been so familiar to Poppa Gloyice, a jovial character who was a fixture in the Orange Beach charter industry with his boat, the Boll Weevil, a salute to Gloyice’s days as a cropduster pilot.