The Toast to the Coast scored once again with conservationists and the fishing and wildlife crowd.
More than 160 attendees shelled out $125 a ticket for the Wednesday, Feb. 5, Lemon Bay Conservancy event at the Boca Bay Pass Club. Silent auction proceeds pushed the unofficial fund-raising amount to more than $25,000. Final totals were not available at press time.
Event chairwoman Hilary Dahms of Cape Haze organized the LBC centerpiece, which supports juvenile tarpon research and preservation. The white tent from the Taste of Boca Grande event two days earlier remained up as a cooperative gesture between the two organizations.
A shorebird flies as the sun sets at Boca Bay Pass club during the Feb. 6 Toast to the Coast.
The LBC lately has been a fund-raising powerhouse. The LBC bought the former Wildflower Golf Course, an 80-acre parcel off Placida Road in Cape Haze, for less than $800,000 in 2010. LBC borrowed more than $200,000 to buy the property and retired the mortgage in a year with the help of more than 350 donors.
The LBC turned the property into a public nature preserve with walking trails, scenic overlooks and a native species identification program. A significant tarpon fishery was discovered, too.
LBC member Lucie Schattelyn said the tarpon have been getting most of the conservation attention over the past two years but the focus is on the entire ecosystem.
"I'm very worried about all the fisheries - not just the tarpon," she said. "All fish in general."
LBC member Marvin Medintz of Placida pegged his worry at the "DEFCON Five" level.
"There is just tremendous pressure on their habitat to the extent we understand their habitat," Medintz said.
Bill Dunson, a wildlife biologist and professor, said the property is "hugely significant to the Lemon Lake ecosystem."
Toast to the Coast 2012 festivities drew 235 attendees, said Vanessa Smith, Lemon Bay Conservancy director of development, so attendance was off this year by an estimated 75 people.