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Forever Earth Floating Environmental Laboratory

Description: Forever Earth is a floating environmental laboratory and learning center at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Forever Earth project is a partnership between Forever Resorts, Inc., the Outside Las Vegas Foundation, and the National Park Service (NPS). The primary goal of the project is to provide an educational platform that encourages learning in the sciences, particularly limnology and water quality, and their associated fields and technologies, but also in a variety of other disciplines (e.g., biology, mathematics, physics, and cultural and social sciences). To date, $550,000 has generously been donated from the private business community for the project.

Forever Earth was envisioned by John Schoppmann, a senior vice president of Forever Resorts, who recognized the opportunity to build public awareness about water quality issues by providing hands-on science experiences on the lake. Mr. Schoppmann was instrumental in developing a similar project 10 years earlier at Lake Powell in Arizona and Utah in which a houseboat was used in anti-litter strategies.

The Forever Earth vessel (valued at $500,000) is a 70-foot customized houseboat, whose use has been donated by Forever Resorts, Inc. for the project. Forever Earth was dedicated on October 4, 2002 and is berthed at Callville Bay Marina at Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA). It is equipped with a variety of research and monitoring instruments and reagents, a desktop computer, and a global positioning station. Forever Earth can accommodate 32 people, including captain and crew, and it is available to agencies, organizations, researchers, educators and students accomplishing work that furthers the goals of the project (see below). In addition to the vessel, a research barge and two support watercraft are also available for use.

Forever Earth serves four principal purposes:

  1. Education
    Forever Earth has the potential to provide an excellent opportunity for learning by students of all ages. Educational programs aboard Forever Earth complement traditional classroom studies by giving students real world learning experiences. The laboratory and scientific equipment allow for hands on student involvement. The project includes the development of curriculum packages that are directly tied to school curriculum and based upon national, state and local standards for science, math, technology and social studies (among other disciplines).
  2. Science and Environmental Studies
    Forever Earth is used to help facilitate on-going and future research efforts at Lake Mead National Recreation Area that lead both to a better understanding of environmental processes and to improvements in the health of the ecosystem. This research includes cultural resource studies and surveys around the lake.
  3. Water-Quality Monitoring
    Forever Earth is available for water-quality monitoring and associated research. Such studies will tie into the overall regional water-quality monitoring strategies associated with the Lake Mead Water Quality Forum, addressing issues like urban runoff, treated sewage discharges, visitor use, and hydrocarbons associated with boat fuels.
  4. Command Post
    Forever Earth may be utilized as a command center for specialized activities such as major search and rescue operations, water safety demonstrations, visitor surveys and special events.

Outside Las Vegas Foundation coordinates the use of the boat, seeks funds, and provides public relations for the project. Lake Mead NRA staff provides guidance in environmental education. Users include students and researchers from UNLV and classes from the Clark County School District, private schools and home school programs. National Park Service educators are working with the school district to develop curriculum for middle school and for teacher workshops. Scheduling of groups began in the fall of 2002.

Geographic area covered: Lake Mead NRA encompasses 1.5 million acres including 181,000 surface acres of water and 950 miles of shoreline on Lakes Mead and Mohave. The area encompasses portions of Nevada and Arizona. Forever Earth serves Lake Mead.

List of partners and relationships: Forever Resorts, Inc., Outside Las Vegas Foundation, and the National Park Service have formed an operational agreement for Forever Earth. Key relationships have been formed -- or are in the process of being formed -- for the project with the Clark County School District, University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Nevada Division of Wildlife.

Accomplishments to date:

  • The Forever Earth project was awarded a $30,000 National Park Service Challenge Cost-Share Grant for FY2002.
  • Two teacher workshops, aboard Forever Earth, introduced middle school and high school teachers to the vessel and its resources. These important sessions resulted in documentation of potential curriculum ties and lists of still needed equipment.
  • Two pilot educational outings: first by a home school group that participated in a curriculum developed by park staff, and second by a high school biology class that prepared and conducted their own water-quality research project.
  • Forever Earth was used as a floating information station and OUI checkpoint during the Memorial Day Holiday.
  • Forever Earth served twice as a base for the underwater archeological inventory of a submerged cultural resource.
  • The Forever Earth vessel was used as the platform from which South Korean professor, Dr. Dongil Seo, observed water quality monitoring methodologies as conducted by Bureau of Reclamation staff on Lake Mead and shot footage of water recreation activities for an upcoming documentary on multi-use reservoirs that will air in Korea.
  • Forever Earth participated in the 2003 C.A.S.T. for Kids event hosted by the Bureau of Reclamation at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It provided an opportunity for parents and volunteers to learn about the lake and observe their participants.
  • The project has received a Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act Round 4 Conservation Initiatives grant that will help support staff and programs over the next three years.

Key success factors: The support provided by both its partners the private business community has been instrumental in getting this project of the ground.

Frustrations: Currently there are no full-time staff members directing Forever Earth programs. However, both the National Park Service and the Outside Las Vegas Foundation are actively seeking funds to contract a full-time Project Director.

Most important lessons learned to date: It is important to anticipate financial needs for all aspects of a project and its programs prior to fundraising. Financial support was not generated for Forever Earth staff (e.g., Project, Educational, and Research Directors) and programs, as the vessel was being built and equipped. Had funds been raised for staff and programmatic development prior to, or during construction of the vessel, full-scale research and educational programs could have been launched shortly after dedication.

What would you do differently next time: Future projects of this type should seek funding for staff, operational and programmatic development while funds are being sought for construction.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study):

For more information:

Name: Kay Rohde
Affiliation: Chief of Interpretation, Lake Mead NRA
Phone/Fax: 702-293-8918

Name: Alan O'Neill
Affiliation: Outside Las Vegas Foundation
Phone/Fax: 702-515-5079

Name: John Schoppmann
Affiliation: Senior Vice President Forever Resorts
Phone/Fax: 480-998-9977

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvements __; Facility Management __; Trails __; Design __; Program Delivery _X_; Visitor Services __; Tenant Organizations __, Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration _X_; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services _X_; Transportation _X_; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning __; Tourism __; Community Relations _X_;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Kay Rohde Date posted: 11/19/03
Phone: 702-293-8918

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