OCEAN CITY — While the Ocean City Reef Foundation is in the midst of one of its biggest projects ever with tons of concrete pipes getting deployed on the various artificial reef sites off the coast, it continues to get a major contribution from an unlikely source.
For about five years, Parkside High School welding teacher Biazzio “Bill” Giradano has had his students making large steel structures for the Ocean City Reef Foundation to submerge on the vast network of artificial reefs emerging off the coast of Ocean City. The latest batch was deployed on the artificial reefs last week as part of a larger reef-building initiative undertaken by the foundation throughout April.
For much of the month, truckload after truckload of concrete pipe has been arriving at the staging area in West Ocean City, a vacant lot near the commercial harbor. The pipes are being loaded onto a huge 100-foot plus barge and hauled out to the artificial reef areas off the coast.
Along with the tons and tons of concrete pipe are the huge structures created by Giordano’s Career and Technology Education (CTE) students at Parkside High School in Salisbury. Under the watchful eye of Giordano, the Parkside welding students create the structures that will ultimately find their way to the ocean floor off the coast of Ocean City.
The relationship is mutually beneficial as the Reef Foundation gets the structures to add to its artificial reef network and the high school students get to apply their lessons to a real world application. Giordano said he got the idea while fishing with Reef Foundation Director Captain Monty Hawkins aboard the “Morning Star” out of Ocean City.
“We’ve been building these big monstrous things,” he said. “We’ve been building these for about five years, and we’ve created tons of structures for the reefs over the years. The students get to learn the different welding processes and techniques and the foundation gets some nice contributions for the reefs.”
Giordano said despite the structures’ final homes, he and his students, who represent Parkside’s chapter of the American Welding Society, are meticulous with the work.
“Instead of sitting in a classroom doing the same joint over and over again, they get to apply their lessons for a practical purpose,” he said. “Even though they are going to the bottom of the ocean, we still want them to be perfect every time. It’s important that they get them right every single time and learn that work ethic.”
Giordano said the students have really embraced the project and take satisfaction in their work being used for an important project.
“They’re good kids,” he said. “They want to work hard and learn and at the same time have some fun,” he said. “Whether they become welders or not, they are learning to use their hands and work well together, which are lessons they can use regardless of where their careers take them.”
For the last 17 years, the Ocean City Reef Foundation has been creating a vast network of artificial reefs of the coast of the resort, creating essential habitat for many species critical to the recreational and commercial fishing industries. Over the last year or so, the artificial reef program has been enjoying one of its most prolific times in recent memory with tons of material going down on the designated sites, which range from as close as one mile off the coast to as far away as 20 miles.
During the last 17 years, the Ocean City Reef Foundation has submerged tons of material, from old boats to retired military equipment to discarded construction materials, to create a vast artificial reef network off the coast. The artificial reefs have enhanced habitat for fish and other sea creatures up and down the food chain, while improving fishing and diving opportunities.