Wakulla Environmental Institute is major milestone for TCC

WEI ribbon cutting

Tallahassee, Fla. (February 16, 2016) – A unique Tallahassee Community College facility has just opened its doors. The Wakulla Environmental Institute, located in Crawfordville, will be home to TCC’s Green Guide program and other programs in environmental science technology, oyster farming, forest and land conservation, hospitality and ecotourism management, and environmental drone operations. However, the facility was designed to offer more than education and training. The long-term vision for WEI is to be the linchpin for ecotourism in Florida’s Big Bend region.

More than 350 community members attended a ribbon-cutting event for WEI on February 15 and took the opportunity to tour the building and learn about its environmentally friendly features. Guests also enjoyed live bluegrass music and sampled delicious oysters raised by WEI students.

TCC President Jim Murdaugh described the WEI as a “major milestone” and a “game changer” for TCC and Wakulla County. Donna Callaway, chair of the TCC District Board of Trustees, thanked the Wakulla County community for “letting us build a dream here.”

Bob Ballard, WEI’s executive director, described special features of the building that make it environmentally friendly and a good fit for Wakulla County. The metal roof, deep porch and thick walls were chosen with the Florida climate in mind and will contribute to the building’s energy efficiency. Other sustainable features include solar panels and a cistern to hold greywater for re-use in the building’s air conditioning system and toilets.

The celebration was held in the “dog trot,” a large central space that spans the full depth of the building and incorporates high ceilings, large doors at both ends and a cupola with working windows for better ventilation. Ballard pledged that the 10,000-square-foot building would eventually produce more energy than it uses. He also talked about the 158-acre property surrounding the building, which will be restored to its historical condition through the use of prescribed burns and other land management strategies.

Several guests mentioned WEI’s potential to boost economic development, including Ralph Thomas, chair of the Wakulla County Commission, and Sheriff Charlie Creel. Senator Bill Montford, who represents District 3 in the Florida Senate, also focused on the big picture. “People from all over the world will come here to benefit from this program,” said Montford.

Ballard thanked Montford and Rep. Halsey Beshears for their ongoing support of the project. Even U.S. Senator Bill Nelson sent a representative, Mary Louise Hester, to congratulate TCC on the launch.

A major gift was also announced at Monday’s event. Susan Payne Turner, executive vice president of Prime Meridian Bank, represented her brothers Mark Payne and Paul Payne and their entire family, who are establishing the William M. and Irene C. Payne Family Gift, which will be used to support scholarships and student programs at WEI. Susan Payne Turner is a Wakulla County native and member of the TCC Foundation’s board of directors. She is also a TCC alumna.

The WEI is located at 170 Preservation Way in Crawfordville. The TCC Wakulla Center, also in Crawfordville, will continue to offer a variety of programs, along with college services such as admissions, advising and financial aid support.

For information, contact Alan Moran at morana@tcc.fl.edu or (850) 201-6079.