What is Suncoast Youth Conservation Center?
The Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) is the educational hub of the Florida Conservation and Technology Center’s (FCTC) Center for Conservation located on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay. Situated on a 20-acre campus with 6,000 feet of indoor and outdoor teaching space, SYCC shares the campus and shoreline with the Manatee Viewing Center, The Florida Aquarium, the University of Florida, and Tampa Electric Company. SYCC specializes in inshore fishing and paddling adventures, hosting immersive, educational field trips and family programs during the school year and week-long day camps in summer.
While there’s no public fishing here, you can schedule a fishing-focused field trip for your student group where they’ll learn about ethical angling at SYCC.
We also offer periodic fishing events open to the public! Email us to get added to our e-blasts that contain details of upcoming events.
What kind of fish are in the pond?
The pond is connected to the tidal creek through the saltmarsh, and we have documented more than 30 species of fish living here. Common species include:
- Red Drum
- Black Drum
- Silver Perch
- Hog Choker
- Toad fish
The other side of the hill on the west side of property is a large grassy area of about 40 acres. You can see a picture of what’s beyond the hill on the sign near the bridge leading to the Clean Energy Center.
Can I rent your kayaks and/or use your launch?
While ours is not a public kayak launch and we aren’t able to rent our gear, the waterways are open to the public. You can launch your kayak at Apollo Beach Nature Preserve and paddle through the mangrove trails. To paddle at SYCC, you must be with a scheduled field trip or event group through the Suncoast.
No, please leave the shells in place. They are pretty, but if everyone takes one we won’t have any left for the grounds and trails!
Is this pond freshwater or salt water?
Both! This 5-acre pond is brackish water, or a mixture of fresh and salt water. The only freshwater ponds on site are the ponds near the perimeter fences to collect stormwater runoff
No, the pond flows through the saltmarsh and tidal creek, and connects to Tampa Bay. Fish, shrimp, crabs, oysters, and other marine life can recruit and forage in our waters by navigating through buried culvert pipes.
Are there alligators or sharks here?
There are no alligators on our campus or in the surrounding waters. They like to live in and around freshwater, and this site is brackish so it is too salty for their liking.
Sharks can be observed in the mangroves tunnels and brackish trails leading out to TECO’s observation tower and out to the bay. It’s typical to see bonnethead or juvenile bull sharks foraging for food near the roots of mangroves. We are lucky that sharks visit our waters because their presence means we have a healthy and balanced habitat! Remember, sharks are more scared of you than you are of them, and they should always be observed from a respectable distance.
We are always looking for volunteers! If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, click here
to fill out our Volunteer Interest form.
When is SYCC’s facility open?
From November 1 – April 15, the entire FCTC campus from the Manatee Viewing Center south to our facility is open seven days a week with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve after 3:00 pm, Christmas Day and Easter (when it falls within our season). Hours of operation for the entire campus are 10 am to 5 pm, however the nature trails close at 4:30 pm.
Outside of the November 1 – April 15 season, SYCC is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm to serve students and campers scheduled for field trip and summer camp programs.
Is there a cost for your facility?
Like the Manatee Viewing Center, there is no fee associated with visiting the SYCC or our campus.
Field trip programming is offered at no cost; however, cost of transportation and lunch is the responsibility of the field trip or student group.
Summer day camps have a registration fee which is used to hire seasonal camp staff and purchase camp supplies. The cost in 2022 was $220-250 per child, per week, but tuition may increase from year to year.
Can I park at your facility?
Parking in the SYCC lot is reserved for vehicles attending field trips or other programs scheduled with SYCC staff or campus partners.
Parking during the months of November 1 – April 15 is located at the Manatee Viewing Center, or the main parking lot of the Clean Energy Center located on Dickman Road north of the SYCC facility.
What are all the other buildings onsite?
Suncoast Youth Conservation Center is part of a partnership between many different organizations working towards conservation. The Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission is onsite with both the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center and a fish hatchery for rearing juvenile gamefish. The
Florida Aquarium has the Sea Turtle rehabilitation Center and Coral Care Complex focusing on injured turtles and coral spawning, respectively. The University of Florida also has a lab here reproducing and researching long-spined sea urchins. This property is under the ownership of Tampa
Electric Company (TECO), which supports the important missions we serve.
Is Suncoast Youth Conservation Center open to the public?
From November to April, Suncoast is open to the public seven days a week
to match the hours of the TECO Manatee Viewing Center. From 10 AM to 5 PM,
visitors can explore the campus and see firsthand the important work being
done here by Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC), the Florida Aquarium, and
the University of Florida.
Are SYCC's programs accessible to those with disabilities?
Yes! SYCC is an ADA-compliant facility. Additionally, staff does
everything in their power and skill sets to make the site’s programming
available for everyone. If you have a special need or are curious if this
facility is for you, please give us a call!