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On the road again: Marine’s Penney pedals for Aquarium project

STORY BY JON PINE (Week of May 16, 2024)

When Marine Bank President Bill Penney pedals 68 miles from Fort Pierce to Port Canaveral on Tuesday, he will not only be celebrating his 68th birthday – he’ll be raising donations for the Brevard Zoo Aquarium and Conservation Center.

Nearly $80 million of the $100 million Our Legacy Campaign has been raised so far to build the 14-acre aquarium center, located where the Banana River meets the Indian River Lagoon across from Port Canaveral. 

Groundbreaking is scheduled for late this year with the opening expected in the second quarter of 2027.  Vero Beach residents Sara and David Scaife donated $5 million toward the project last fall.

Penney is asking people to donate $68 each – $1 per mile. “I really want to raise awareness of the aquarium project here in Indian River County, where most of my contacts are,” Penney said. “It’s really a neat organization with some great people involved. It’s pretty exciting.”

Penney begins his two-wheel expedition at Marine Bank’s Fort Pierce branch at 600 N. U.S. 1, heads north to the Vero Beach branch at 1450 U.S. 1, then over the Barber Bridge to the 571 Beachland Blvd. Marine Bank headquarters.

He then pedals north on State Road A1A to the Wabasso Bridge, west to U.S. 1, and north to the 1020 U.S. 1 Marone Bank’s branch in Sebastian. Then he and his bike will board a boat at Capt. Hiram’s Resort which will take him to the Sebastian Inlet, and he’ll ride on A1A to State Road 404, taking the Pineda Causeway back west to Marine Bank’s Melbourne branch at 3303 Suntree Blvd.

“Bill was one of the first people to sign on with us from outside Brevard County,” said Brevard Zoo Executive Director Keith Winsten. “The aquarium is all about the lagoon and impacts all the counties bordering the lagoon. Bill saw the promise early and has been instrumental in our fundraising efforts in Indian River County.”

The aquarium will celebrate the region’s waterways, connecting visitors with local wildlife and educating them about sustainability and coexistence.

After entering through simulated dune environments, visitors will experience a sea turtle rehabilitation center; a manatee critical care center; outdoor exhibits with otters, alligators, rays and sharks; and a model of the Port Canaveral locks and the game fish that live there; along with a fish camp for dining, a gift shop, and other exhibits.

The aquarium is expected to create about 900 jobs and attract some 525,000 visitors each year, according to the East Coast Zoological Foundation (ECZF), the nonprofit organization that will own and operate the zoo and aquarium complex.

One dollar from each paid admission will fund a grant program administered by the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program – one of 28 estuary programs established under the Federal Clean Water Act by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The program funds clean water improvement projects in five counties that border the Lagoon: Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin.

Penney is no stranger to long rides for charity. For his 50th birthday, he rollerbladed 50 miles and raised $6,000 for the United Way. At 55, he rollerbladed 55 miles and raised $10,000 for American Red Cross. And at 65, he switched to a bicycle and pedaled 65 miles to raise $12,000 for the Alzheimer and Parkinson Association of Indian River County.

Donations for the aquarium may be made online at