The Story of

Neptune Memorial Reef™

Vision and Planning

The idea seemed almost crazy at first, to build an artificial reef that is also an art piece. But, that’s how some of the best ideas start. With a design conceptualizing a futuristic Lost City of Atlantis, a small group dedicated to the idea began the process of engineering the site and seeking approval.

A permit requirement for the Reef was that it was engineered to withstand the storm and “designed” for habitat.

The Neptune Memorial Reef™ meets the strict guidelines and permitting of the EPA, DERM, NOAA, Florida Fish and Wildlife and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Memorial Reef™ is also certified by the Green Burial Council, providing an ecologically-sensitive alternative to burial.

Engineering the Reef Habitat

The Memorial Reef™ is the only artificial reef in the world required to conduct phase one studies,  engineer the Reef to withstand the strongest storm in 100 years, and engineer the Reef to encourage an entire ecosystem. In this last regard, the Memorial Reef™ has exceeded all goals and hopes, accomplishing in its first six years what was expected to take at least ten.

The Memorial Reef™ is now the most prolific artificial or natural reef in Florida. The reef can even be classified as a coral reef now that 14 species of reef-building coral have joined the ecosystem. Some of the Reef’s ecological successes have been a surprise, like the identified sea urchin previously thought to be extinct in the Caribbean.

Constructing the NEPTUNE MEMORIAL Reef™

The Memorial Reef™ is designed for construction in phases. The first two phases of construction is comprised of 76 columns covering a half-acre of ocean floor. When complete, the Memorial Reef™ will cover 16 acres and include over 5,000 columns. The building cost for the first phase of the Reef build was over $1.5 million.

A marine biologist engineers every Reef piece so that every angle, texture, depth and profile is designed to support the ecosystem. Reef pieces are built on land and moved by barge to the Reef site during the summer. Custom-built molds are used to create columns, arches, and bases from steel reinforced concrete. The concrete contains additives for faster curing and to reduce water penetration. Several pieces are built including bases, columns, and road units consisting of four column arches. Each concrete base, the smallest of which weighs 50 tons, has four 8-inch pipes that extend eleven feet into the sand to prevent lateral movement of the Reef.

The Memorial Reef™ consists of road units meeting at a centerpiece. It is designed with portals for future placement of features mixed with cremated remains. Columns, for example, contain a pin holding the top on. The 250 pound top is removed for deployment to the center of the column. Around the Welcome centerpiece sits a bench designed as a fish habitat. The bench cover is removed for deployments to this feature. Road podiums contain portals for installment of deployments. Memorial plaques are affixed to the outside of the features.

Many families choose a free-standing Memorial piece, or marine placement, in the shape of a marine animal natural to the ecosystem such as a starfish or shell. Marine placements are glued into place using a two part epoxy for concrete underwater use. By the time it is complete, the Memorial Reef™ will include more than 250,000 memorials. 

The Memorial Reef by the numbers

Current sizenearly 1 acre
Future size16 acres
Current number of columns76
Weight of each column5 tons
Weight of column arch3 tons
Weight of column base50+ tons
Weight of road unit100 tons
Anticipated time to complete build10 years

First Deployments

The first deployments to the Memorial Reef™ were of cremated remains abandoned, sadly, by their families; the very first deployment was a marine placement in the shape of a starfish.

Daniel Restrepo, a beloved young man, was the first intended deployment. Restrepo was just 13 when he was shot in a drive-by shooting. Though doctors gave no hope for recovery, the family persevered, and Daniel recovered, regaining the ability to walk and talk. Ten years later, he died. The Restrepo family purchased an entire column of the Memorial Reef™ with space for an additional 13 future deployments. Mrs. Restrepo mixed Daniel’s cremated remains with concrete to create the piece for deployment.

The Memorial Reef's Captain

Neptune Memorial Reef™ is managed by one of the original founders, Jim Hutslar. A lifelong boater and divemaster, Jim had ended a career in medical sales when he decided to join the Reef project. An environmentalist at heart, Hutslar is thrilled to see the progress at the Reef.

Hutslar is easily accepted by the marine wildlife. He handles deployments to the Reef and often accompanies families who wish to visit a Memorial. Jim stopped logging dives in 2018 when he completed his 3000th dive at Neptune Reef™. Participating in establishing a Reef Memorial is a bonding experience, one that often leans towards ongoing contact, repeat dives, and the occasional picture sent to the family.

Hutslar is proud to provide this green burial alternative to a traditional burial, offering a unique and ecologically sensitive Memorial following cremation.

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Select Your Placement Style:

Permanent Placement

Celebrate a loved one’s life and legacy with a permanent memorial in this unique underwater setting.

PACKAGE INCLUDES:
  • Your choice of Reef Placement – from Limited Release, Exclusive and Premium to Standard or Legacy placement options
  • Deployment to the reef
  • Personalized copper memorial plaque
  • Online memorial page
  • Memorial certificate
starting at $2995
Selected

Memorial Plaque

A personalized, commemorative plaque on the Reef is a simple yet truly memorable way to pay tribute to a special life.

PACKAGE INCLUDES:
  • Personalized copper memorial plaque
  • Online memorial page
  • Memorial certificate
$595
Selected

Scatter at Sea

Honor a loved one’s life and legacy with the Scatter at Sea package.

PACKAGE INCLUDES:
  • Scattering in the open waters over the Neptune Memorial Reef®
  • Personalized copper memorial plaque
  • Online memorial page
  • Scattering certificate
starting at $595
Selected
Placement Selection:

Legacy

PACKAGE INCLUDES:

  • Placement in the first phase
  • Personalized copper memorial plaque
  • Certificate of completion
  • Online memorial page
$2995
Selected

Standard

PACKAGE INCLUDES:

  • Placement in the second phase
  • Personalized copper memorial plaque
  • Certificate of completion
  • Online memorial page
$5995
Selected

Premium

PACKAGE INCLUDES:

  • Starfish, Seashell, or Coral
  • Personalized copper memorial plaque
  • Certificate of completion
  • Online memorial page
$7995
Selected

Limited Release

PACKAGE INCLUDES:

  • Turtle, Stingray (Lucy - Straight Tail or Desi - Curled Tail)
  • Personalized copper memorial plaque
  • Certificate of completion
  • Online memorial page
$9995
Selected

Exclusive

PACKAGE INCLUDES:

  • Crown Placement - Mermaid or Dolphin
  • Personalized copper memorial plaque
  • Certificate of completion
  • Online memorial page
$12995
Selected

Limited Release - Lion

PACKAGE INCLUDES:

  • 30'' Simba
  • Personalized copper memorial plaque
  • Certificate of completion
  • Online memorial page
$24995
Selected

The family is welcome to be present during the mixing of the placement and is scheduled at their convenience. They may also help with the mixing, add trinkets or a note to the mix or leave hand prints on the placement.

Family members are welcome to be present during a scattering ceremony or the deployment of a loved one's permanent placement on the Neptune Memorial Reef. This provides the opportunity for family and friends to gather and celebrate the special life of a loved one - and the chance to say goodbye. The Reef crew can assist with chartering a boat as well as scheduling at the family's convenience.