We’re all connected. What happens on any part of the river affects us all. And what is happening throughout the St. Johns River watershed is reason for concern; deserving our attention, focus and action.
For 13 days in late March, members of St. Johns Riverkeeper, a privately funded, independent organization will traverse the entire 310-mile length of the river to inform, involve and engage area residents. This multi-vessel call-to-action tour has multiple goals.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of the numerous threats to the St. Johns River,” says Jimmy Orth, Executive Director of St. Johns Riverkeeper. “People tend to look at issues in their section of the river separately, but cumulatively all these threats add up to create major problems for the future of the river.”
Orth says the group wants to connect people from Volusia County to Jacksonville to highlight what we have to lose. By educating residents along the way on the river’s rich history and diverse ecology, they hope to get the community engaged in river advocacy.
“The St. Johns is a fantastic and beautiful resource. We’re all in this together,” he adds.
Led by St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, the trip includes meet-and-greet stops along the way. A few highlights close to St. Augustine include a dinner gathering at Corky Bell’s Seafood in Palatka on March 30 to discuss the Ocklawaha River Restoration. On March 31st, the group stops for dinner at Outback Crab Shack on Six-Mile Creek to discuss the Georgia-Pacific Pipeline. The next day, boaters are invited to join a flotilla from Green Cove Springs to Doctor’s Lake with a lunch-stop at Julington Creek Fish Camp. The full schedule of stops is found on their website.
Worries on the Water
Orth explains there are major threats in all corners and ends of the river.
“The major issues start at the headwaters, with a lot of sprawl. Unsustainable growth is a major issue and it’s an on-going battle. With the rapid and massive growth that is occurring in the upper section of the St. Johns comes more demand on the river and more impacts with long-term implications,” says Orth.
Proposed developments, plans to dredge the river, proposals for taking water out and landfills built by the river are all hot topics. “These activities not only pollute the river, but disrupt and impede the flow and cause more saltwater to flow into the river, having a disastrous effect on wetlands. Even those things that seem like small impacts can add up to become major issues with significant consequences.”
The journey will be documented by film-makers. “We are just trying to tell the story of the river, so everyone knows what’s at stake. We want to get the residents, the business community, the science community, and the media involved,” says Orth. The group regularly patrols the river in the St. Johns Riverkeeper boat, the Kingfisher, but they’ve never explored the whole length of the river in one trip before.
This event is not your only chance to get involved. Volunteers are always welcome to become members and help patrol the river, work at events, write letters, report violations, become a business partner, and donate funds.
St. Johns Riverkeeper’s mission is to be an independent voice that defends advocates and activates others for the protection and restoration of the St. Johns River. They investigate pollution, demand accountability, ensure environmental laws and regulations are enforced, advocate for policy changes and educate the public.