by SHANNON BLANKINSHIP
Okay, every month should be River Month. However, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has issued a proclamation that March is St. Johns River Month. With the onset of spring, March is critical to the river for implementing River Friendly practices in your home and yard. It is also the best time of year to get out and explore the St. Johns River.
Truth is, what we do in our yards and homes matters to the St. Johns River. Over-fertilizing and the use of pesticides creates the dreaded summer algae bloom causing foul odors, fish kills, and a loss of river revenue and access for weeks. Over-watering harms the river in the same way and also depletes the Floridian Aquifer below. Because 50% of household water usage goes toward keeping our Florida lawns looking trim and green, learning how to be “River Friendly” will go a long way to protecting the St. Johns River.
Here is a list of River Friendly Tips to get you started in your own lawn.
River Friendly Tips
Create a River Friendly Yard. Use less fertilizer and chemicals, and plant native or drought-tolerant plants to reduce runoff and help prevent algal blooms and fish kills in the St. Johns.
Allow only rain down the drain. Keep gutters and storm drains free of litter, lawn clippings, leaves, fertilizers and chemicals. Storm drains lead directly to the river. Clogged drains also contribute to problems with flooding.
Slow it down. Redirect downspouts to discharge water onto grassy areas, gardens or beds where it can soak into the ground instead of running off of driveways and sidewalks into storm drains.
Install a rain barrel. Rain barrels conserve water and help prevent runoff that can wash fertilizers and chemicals down storm drains and into our waterways.·
Use water wisely. Install low-flow fixtures in our houses or businesses, fix leaks, and water lawns and plants only when needed.
Plant a tree. Trees reduce stormwater runoff by capturing and storing rainfall, improve air quality, reduce heating and cooling costs, provide wildlife habitat, increase property values and beautify the neighborhood.
Learn more River Friendly tips by visiting www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/river-friendly.
During River Month, take advantage of all the great event opportunities to learn about the St. Johns, explore the St. Johns, and protect the St. Johns by making some changes in your daily actions.
Community Day at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
Community Day will include a plant and rain barrel sale, information about River Friendly practices and open access to the museum to see Jim Draper’s exhibit Feast of Flowers honoring natural Florida.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, 829 Riverside Avenue, 10am-2pm. Free.
River Hunt at Community First Saturday
This River Hunt will take you along the Northbank Riverwalk in downtown Jacksonville and walk you all the way to The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens along the St. Johns River. Find what is River Friendly and not River Friendly along the way. Community First Saturday, Northbank Riverwalk, Coastline Dr & S Liberty St Jacksonville, 10am – 2pm. Free. www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/events/river-hunt-/
Family Day River Boat Trip
Come aboard with us as we cruise into the Ortega River from the Riverside Arts Market. This boat trip is designed so your whole family can learn about the ecology of the river through hands on activities. Kids ages 5+. Riverside Arts Market, 715 Riverside Avenue, 9am-11am. Suggest donation $15 Adults, $10 Children. www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/events/river-boat-trip-1/
7th Annual First Coast Air Potato Round-Up
Don’t be a couch potato. Volunteers are needed to help rid our natural areas of Air Potato vine and other invasive plants. Invasive species smother our native plants and are one of the greatest ecological threats to natural communities in Florida. Grab your garden gloves and head over to any of the 9 work site sites in Jacksonville including Hanna Park, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville Zoo, and Tillie Fowler. Email or call Emily Montgomery at 904-823-2291 or [email protected]; 9am-12pm. Free.
River Friendly Landscaping and Native Plants Workshop
Learn from Bob Chabot, Director of Horticulture for the Jacksonville Zoo, and Jake Ingram, retired landscape architect, about how to make your yard River Friendly. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, 829 Riverside Avenue, 6:30-8pm. Free. www.cummer.org/programs-events/calendar-of-events/st-johns-riverkeeper-lecture-native-plants-garden-design
Irrigation Workshop with Duval County Extension office
Duval County agricultural staff is offering an irrigation class on water saving techniques, tuning up your irrigation system and low volume irrigation for gardens. Free water savings kit to the first 50 registrants.
1010 N. McDuff Ave, 9am-Noon. Cost: $5. Registration required with Becky at 255-7450 or [email protected]
St. Johns River Celebration Cleanup
The 18th annual St. Johns River Cleanup & Celebration is Jacksonville’s kick-off event for the Florida Great American Cleanup. Dozens of cleanup sites will be located throughout the city including city and state parks in the beaches, Riverside, downtown and all throughout Duval County. Find the site closest to you!
No Registration Necessary. 8-11am. Free.
In partnership with the 18th annual St. Johns River Cleanup, St. Johns Riverkeeper and Riverside Avondale Preservation have added more than 12 new cleanup locations in Riverside alone. Each major park and every Riverside merchant corridor will have centers where people can grab a bag and do their part to prevent trash from reaching the St. Johns River. Street teams will be scouring our neighborhood blocks and roads as well, so watch out!
Pick up trash bags and gloves at any of these check-in sites:
· Derby on Park Street – 1068 Park Street in 5 Points
· Kickback’s Gastropub – 910 King Street in the King Street District
· Bold Bean Coffee – 869 Stockton Street
· Open Road Bicycles – 3544 Saint Johns Avenue in Avondale
Also, bags and gloves are available at any of our Riverside Parks: Memorial Park, Willowbranch Park, Boone Park, and Riverside Park. No registration needed. Community Service hour slips available, 9am-Noon. Free. www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/events/st-johns-river-celebration/ or http://www.riversideavondale.org/index.php?id=44
Rain Barrel Workshop with the Duval County Extension office
Duval County Extension is offering a Make and Take Rain Barrel Workshop. Learn about how rain barrels help capture rain in order to water your lawn and garden. 1010 N McDuff Ave, 10am–Noon. Registration Required with Becky at 255-7450 or [email protected] Cost: $45.
Maintaining a River Friendly Yard Workshop
Hear Matt Eaton of North Florida Irrigation, Eric Lycke, landscape architect with Haskell, and Jimmy Orth, Executive Director of St. Johns Riverkeeper, discuss how to live the River Friendly lifestyle with a focus on water conservation and fertilizer use. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, 829 Riverside Avenue, 6:30-8pm. Free.
River Friendly Bike Tour
Join us for a River Friendly bike tour of Riverside and see some great examples of local residents living the River Friendly life! Get a behind the scenes tour of The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens for an exclusive garden tour of their new installation of native plants and organic gardening practices. Riverside Avondale Preservation, 2623 Herschel Street, 9:30 – Noon. $10 or $40 to rent a bike. Registration required with e2ride Bike Tours at 904-945-1571 or www.e2ride.com
All Month Long
Philips Garden Store, Trad’s Garden Center, Earth Works Garden Center, Reflections of Nature, and Native and Uncommon Plants are local nurseries committed to helping you find River Friendly products and plants. Make some changes this March that will help the St. Johns River and prevent that summer algae bloom from our precious St. Johns River.