On the River: St. Johns River Cleanup & Celebration

There is something intriguing about participating in an activity at the same exact moment hundreds of other people are doing the same thing. Recently, the unveiling of a lighted waterfall in New York required residents to turn off their lights at the same time in order to fully experience the splendor in darkness. The waterfall installation was a glowing success, a spectacle that would not have happened without support from the city and the participation of the community.

The City of Jacksonville is looking to do the same thing. It isn’t new. In fact, this is the 19th annual St. Johns River Cleanup & Celebration, and this year will be bigger and better than ever. With almost 70 locations throughout the city, there is no excuse for you not to participate. So, find the nearest or coolest site and chip in for a few hours to help protect the St. Johns River from litter and pollution. It will be happening March 22, from 8 am-11 am. Here are a few sites to consider:

Exchange Island
You likely notice Exchange Island each time you drive over the Matthews Bridge. As an unnatural, artificially constructed dredge spoil site, the island regularly collects a large amount of litter from our storm drains, bridges, and runoff from nearby homes and lawns. The island is only accessible by boat, but First Coast Outfitters will be providing free kayak rentals (while supplies last) to anyone willing to participate in the cleanup. For those of you with your own kayaks, come join in the fun. If you have a canoe or small boat, we need your help to bring our haul back to the shore! Contact First Coast Outfitters to learn more and sign up. www.firstcoastoutfitters.com

Riverside & Avondale
Riverside and Avondale are two historic neighborhoods that appreciate the St. Johns River. Unfortunately, our older neighborhoods were designed to direct rain and runoff directly into our storm drains and into the river. This is a great time for residents and patrons of the Riverside/Avondale neighborhood to clean the streets, helping to beautify the neighborhoods and prevent trash from reaching the St. Johns! Visit any of the places below to grab a bag and some gloves, and afterwards treat yourself to a cold pint, hot cup of coffee, or lunch at one of the area’s great restaurants for doing your part for your river! Visit www.riversideavondale.org for site details.

Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, Derby on Park, Open Road Bicycles, Whiteway Deli, Edgewood Bakery, Willowbranch Park, Riverside Park, Boone Park, Yacht Basin Park, Fishweir ParkHollybrook Park

Jax Parks
Nearly every city park is a site location this year. Check out the full list of sites to find a participating park or boat ramp. Have fun exploring with your children or friends and explore new places you’ve been meaning to visit. Enjoy new experiences with a purpose! www.stjohnsrivercleanup.com

San Marco
If you have yet to see the incredible transformation that is taking place in San Marco, then come walk the streets here. San Marco has invested heavily in new traffic patterns and parking signage to encourage walking and bicycling. In support of its mission to preserve and renew the neighborhood, San Marco Preservation Society has added 10 sites to the cleanup this year! www.smpsjax.com

With more than 70 cleanup locations, no one is far from a site. Many neighborhood groups, churches, businesses and youth groups have adopted sites throughout our great city. Find the site nearest you – and if there isn’t one, get some supplies and help clean up your block and neighborhood yourself. Next year, register with the City of Jacksonville Clean It Up, Green It Up, and get the supplies to engage your neighbors. This could catch on, and before you know it, the entire city will be outside making a difference for our river and our community, together.

Visit www.stjohnsrivercleanup.com for details and a full site list.

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.