BY SHANNON BLANKINSHIP, Outreach Director, St. Johns Riverkeeper
On March 22, a small team of river advocates lead by St. Johns Riverkeeper embark on a 13-day journey of the entire 310-mile length of the St. Johns River from the headwaters at Fort Drum to the mouth at the Atlantic Ocean. The overall goal of the Save the St. Johns River Tour is to unite people and organizations devoted to the river’s health and develop a unified approach to halting its continued degradation.
Unfortunately, the problems along the St. Johns have been mounting and the St. Johns is suffering. Our river faces significant threats from fertilizer runoff, toxic algal blooms, municipal and industrial wastewater, failing septic tanks, surface water withdrawals, urban sprawl, and dredging. Our river is at critical crossroads, with its ecological future hanging in the balance. It is imperative that we act now.
That’s why St. Johns Riverkeeper has launched the Save the St. Johns grassroots campaign and 2016 River Tour. Here are the goals of the Save the St. Johns Tour:
- Raise awareness about the numerous issues that threaten the river’s health.
- Hear from citizens throughout the watershed and learn about their concerns.
- Develop a broad network of activists and organizations working together for a clean and healthy St. Johns.
- Engage and activate residents, businesses, organizations and community leaders throughout the watershed in a collective call-to-action for the St. Johns.
- Identify and advocate for the solutions and strategies needed to protect and restore the river.
- Highlight the people, wildlife, beauty and special places that make the St. Johns such a unique and important waterway.
- Showcase the recreation and economic benefits provided by the St. Johns.
The Save the St. Johns Tour begins March 22, 2016 at the headwaters west of Vero Beach and continues through April 3. For a complete list of stops and opportunities to join the team on land or on the water, visit. www.savethestjohns.org. Follow the journey on social media through #SJrivertour and plan to meet the team at some point along the way.
The journey will bring us to remote parts of the St. Johns River Marsh in its headwaters as well as some of the most popular spots on the river, such as Silver Glen Springs. Community meet and greets will take place at fish camps along the banks of the river, while paddling excursions bring us to several of the major tributaries of the St. Johns including the Ocklawaha, Wekiva and Econlockhatchee. Cocktail events with elected leaders, panel discussions with scientists and guided hikes with land experts will allow the team to learn about issues and opportunities for best protecting the St. Johns.
This tour isn’t just for St. Johns Riverkeeper. It is a collaborative effort that demonstrates widespread support for protecting and restoring the St. Johns. The more partners and support gained throughout the watershed, the more likely we all will be in achieving this goal. Once the Tour is completed, we hope to have a much broader and more unified network of river advocates who will continue working together for the restoration of the St. Johns. We know that this is an ambitious undertaking that will not be accomplished in 13 days. This is designed to be a long-term campaign that continues to engage and activate citizens and build widespread grassroots support for the river’s protection throughout the watershed. This can only be the beginning of that journey.