Day 5, Saturday, March 26
By Shannon Blankinship, St. Johns Riverkeeper Outreach Director
What an adventure! Day five of the Save the St. Johns tour began on a spring fed, 16-mile tributary to the St. Johns, the Wekiva River. Nearly 50 paddlers joined us on the water with outfitter Adventures in Florida to experience this amazing river, including representatives from Friends of Wekiva River, Seminole Audubon Society, Central Florida Surfrider and League of Women Voters.
We were also honored to launch from Katie’s Landing with Katie Moncrief. Katie and her husband Russ worked hard to save this waterfront property from encroaching development, resulting in its purchase by the State of Florida. It now serves as a tremendous river resource that provides public access to a state-designated Outstanding Florida Water and Aquatic Preserve.
Once our group reached the main stem of the St. Johns, the popularity and recreational benefits of the river were evident by the number of boaters out on the water.
We soon arrived at Swamp House Bar and Grill in DeBary for lunch and a Meet-and-Greet. A packed room of concerned local residents enjoyed hearing from Lisa Rinaman and Clay Henderson, the executive director of the Stetson University Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience, about the work that remains to be done to protect our springs and the work Stetson is undertaking right now.
The Tour Team then met with park rangers from Blue Spring State Park to hear about issues they face. Blue Spring is a first magnitude spring of the St. Johns that actually appears more green than blue. The spring is being impacted from over pumping from the aquifer, failing septic tanks, fertilizer runoff and a failure to protect the springshed, the area surrounding the spring that drains directly into this waterway. Unfortunately, most of Florida’s springs are facing these same problems.
Blue Spring provides critical habitat during the cold days of winter for the warm-blooded manatee when the river drops below that of the spring’s constant 72 degree temperature. Up to 460 manatees have crowded into the spring run for shelter during the cold months.
After cruising past Hontoon Island State Park, another incredible park, and Blue Heron River Tours, one of our favorite eco-tour guides in the state, we reached DeLand.
In downtown DeLand, the tour team enjoyed all of the great new amenities this quaint town has to offer. We look forward to another great day on the water tomorrow.
This is the fifth part of an ongoing series. Florida NewsLine is pleased to bring you a daily travelogue, along with photos and videos, submitted to us by Shannon Blankinship, St. Johns Riverkeeper outreach director.
Beginning March 22 and continuing for 13 days, St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman and a team of river advocates will journey the 310-mile length of the St. Johns River, from the headwaters at Fort Drum to the river’s mouth at the fishing village of Mayport on 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 degradation.