Category Archives: River Kidz

DeSantis’ Words Make History for the River and the Kidz, SLR/IRL

On Tuesday, I will raise my right hand on the steps of Florida’s Historic Capitol to take the oath of office in much the same tradition that 45 governors have before me. With my wife, Casey, and our two young children, Madison and Mason, watching, it will be a pointed reminder that to whom much is given, much is required. ~Governor-Elect, Ron DeSantis

Casey and Ron DeSantis. He holds a River Kidz workbook. River Kidz LJ Leighton (pink shorts), Keile Mader also holding book. Carley Collins, Jack Maldonado Benson, Carter Streiber and Congressman Brian Mast, St Lucie River Tour

Tomorrow at 11:00 am, Ron DeSantis will be sworn in on the Capitol steps as the 46th Governor of the State of Florida. I met him once. The date was August 20, 2018 and he and his wife Casey, had come to Stuart to see the toxic-algae water problems for themselves. A boat tour had been arranged by Congressman Brian Mast’s office. The water was a disgrace, all explained why….

Ron and Casey DeSantis were attentive listeners, and took seriously the plight of the St Lucie River. They have young children of their own. Just a few days ago, DeSantis, wrote an op-ed referring  to his experiences along the rivers of St Lucie and Calooshahatchee. I  believe the tour and the words of the River Kidz had an effect, read below, and I know the kids too will be watching not just DeSantis but what all of us do…

“I will fulfill promises from the campaign trail. That means prioritizing environmental issues, like water quality and cleaning the environmental mess that has resulted in toxic blue-green algae and exacerbated red tide around the state. We will put Everglades restoration into high gear and make it the reality that Floridians have been promised for three decades.”  Ron DeSantis, Governor Elect  ~Full text, Tallahassee Democrat: https://www.tallahassee.com/story/opinion/2019/01/04/im-committed-pursuing-bold-agenda-florida-ron-desantis/2481606002/)

“Happy your’e here; not happy about the algae!” the River Kidz arrive to meet the DeSantises with River Mom, Cristina Maldonado, River Granny JTL, and Congressman Brian Mast.

Meeting the kidz 
Joe Negron and Stephen Leighton show Governor-elect DeSantis and Congressman Mast Brain Mast blue green algae in Shepherd Park

Algae floating in the SLR

Ron DeSantis, positions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_DeSantis

River Kidz Expands to All South Florida, SLR/IRL

river-kidz-cover-color
New cover for 3rd Edition River Kidz workbook that will be released this Spring, by Julia Kelly.

New artwork by Julia Kelly: http://juliakellyart.com

River Kidz, an organization created in 2011 in the Town of Sewall’s Point “by kids for kids,” whose mission is “to speak out, get involved, and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers,” is expanding its range.

The group’s message will now encompass not only the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, but also the Caloosahatchee and Florida Bay. These three south Florida estuaries all suffer due to longstanding mis-management practices of Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District. You may have most recently heard about these three estuaries together as Senate President Joe Negron has proposed a land purchase in the Everglades Agricultural Area and a deep reservoir to improve the situation.

So what’s the problem?

Ft Meyer’s Calooshahatchee River on the west coast gets too much, or too little water, “depending.” And Florida Bay, especially in regards to Taylor Slough near Homestead, hardly gets any water at all. In fact the waterbody is reported to have lost up to 50,000 acres of seagrass due to high salinity. No way! And here at home, as we know first hand, during wet years the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon is pummeled with Lake O water causing toxic algae blooms beyond comprehension as experienced in 2016.

In all cases, whether it is too much, or too little water, algae blooms, destruction of water quality, and demise of valuable wildlife habitat ensues. Kids know about this because the most recent generation has lived this first hand. -A kid growing up, not being able to go in the water or fish or swim? No way!!!!

We can see from the satellite photo below how odd the situation is with the EAA lands just south of Lake Okeechobee engineered to be devoid of water so the EAA plants “don’t get their feet wet” while the rest of the southern state suffers. Yes, even a four-year old kid can see this!  🙂

EAA drainage 2005
This satellite photo shows water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the Water Conservation Areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake if flooding, and also stored in other canals. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)

To tell this story, in Kidz fashion, new characters have been created. Familiar, Marty the Manatee of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon, has been joined by two new friends: Milly the Manatee from the Caloosahatchee, and Manny the Manatee from Florida Bay. Quite the trio! river-kidz-cover-color

Also joining the motley crew is a white pelican, sometimes visitor to Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, and the Central IRL; also a stunning orange footed Everglades Snail Kite complete with Apple Snail; and last but not least, the poor “blamed for mankind’s woes of not being able to send water south,” the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. Finally, she will have a chance to share her story. Endangered species, weather, and the water-cycle will be added to the curriculum.

Workbooks will be available free of charge thanks to donations from The Knoph Family Foundation, and Ms. Michelle Weiler.

River Kidz is a division of the Rivers Coalition: http://riverscoalition.org/riverkidz/

group-shot
Cover of 2nd Edition River Kidz Workbook, with Marty the Manatee and friends of the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon. For the 3rd Edition, new characters have been added.

Workbook Brainstormers: River Kidz co- founders Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader; the River Kidz, (especially River Kidz member #1, Jack Benton); Julia Kelly, artist; Valerie Gaynor, Martin County School System; Nic Mader, Dolphin Ecology Project; Crystal Lucas, Marine Biology teacher and her daughter Hannah; and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, former mayor and commissioner of the Town of Sewall’s Point. Workbooks will meet Florida Standards and be approved by the Martin County School System thanks to Superintendent, Laurie Gaylord.

“Coming to a River Near You!”