Category Archives: River Kidz

A River Kid Grows Up

In the fall of 2011, the River Kidz were born. A grassroots youth uprising due to Lake Okeechobee discharges hurting St Lucie River wildlife and the power of social media that was in its infancy. A mixture of over one-hundred children, parents, and politicians came to the original River Kidz gathering and fundraiser at Sewall’s Point Park. A ten year old and an eleven year old had just changed the trajectory of their lives, and the river found a voice in a new generation.

Now it’s ten years later…

~Full disclosure, Evie Flaugh is my niece, the daughter of my younger sister Jenny and her husband Mike. Evie is the only child I have seen born into this world and it is heartwarming to watch her mature.

Recently, while I was Adrift on the St Johns River, Evie released her Capstone Project 2021 for Rollins College staring first and foremost the Everglades, along with interviews with Dr Leslie Poole, me, Maggy Hurchalla, Eve Samples, Mark Perry, and Nic Mader. The product is  impressive and very professional. So proud of my River Kid! BTW Evie won “best” class! I’m allowed to brag; I’m her Aunt 🙂

Evie’s fourteen minute video “Send it South” is posted below on YouTube. Please watch. Please share. Please comment. My plan is to do a series of post about our grown up River Kidz.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-cj3VsK8hk

-Evie Flaugh (11) and Naia Mader (10), September 17, 2011 co-founders of River Kidz, Sewall’s Point Park, 1st official event. Photo JTL-Evie 2021. Born and raised in Stuart, Evie co-founded River Kidz with Naia Mader in 2011. She remains passionate about activism and fighting for the environment. She recently graduated from Rollins College with a degree in Critical Media & Cultural Studies and is currently in her first year at the Crummer Graduate School of Business, on track to receive her MBA in May 2023.  The “Send It South” documentary was her senior capstone last May. (Taken from Evie’s interview on WFLM with Robert Delancy, September 30, 2021; photo Evie’s Facebook page)

Keeping Alive the Power of the Public Voice

Looking back…

As we move into the LOSOM optimization process, let’s recall the power of the public voice that started this St Lucie “riverlution” in 2013. Today in 2021, the River Kidz have all grown up, we have all gotten older, and a slew of new advocates are involved. But as was clear at yesterday’s Rivers Coalition meeting, the movement is still going strong. It got me looking through my photo archives. Amazing! I wanted to share. Let’s all keep alive the power of the public voice for all our rivers – it started here.

TCPALM “Something remarkable happened on the Treasure Coast in 2013. Was it a short-lived phenomenon or the beginning of a sustained movement?”

The beginning of a sustained movement for sure!

~Photos from RALLY AT THE LOCKS, August 3, 2013. Over 5000 people attended having seen  surfer Evan Miller’s Facebook post call to action due to the “Lost Summer.”

 

 

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!”