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.
-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)
Today, May 12th, at 9:45 A.M. Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to sign Senate President Joe Negron’s “Senate Bill 10” in of all places Clewiston. Clewiston is “America’s Sweetest Town” and the headquarters of U.S. Sugar Corporation…
According to the article in the Glades County Democrat announcing the signing: “Earlier this week Senate Bill 10, a move to secure funding for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee was approved. In its amended form, Senate Bill 10 became a measure that we in the Glades could stand behind. The bill no longer stated that additional farmlands be taken out of production but rather the state would utilize the property that it already owns to create a reservoir with a much smaller footprint.”
Although I am scratching my head, you know what? Sometimes you just have to be happy for what you get, no matter where you get it. I am tremendously thankful to Governor Scott for signing the bill ~ although I do wish he had decided to sign it in Martin County since we’ve worked so hard to get it.
When I read the announcement officially last night, it got me thinking about Clewiston before I went to sleep. It brought back memories of 2013 and famed paddle boarder Justin Riney’s idea to hold the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston on September 1st, 2013 to unite the movement. This was one of the early rallies for the river during the devastation of the “Lost Summer.”
Since Governor Scott is going to sign in Clewiston I think it’s a good time to walk down memory lane and be proud of how far we’ve come and to get ready for how far we have to go! The point of the location of the Sugarland Rally was to “meet halfway.” Hopefully Governor Scott is thinking the same, in that Joe Negron helped us meet half way and we are all thankful.
Now let’s remember the past, enjoy today, and then take it to the finish line!
“The Sugarland Rally will unite the east and west coasts of Florida in a peaceful, historic demonstration to speak out against the pollution of our estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges. We support both immediate and long-term solutions, but ecosystems and communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries are in crisis. We cannot afford to wait for ecological and economic collapse. We urge all stakeholders–especially local, state and federal governments–to act immediately. We chose Clewiston as a central location to unify east and west at Lake Okeechobee, the source that is polluting our estuaries, and because we believe Florida’s sugar industry can be part of the solution. Please don’t misinterpret our intentions–we are NOT holding a rally at Clewiston to protest or point fingers at “Big Sugar.” It’s quite the opposite, actually. We invite Florida’s powerful sugar industry to join us in crafting an immediate solution to the ecological and economic crisis caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.” (Press release from Justin Riney, Aug. 2013)
The Army Corp of Engineers has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee since January 29th and toxic algae from the lake has been released into our St Lucie River. We are being invaded. This is horrific for the people, but what about the animals? Thank God someone is documenting their plight….
Facebook friend, Rebecca Fatzinger, is not only a voice for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, but for its wildlife. With the cries of the people “loud and clear” sometimes it seems the animals are but an afterthought for our local, state, and federal government.
I can’t help but wonder….
The Florida Wildlife Commission? The Department of Environmental Protection–have you written a statement about the wildlife implications of this bloom? What are you thinking? Are you allowed to say?
How could the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon once have been the most bio-diverse estuary in North America? How could we be home to some the state’s most important aquatic preserves?
Thank you to Rebecca for documenting and giving us an up close look as the animals try to cope.
Heartbreaking. Disturbing. Disgusting….
This is home?
THANK YOU TO REBECCA FATZINGER FOR SHARING HER PHOTOS!
7-12-16 NOTE: Although there are no photographs of bottlenose dolphins in this series they are certainly swimming in algae waters further from shore where the algae is more “particulate.” Yesterday, I spoke with Nic Mader of Dolphin Ecology Project and she said she has seen dolphins swimming around in their “normal” areas on her runs. The animals are very “sit specific” (territorial) like people. I also called Dr Gregory Bossert now of Georgia Aquarium formerly of Harbor Branch and his response was that this is just one more layer in an already health-affecting system— noting the animals sicknesses such as low immune system, lobo mycosis, and lessons the animal have been prone to for over 15 years since HERA Heath Environmental Risk Assessment began. Nic has stated if she gets photos she can share she will.
The most rewarding part of my St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon journey is working with young people. Today I share a video created by Geoffrey Smith Jr., a graduating senior at the Pine School in Hobe Sound.
Many of you may have viewed this video on Facebook as it has been a big hit and already has over 500 views, but in case you are not the “Facebook type, “today, I am sharing it through my blog. The video production is part of Geoffrey’s Capstone Project for graduation.
I commend Geoffrey for his interest on the topic of water and pollution issues in Florida. His video required many hours and includes interviews those below. I especially was impressed that Geoffrey interviewed Mr. Sonny Stein, president of Stein Sugar Farms, and multi-generational farmer in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Both sides must always be represented at the table of judgment…
As you will see, Geoffrey also had a chance to interview Michael Grunwald, author of “The Swamp.”
I know my part chosen for the video is very hard on the agriculture industry…as you’ll hear later, I am doing my best to clean up my own yard…
How does the saying go?
“Shine the light, and the people will find their way….
“Thank you Geoffrey for shining the light, may we all find our way, good luck with graduation this week, and we all look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!
In 2013, the first edition of the River Kidz workbook was produced with help from Mary Anne Conrad, teacher at Jensen Beach Elementary, Nic Mader, River Mom and Dolphin Ecology Project, Julia Kelly, artist, (http://juliakellyart.com), input from the “Kidz,” and me, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.
The workbooks were a great success and shared in many of the Martin and St Lucie County elementary and middle school classrooms.
(In case you have not seen the first edition, electronic copies are available at (http://riverscoalition.org) at the bottom of the page.)
Now, in 2014-2015, a second edition will be released. Exciting! But what’s the difference and why so soon?
Well, long story short, one of the projects that master-teacher Crystal Lucas did with her Jensen Beach High School (JBHS) Marine Biology II Class last year, during the LOST SUMMER, was a “rework” of the first edition workbooks. The idea was to have the older kids teaching the younger kids. A collaborative effort and from their perspective.
River Kidz was started by two fifth grade girls in the Town of Sewall’s Point in 2011, Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader. The power of the movement is that it comes from kids. The overseeing adults of River Kidz wanted to keep that theme going, but to bring it to a new level.
The JBHS students were in a position to do this because with Crystal’s leadership they had had extensive studies of the Everglades, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in reference to discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the local canals, C-23; C-24 and C-25. This education involved attending the Everglades Coalition Conference, studies with the Everglades Foundation, air boat rides in Lake Okeechobee with legends Nat Reed and Maggie Hurchalla/SFWMD, classroom visits by the Army Corp of Engineers’ Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, Marty Baum, the Indian Riverkeeper and many local and state elected officials including myself.
The students even won first place in the Keep Martin Beautiful Environmental Stewardship Awards for their work on water issues!
Concerning the rewrite of the workbook’s first edition, the JBHS students decided first and foremost that there needed to be a mascot and a story. They determined the mascot should be named , “Marty the Manatee,” and yes, this was inspired by none other than Mr Marty Baum! (http://www.indianriverkeeper.org)
So artist Julia Kelly was task to come up with a character and she did, even though she refused to put a mustache on Marty as the students requested because she felt “we needed to be wary of anthropomorphizing the animals.” The steering committee agreed, and Marty was born! 🙂
Through the JBHS students’ eyes, Marty tells the story of his ancestors’ former home in all its glory with the mythical Pond Apple Swamp at the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee, clean rivers, and a life with animal friends throughout the northern and southern Everglades. He then goes into today’s struggle with overdevelopment, agriculture, sugar and agribusiness south of the lake, polluted water discharges, redirection of water into the St Lucie/IRL and Calooshatchee from Lake Okeechobee, and other drainage canals, loss of seagrass, algae blooms and friend “die-offs.” He gives ideas for a better, cleaner world and a happier future. There is hope! And that hope lies in the River Kidz, the future….
The workbooks will be a beautiful collaboration of student and artistic ideas that are sure to inspire generations to come. The goal is to have a fundraiser-grand-release party in November at Blue Water Editions, a division of Southeastern Printing, the invaluable local company that will be printing the workbooks.
The workbooks are a collaboration, and River Kidz is a division of the Rivers Coalition. The steering committee consist of Nichole Mader, Crystal Lucas, Valerie Gaynor, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Blue Water’s Jason Leonard.