Tag Archives: The River Kidz Grow Up

A River Kid Grows Up – Colton Moir

Colton Moir graduated from the Benjamin School in 2018. He is now twenty-one years old and a senior at Eckerd College in St Petersburg, Florida. He is the son of Jim and Kim Moir of Stuart, Florida and was one of the first River Kidz. I had a chance to interview Colton last week as part of my “Grown-Up River Kidz” series.

-Colton pictured with a cubera snapper he speared last summer. “Very tasty haha.”-Colton in 2014, 14 years old -presenting alongside Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum.  River Kidz’ GET THE MUCK OUT event, Harbor Bay Plaza, Sewall’s Point, FL. Photo credit, Nic Mader.-A bucket of MUCK from the bottom of the St Lucie River. This muck builds up due to polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, the C-Canals, and area runoff. It smothers seagrass as well as sea life, and is often referred to as “black mayonnaise.” As a River Kid, Colton often spoke about issues of muck.-Colton stands directly under the GET THE MUCK OUT sign, River Kidz, 2014 (click to enlarge.)

JTL: “Hi Colton. Long time no talk. It’s been a few years since we last spoke. You’ve grown up since your River Kidz days. Tell me about what you are doing at Eckerd College.”

Colton: “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I came into it thinking I was going to major in marine science, just because I’ve been around the ocean my whole life. My family is all marine advocates. I’m a huge environmentalist. I assumed I’d be going that route, but I found that chemistry and physics were not my forte, so I’ve switched to business administration with a minor in entrepreneurship. All of the projects I’ve done so far revolve around the environment. Like what I’m doing right now is helping create an oyster farm in Grand Cayman, and trying to get a reef-ball project up and running for every-day homeowners so they can have living, custom-made reef ball creations in front of their homes to enjoy instead of a hardened shoreline seawall.”

JTL: “Wow Colton, that’s fantastic. Creating a business model out of a River Kidz’ participated practice. Let’s talk about these reef-balls. Are they like a living shoreline?”

Colton: “It would be more along the line of a living seawall. The biggest issue I notice with traditional seawalls is the undercutting that waves create- having the reverb effect – once they hit the seawall -over time, you are losing your property line-  you’re losing shoreline, which is what the seawall should be protecting in the first place. I think that a lot of homeowners are noticing this and that in the future they will implement these wonderful things called reef-balls which will not only protect their seawalls from all this erosion, but also help the environment and the fish.”

-Young Colton, father, and volunteers placing reef-balls in St Lucie River, River Kidz, 2014.

JTL: “That is really interesting Colton and right in the line with your River Kidz’ background. Tell me more.”

Colton: “My original idea was to partner with the Marine Resources Council in Melbourne and have every reef -ball contain a red mangrove, but I found out that a lot of homeowners hate red mangroves.”

JTL: “Really? People hate red mangroves? “

Colton: “Yeah. They don’t want to lose their view. They don’t really understand that you can trim mangroves because they have always heard from friends and family that you can’t trim your mangroves, that it’s illegal. It’s not. So one of the things I am finding myself doing, is what River Kidz taught me, and that is to talk to people in small groups to educate and change the knowledge base.”

JTL: “Colton, I remember when you were eleven at the Environmental Studies Center in Stuart and you were literally teaching the adults about muck in the St Lucie River. The adults stood around listening – spellbound.”

Colton: “Yeah, as an only child, I don’t know if I would have developed those skills without River Kidz.”

JTL: “Colton how do you see the difference between your parent’s generation compared to your generation when it comes to the environment?”

Colton: “I would like to think my generation sees the the environment in a little harder light. There is more research that proves the detrimental effects that we as humans, as a species, have done to the planet. However, I think my generation is often more “social-media oriented, whereas you guys really got out there. I myself try to get out there too.  I have done projects with River Kidz, with Tampa Bay Watch, and a bunch of other community groups.”

JTL: “Colton with all the talk about Climate Change do you feel hopeful about the future?”

Colton: “I do. Honestly, conversations like this give me hope. Through conversations I learn about positive change. For instance, I just got out of a lecture about a company that had been doing reef safe sunscreen products. It’s called “Stream to Sea” in Hardy County. When Covid hit, they had to change to make environmentally friendly hand sanitizer. It went from an environmentally-friendly goal for a smaller market, to one that included millions of people. If they hadn’t been doing environmental work in the first place, they couldn’t have achieved what they did. “

JTL: “It seems like change, or adapting, is the name of the game. Colton if you had a message for the next generation of River Kidz, what would it be?”

Colton: “I’d  say get involved. Get more involved within the group. Go to Washington D.C. Go talk in Tallahassee. Go to commission meetings. Now that I’ve grown up a little bit, I know how beneficial it is for an adult to see a young kid talking about muck.”

JTL: “Thank you Colton, it was those River Kidz’ “teachable moments” that made all the difference to invigorating Florida water policy. And you continue to make a difference today! So great to talk with you.”

-Colton planting a red mangrove, 2021-Colton shared this photo of himself with his girlfriend, Kayla, and their dog,  Availability also known as  “Ava.” In spite of challenges, the future is looking bright!




A River Kid Grows Up – Naia Mader

-Naia Mader co-founded River Kidz in 2011; today she is a  junior at UC, Berkeley .This week, as part of my River Kidz series, I proudly feature Naia Mader. Naia, the daughter of Nicole and Donny Mader, co-founded River Kidz in 2011 with friend Evie Flaugh.  Naia was only ten years old at the time. Today, she is twenty and earning a bachelor’s degree in Society and Environment, College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley. Right in line with her River Kidz training, Naia is also completing a minor in Public Policy.

I had not spoken in depth with Naia since she left her hometown of Stuart, Florida, three years ago. I was happy to hear that Naia feels River Kidz helped prepare her for her studies. Last week, I interviewed her briefly by phone while she was in between classes.

JTL: “Hi Naia.” My having been born at Travis Air Force Base in California, in 1964, makes me feel like we have something in common. How do you like it out there in the Golden State in 2021?”

N: “Well, it was a shock in many ways. It is very different from Stuart. Now I love it.”

JTL: “What was the first thing you noticed was different?”

N: “Mmmm, the mindset of the people I think. Like when I think back on how those adults  were against us at the CRC. I think there is more support here for youth and the environment. People are more hopeful, less divisive. For everyone, there’s more of an eco-consciousness. It’s not negative.”

JTL : (Laughing) :Naia that was incredible. Those were not just adults, those were very powerful Gunster lawyers -working against what you and Evie spoke in favor of “A Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment“- at the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in 2017. You and Evie learned a lot at a very young age. Water is the big issue here. What are some of the big environmental topics facing people in California?”

-River Kidz co-founders Evie Flaugh (11) & Naia Mader (10) 2011.-Evie & Naia, Tallahassee 2017. River Kidz  advocated before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, the Florida Senate, members of the House of Representatives in Washington DC, and various Florida county and city commissions. There have been over 600 members of River Kidz since 2011. Today’s generation is writing the U.S. Dept. of the Interior and politicians to get the ailing manatee back on the Endangered Species List.N: “Water too. But it’s water shortage, along with drought and fire.”

JTL: “Yes, we read a lot about the fires in California. Can you compare them to hurricanes in Florida -where it’s sometimes a little bit scary, and you hunker down and wait for it to pass?”

N: “It’s a different kind of scary. In a hurricane there is time and you prepare for this big storm, but with these fires they are always kind of looming over our heads. It’s more of an eerie feeling- it’s a constant thing…”

JTL: “So it’s more pervasive….”

N: “Yes, don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely beautiful here most of the time, but still. I’ll send you some pictures I took last year in September.  Due to distant fires the sky was glowing completely orange. Its was like I said, eerie more than scary. And we are very aware of the AQI (Air Quality Index) out here and check it daily.”

JTL: “What’s the AQI?”

N: “The air quality index.”

JTL: “Wow. I take that for granted!”

N: “Two years ago we couldn’t go to class for four days because the AQI was over 270. It was strange; my roommates and I stayed inside. Sometime we don’t go out to exercise.”

JTL: “Well thank you for sharing about that Naia. I know people back in Florida are interested.”

-In 2020 Berkley had twenty days of red flag warnings. Photo Naia Mader “outside” Sept. 2020.JTL:  “Naia, like you said, drought is a big environmental topic and linked to the fires affecting people and wildlife. Clean water and stopping the discharges from Lake Okeechobee was the mission of River Kidz, so what is it like dealing with drought – not enough water? How is it  affecting people you know or yourself?”

N: “It is also pervasive. And yes a shift. So I for instance, I had class with fellow students two days ago, who, you know, they have water caps imposed by their local governments. They can only shower with the full strength of the water for an allowed period of time per day and the other part of the day has to be on half pressure.”

JTL: “Your’e kidding? Wow. I practice conservation, but I can’t imagine having a government cap on my showering time! Has this affected you too?”

N: “No, Berkeley is not in that situation. But other places not far away from here are, and some of my friends experience it when they visit home.”

JTL: “Water is everything…”

N: “Yeah, and another thing about drought, like here in California, it “never” rains, which is such a foreign concept to me because it rains all the time in Florida. For many of my classmates’ families that are from California, the effects of drought are far reaching and they talk about it a lot and are very conservation oriented. But don’t get the wrong idea, not everything is dry here, there are a lot green places too!”

JTL: “Yes, California has always been considered one of the most beautiful states desert or forest. It is a very special place. It think it’s great you are going to school out there.”

-Naia walks trails around Berkeley, always a tree hugger! JTL: “Naia, I know you have to go to class. Before I leave you,  if you had something to say to next generation of River Kidz what would you say? Thank you so much for your time today.”

N: “I would tell them to be totally encouraged and to keep on fighting, to keep on getting involved, to use their voice. I think that’s the most important thing we can do right now.”

JTL: “Last question. Did River Kidz help prepare you for – life – basically? Can you explain?”

N: “Oh, I think ten-thousand percent. Like I’ve actually spoken to Evie about this. I feel like the way I present myself in speaking terms, writing terms… How I see things from many different  perspectives…  I feel like on a global scale, it has totally stemmed down from River Kidz. It taught me to mature at a young age, not forced to mature but… being able to write speeches, understand adults, and know what was going on even if I was a kid.

And I feel like I’ve carried that sense of self over to being here a Berkeley. In class, I can speak much more eloquently. I know how to do presentations, speeches – I feel like I kind of have that down on lock. 

I feel like River Kidz really prepared me. I also feel that on the environmental scale I have been learning about these big environmental  issues from a young age. It’s actually funny, one of my friends at school was learning about the toxic algae blooms in the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon. So I was like “oh my gosh- that’s my home!”

It’s so far reaching…It definitely prepared me.”


Ironically, today parts of California are experiencing torrential rains. I will be interviewing more grown River Kidz in the future.



River Kidz Grow Up; the River the Same. St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

River Kidz founders Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader, 2011.
River Kidz founders Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader, 2011.
River Kidz 2015.
River Kidz 2015.(Photo Nic Mader.)

“Time flies”… “Time waits for no one”… “Time is of the essence”….

There are hundreds of sayings about time, and none of them can truly encompass its passage and what it feels like to know it is slipping away….

Having no children of my own, I am dependent on the children of others to really see time “fly.” As time seems to fly fastest when it comes to children turning into adults–right before our eyes, while  we of course feel “exactly the same…”

I deeply believe that all kids are River Kidz!

The two closest to me are my niece Evie Flaugh, and Naia Mader, two Town of Sewall’s Point girls that founded River Kidz in 2011 when I was mayor. Sometimes they come and visit me. These are some of my favorite days. When they visit, I am struck by how they are changing. They are growing up. They are becoming women.

“10ish” years old when their endeavor started, I think they are now both “15.” Three months apart. Evie is a bit older but they are in different grades. I can’t keep up actually. But I do know they were both once well below my shoulder and they now stand almost a full foot taller than me. I noticed recently, when I sat on the bench with them for a picture, that my feet hardly reached the ground. Their knees were bent…

I look at them in awe.

“Was I that young once?

I was, and boy did want to be older…. This I remember.

Things are going to start changing even more quickly.

They will be driving soon….Gulp….

And where have “we” all driven the river since 2011? The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is in really in the about same predicament it was in 2011. In some areas worse.  A lot has happened, and good has been achieved, however, the biggest killer, discharges from canals C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and Lake Okeechobee will continue to slowly kill the river with no end in sight, because our state in is denial of the depth and timing of our pollution and water crisis. They think we have 30 years…Oh let’s make that 50 years….no  100….

However awareness is high. As Amendment 1 and our local River Movement has shown, the public is pushing for change;  and not giving up. WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS even though it seems sometimes it may take forever, or that we will return to our maker not having achieved the goal.

I am certain that one day there will be substantive positive change for the Indian River and all of Florida’s precious waters. There must be in order for the state to survive. To feed this change and the human will for survival which requires clean water, we must continue to put “gas in the car,” or better yet, use solar energy—- we have to keep making “River Kidz out of kids.” We have to keep driving.

One day soon, these kids will take the wheel of life.  I am confident they will drive with more care than previous generations did;  they will do all they can to navigate the crash we will be leaving them.

The River Kidz, Naia and Evie, they  inspire me. But my heart aches for them. For them we must work harder to change the tide of legislative and agency complacency. We must make more people realize that we do not have 30 years. We have now.

RK artwork 2013
RK artwork 2013

River Kidz is a division of the Rivers Coalition: (http://riverscoalition.org)
River Kidz: (http://riverscoalition.org/riverkidz/)
Photos/mixed on-line: (http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=river+kidz&qpvt=river+kidz&qpvt=river+kidz&FORM=IGRE)