Pictured Left to Right: Jimmy Orth, Peter Welch, Roger Linville and Beth Welch

2014 Volunteers of the Year
Peter and Beth Welch

Since they began volunteering with St. Johns Riverkeeper in 2012, Peter and Beth Welch have demonstrated a commitment that can be hard to match by overseeing the maintenance of the San Marco Library Bioswale and assisting with numerous events. In 2014, they took on an even larger role by becoming much more involved with our River Patrol volunteer watch program. Peter and Beth have piloted the “Kingfisher” boat frequently to help maintain our visibility within the community, provide tours for the media and local officials, investigate the river with St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, and provide safety boat support for major river events like the P1 powerboat race and the Jacksonville Dragonboat Festival. 

Peter and Beth are also members of the River Patrol Steering Committee and have used their own vessel to take JU grad student Madelyn Woods out to perform plankton research to complete a scientific study on the St. Johns. 

Peter and Beth have been lifelong sailing and boating enthusiasts. They currently own a 25-foot Pursuit and previously sailed a Tanzer 22 sailboat on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for more than 20 years. Peter recently retired following a 38-year career as an attorney in the title insurance and financial services industry. Prior to relocating to Jacksonville from Richmond, Virginia in 2009, he was one of the original members of the Greater Richmond Sailing Association (GRSA) where he served as an officer and on the board of directors, including a term as commodore. Peter and Beth are also active volunteers with a number of other Jacksonville organizations, including the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library and The Players golf tournament.

2014 Educator of the Year
Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School

It is with great excitement that St. Johns Riverkeeper is naming Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School as our 2014 Educator of the Year for all efforts made to educate students about the St. Johns River during the 2013-2014 school year. During the fall of 2013, Mayport Middle students with the help of their teacher Ms. Jill Sullivan, began participation in our River Exploration Backpack Project. Students conducted a year-long comprehensive study of Shermans Creek by monitoring the water quality, soil content, microbiology, pet waste, litter, and cataloging plant and animal life. In the spring of 2014, students transformed a school hallway into a St. Johns River experience posting artwork and writings where they described their personal connection with Shermans Creek and the St. Johns River.

In addition to the classroom projects, several students also created videos to document the project and communicate how it had affected their lives. Watch them here! Video 1, Video 2, Video 3. As a grand finally, students organized a community cleanup of Shermans Creek clearing debris in the creek and along the shore line. Through the Shermans Creek Project, the Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School has demonstrated how a group of dedicated students can encourage environmental awareness among their peers and help facilitate positive change in their community.