St. Johns RIVERKEEPER (SJRK) is the voice for the St. Johns River. As the only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to protecting the St. Johns, we work tirelessly to ensure we are prioritizing initiatives that will most benefit the river and the communities that rely on it.
Throughout 2023 we found new ways to help citizens experience our river, created new events and programming for all ages, launched necessary advocacy efforts to protect and restore the St. Johns, and expanded strategic partnerships with local scientists, nonprofits, homeowners, anglers and agencies.
St. Johns Riverkeeper is proud to report our annual progress and successes in advocacy, education, and community outreach as we work together toward our vision of a thriving St. Johns River Watershed.
- SJRK organized the first annual Great St. Johns River Cleanup, partnering with counties, businesses, and nonprofits throughout the watershed to collectively host over 75 cleanups, engaging more than 1,300 volunteers to remove nearly 1,500 bags of trash from our river and her tributaries during the month-long event.
- We launched the SAVe Our River’s Grasses Expedition seeking answers and solutions to the disappearing submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) of the St. Johns. In 2023, our advocacy team conducted 3 Expedition field visits in May, August, and October logging 75 hours on the water, and 36 site visits.
- Our education team reached more than 2,700 students between our in-classroom and on-the-water programming. We led 56 on-the-water programs giving students in our watershed firsthand experiences to learn about our river.
- Our advocacy team collected 11 water samples from areas with potentially harmful algal blooms. The results from the lab showed evidence of potentially toxigenic cyanobacteria from 10 of these 11 sites.
- We introduced our new website, ExploreTheStJohns.com, to make it easier for river enthusiasts and novices alike to find new places to visit along our beloved river.
- Pollution problems were investigated and stopped at their source. A concerned citizen reported an odor and discoloration in the water of a drainage ditch that flows directly into the St. Johns River. Over a four month period, our team conducted 6 site visits to this area and collected 16 water samples from different parts of the contaminated area to pinpoint the source of the pollution and alerted the proper state and local authorities. We tracked remedial action with the agencies and continued site visits to ensure the pollution was stopped at its source.
- Partnerships were strengthened with local organizations like LISC Jacksonville, who we joined forces with to launch Resilient Ribault, an initiative to address the challenges facing the waterways and communities in the Ribault River area. Resilient Ribault aims to provide equitable access and connect residents to local waterways, advocate for much-needed resilience projects and water quality improvements, and address housing and economic issues to create more resilient neighborhoods.
- Education programs were expanded with new hands-on learning opportunities for students in our watershed, including a Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) program, River and Roots in partnership with Eartha’s Farm, a water quality backpack program, and cleanups with the City of Jacksonville.
- Volunteers collected more than 500 bags of trash at our cleanups (not including the Great St. Johns River Cleanup).
- We recruited the Resilient Ribault Water Quality Advisory Team of seven scientists to develop a water quality monitoring program in the Ribault River and Moncrief Creek to better understand the river’s health and its relationship to human and community health.
- SJRK participated in six legal actions to stop pollution at its source, to protect Florida’s wetlands and to protect Florida’s conservation lands.
- In Putnam County, our local engagement coordinator was busy building support for a healthy river and Ocklawaha Restoration – from presenting our priorities to legislators at the Putnam Delegation in January to building support with local business and political leaders in December.
- We hosted or co-hosted more than 25 Get Your Feet Wet events along the watershed, providing opportunities for people to experience and learn about the St. Johns firsthand.
- As part of our Resilient Ribault initiative, SJRK became the Official Park Steward for Riverview Park on the Trout River. We began hosting monthly Service Days at the park, and in just a few months collected over 60 tires along with other litter that was prevented from flowing into our waterways.
- We led 6 Brewing Up Solutions conversations in Duval County exploring solutions to climate change, sea level rise, and the pollution problems threatening the health of our river – and for the first time, hosted 2 Brewing Up Solutions events in Putnam County, connecting with more than 200 river enthusiasts.
- Rising Tides, the young professionals group for SJRK, hosted 12 cleanups, rounding out their 11th year cleaning up McCoys Creek.
- SJRK was a selected member of the JEA Electric Generation Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) Stakeholder Group as an advocate for the river and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As part of Renew Jacksonville Coalition, led by the Sierra Club of Northeast Florida, we worked with industry experts, scientists and engineers to develop reasonable, responsible recommendations for JEA to protect our river while addressing the root causes of climate change.
- The St. Johns Riverkeeper traveled to Tallahassee with some of Florida’s foremost subject-matter experts on rivers and springs to meet with politicians and host a photo and film exhibit on the Great Florida Riverway. Visitors to the Florida State Capitol were able to experience a walking tour of the Ocklawaha River, St. Johns River and Silver Springs via life-sized photos and film.
- Our Middle Basin Coordinator led 14 talks about relevant river issues in Volusia, Seminole and Orange counties to help educate and engage the public in our work.
- Our advocacy team received and answered approximately 55 calls and emails in regard to suspected violations or issues from concerned citizens and homeowners.
- We engaged over 600 volunteers who care about protecting the St. Johns.
- We gave our river a voice. SJRK spoke on behalf of our river and our members at more than 150 public events including civic organizations, city council/county commission meetings, legislative meetings, local & regional resilience coalitions and social gatherings to ensure that we are all doing our part to protect and restore the St. Johns River and its tributaries.
We are proud of what we accomplished together this past year – for the river and for us all – but there is much more work to be done. With you on this journey alongside us, we look forward to elevating our progress in 2024 as we continue to be your trusted voice, advocate, and watchdog for our St. Johns River.
Become a member of St. Johns Riverkeeper today and be a part of our success!