Day 235, 236: FL: Jacksonville. Timucuan Preserve and St. John’s Riverkeepers

Florida is a bit different from most other states… a bit jungle: alligators, crocodiles, manatees and a bit bird paradise: great and snowy egrets, blue herons, kingfishers, anhingas and the crazy big pink birds…flamingoes and spoonbills… Ben is in love with Spanish moss and oranges. Mark and I love the sea air…

In the morning Ben and I got up leisurely from our bed in Orlando, ate breakfast, and took a walk…Where else would we get to watch a snowy egret stalk the neighborhood, eat a lizard out of someone’s bushes, and then take off flying through the trees and over the houses…this gigantic, perfect, snow white bird so at home in a regular neighborhood? So very cool. But the mosquitos are as big as the ones in Alaska -one is still stuck to the inside of my car window, by my crusty blood.

Our next stop: Jacksonville. We took off a little later than we had planned, which was the cause of some minor consternation in the car but, whatever, Ben got his bird shots in at Cape Canaveral and Mark got his phone calls in to some Atlanta contacts, and we got to our hosts pretty close to the time we hoped to arrive, and all in one piece. Almost immediately we set out for Ruby Tuesday’s, which has become our default eatery in the South, as they have organic greens in their pretty decent salad bar…

From Jax we day-tripped out to the Timucuan Ecological Preserve – actually quite large, it is the only National Park which includes federal, state and privately owned land, and which has disconnected pieces all around the area. We arrived at the Kingsley Plantation, and were met in the parking lot by Ranger Dan Tardona, who explained that Barbara, our pointperson, had come down with the flu and so he’d be taking her place. We followed him to the edge of the waterway… looked down on a whole shore of oysters (which can’t be eaten bc of the pollution in the river)…and filmed as he relayed the importance of helping people feel connected to natural places so that they feel a sense of stewardship with them and so that they care to conserve.

The whole time were all attacked by swarms of no-see-ums. Throughout the interview Dan was a pro, only twice calmly brushing one of the little stinging creeps from the corner of his eye or out of his ear. The boys, however, were dancing around like clowns and i was squinting and brushing my face pretty much the whole time. Thank goodness the 3 of us weren’t really on camera. We were invited to stick around for the dancing but, frankly, the bugs had worn out our welcome. And it’s WINTER. “You should be here in the summer with the yellow flies,” Dan said. Now I remember why my mother was sort of ready to leave Florida.

Our amazing hosts took over our laundry while we were gone, fed us supper when we returned, and even treated us to a movie after!! Oh what a rare treat! (Thank you, Bonnie & Gleycia!!) We watched the film, “Michael Clayton,” with George Clooney, with no preconceived notions, and really liked it. Nice to relax and watch someone else’s work for a change. Even if it did have an environmental bent.

Next day our hosts made us breakfast again!! and we set off warm and fuzzy for Georgia, but stopping first to speak with the director for St. John’s Riverkeepers, Jimmy Orth. The boys interviewed Jimmy about how the water shortages have affected the river as well as the continued impending development requiring every more water to be drained. Jimmy said that an important aspect of St, John’s is how slowly it flows, making it much more difficult to clean up when pollutants run into it. Development all over Florida is booming and developers don’t seem to care much about what happens when they pull several hundred million gallons extra out of a river that is already having a hard time keeping up with demand.

I stayed apart and visited with Jimmy’s lovely wife, Genora, and delicious new baby, Eli! Hooray! She filled me in on which cloth diapers actually don’t leak and gave me links to a few green baby websites that I can’t wait to check out…

And we finally got to meet our good friend Joanelle Mulrain, who singlehandedly hooked us up with at least half of our interviews for Florida, by email alone. Joanelle is one of the whirlwinds who makes our job humanly possible. Thank you, Joanelle.

So. Water wars? As Jimmy Orth’s Riverkeeper shirt says, “Whiskey’s for Drinking. Water’s for fighting over.” –Mark Twain.
We’ll be keeping an eye out to see what happens with water in the Southern states, and we’ll be sure to ask Georgians what they think about who should be watering their lawns…

One thought on “Day 235, 236: FL: Jacksonville. Timucuan Preserve and St. John’s Riverkeepers

  1. great meeting you all – what an incredible journey you’re on. with your diligent research and hard work, the result should be to bring about awareness of the preservation and protection of our great America – and her water, her air and her land. so glad you were able to taste and feel a little bit of our great state – folks like bill belleville, the timucuan historic and ecological preserve (a national park in jacksonville), and the st. johns riverkeeper team, i hope you enjoyed a peek into the sunshine state – if folks ask, tell ’em we’re filled up; no more space. we are going to take care of what we’ve got, and protect our water, you know. can’t wait to hear about atlanta, north carolina and washington, dc. keep going – and have a grand time!

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