By Peggy Herrick
Twelve years ago, on a clear February morning, I launched my kayak into the Gulf and paddled south and then east on the Cross Florida Barge Canal toward the dam that was designed to carry commercial boat traffic into Lake Rousseau and a waterway that would cross the peninsula to the St John’s River. In the 30s, crews of WPA workers dug and built structures to divert Florida’s water, connect several waterways and create this canal across the state. Because of conservation heroes like Marjorie Carr, this plan was never realized.
During the year of my travel and art-making, I witnessed many historical changes that occurred to the Waccasassa, Ocklawaha and Crystal Rivers and to the Rodman Reservoir. I saw the extreme changes that have been wrought by man. My goal in 1999 was to create a journey daybook and document my observations of this swath of land that later was set aside as the Marjorie Carr Greenway. In May of 2000 I finished my journey as I paddled into the wide St John’s River at Welaka, south of Palatka. My journey daybook was finished and has been exhibited nationally during the past ten years.
On June 23rd, I returned to the Silver River State Park, near Silver Springs, for an important water rally – a bi-partisan conservation gathering that addressed the holistic problems of Florida’s water environmental stewardship, the north Florida springs and water use by bottlers, cattle ranchers and city water systems. This day especially celebrated the pristine Silver River and its beautiful, historic springs. Many conservation organizations were spotlighted and there were speakers, including keynoters, Democratic ex-governor, Bob Graham and Republican state senator Lee Constantine and photography artists, Clyde Butcher and John Moran.
There were exhibits by the Sierra Club and our own “Blue Path,” the newest organization started by artists Annie Pais and Stewart Thomas. This new project spotlights the need for preservation of north Florida’s precious water. Former Cedar Key resident, Cynthia Barnett’s recent book, “The Blue Revolution” was also featured. A petition was circulated to urge our Tallahassee lawmakers to attend to water conservation issues right now.
Most of us are aware of our own drinking water problems in Cedar Key. Is the intrusion of salt water into our drinking water connected to these state-wide water conservation questions? I think so! Our underground aquifer connects all Floridians, and thus, we are all in this together! I believe that we need to be vigilant to the effects of water problems in places like Lakeland, Zephyrhills and Crystal River as well as in Cedar Key. The present flooding in Live Oak and other Suwannee River communities is also important to us. And, our own lack of safe drinking water here is an issue that is presently garnering the attention of other concerned people throughout the state.
Water is our life blood. Without it, we die!
Please check out the following resources for more information about our connection to Florida’s water problems:
Molly Jubitz, The Cedar Key Library, “The Blue Path, thebluepath.org.
The Florida Sierra Club, florida.sierraclub.org.
Cynthia Barnett, “The Blue Revolution” – the book is available at the library and at Amazon in hardback, paperback, and Kindle additions.
Lois Benninghoff, Dorothy and Earl Starnes and I attended the rally at Silver River State Park.