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Kayaker paddles 1000 miles to save oceans

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By Kellie Parkin

Margo Pellegrino is a kayaker with a cause. She’s paddling 1,000 miles from Ft. Pierce, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana to get people thinking about the ocean. The Cedar Key islands marked her half way point.

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“I’m on an outreach mission for the ocean,” Margo said. “I want people to be aware that the ocean is on the brink of collapse.”

Margo left Crystal River Monday morning at 7 a.m. for an approximately 36-mile paddle to Cedar Key. After giving a wide berth to the nuclear power plant security zone and dodging a myriad of oyster bars, she paddled to shore about 3:45 pm.

Among her welcoming party were Barbara and Bill Keller of Hernando. The Kellers saw Margo on the news and recognized her as a long-ago family friend and neighbor from New Jersey. They traveled to Crystal River to see her, but arrived just after Margo had departed. They decided to continue on and welcome her in Cedar Key instead.

“I’ve known them my whole life – all but about two years,” said Margo, who was surprised and happy to see the Kellers after so many years.

Many environmental supporters also came out to welcome Margo and to encourage her quest. Behind the scenes Joe Murphy with Gulf Restoration Network and Joy Towles Ezell have helped Margo arrange meals and lodging throughout Florida’s west coast. Lee and December McSherry of Archer sponsored Margo’s Cedar Key accommodations at the Gulf Side Motel. Tom and Pat Deverin along with Connie Nelson were among locals who introduced Margo to Cedar Key hospitality.

While paddling, Margo is collecting local stories and documenting the coastal conditions that she sees along her journey. “The Cedar Keys were really pretty clean,” she said. “But especially, wherever there’s a lot of people, you see a lot more litter and trash,” she said.

Margo hopes to bring a message of environmental awareness while she travels. “For those who do not know, I paddle to inform and for those who don’t care, I paddle to inspire,” she says on her Web site www.miami2maine.com. The Web site name comes from a 2007 quest in which she paddled over 2,000 miles up the Atlantic seaboard to raise awareness about the oceans’ problems.

The 41-year-old mother of two lives in New Jersey with her family. Her children, a boy age 7 and girl age 4, are at home with dad while Margo is spreading her message to save the oceans.

Margo is calling on legislators to institute a Healthy Oceans Act. “That is the message we need to send to our representatives in Congress,” she said. “If I can paddle the coastlines of our nation to help save our seas, you can surely tell your Congressman to support healthy oceans legislation.”