Students will be hopping in canoes and paddling along the Santa Fe River, cleaning up trash to celebrate Earth Day.
For more than 20 years, environmental organizations have called attention to the threats pollution and over pumping pose to the Santa Fe River. The river is home to more than 30 springs and provides habitat for a wide range of diverse flora and fauna.
The Spring Fling event, hosted by several environmental conservation organizations, including Stand Up 4 Springs and the Public Interest Communications Student Association’s Florida Springs project, hopes to combat some of the damages. It will take place April 22 starting at 8:30 a.m. at Canoe Launch in Canoe Outpost High Springs.
Santa Fe and UF students can register and secure their canoe via a link on the Stand Up 4 Springs Instagram until Friday. The first 100 to sign up are guaranteed canoes.
Along with cleaning, volunteers will learn about the river’s features from guides. In the afternoon, a celebration in High Springs’ O’Leno State Park, will feature food trucks, music and more.
The organizations, including Florida Springs Council and Current Problems Florida, chose to host this inaugural event on Earth Day to celebrate and promote protection of the Florida Springs, Cassie Huffman, president of the PICSA, said.
“Our intent with the Spring Fling is to have a day where UF students and the community can really come together and get their hands dirty and pick up trash,” Huffman said.
Huffman began her work supporting the “Boycott Ginnie Springs” movement, created to inform people about the water bottling operations that extract water from the local springs. The over-extraction of water leads to water depletion and salt intrusion, Huffman said.
Nearly a million gallons are being pumped by Seven Springs Water Company a day, and the Santa Fe River is flowing about 30% below what it should be, according to Our Santa Fe River.
“It’s really important that people in Florida are responsible for their environmental impact,” she said.
Brenda Wells, communications director for the Florida Springs Council, which focuses on pushing policy change or legal fixes to combat threats to the spring, remembers when the river was more clear than it is today.
Along with the over pumping of water, springs in Alachua County face nitrate pollution from fertilizer runoff, Wells said.
“Those springs just don't have the flow that they used to,” she said. “There's just too many demands on the water, and currently our water management districts are not doing a very good job of saying no to some of those demands.”
She hopes people will feel pushed to remain up to date on issues concerning the springs after the event.
“When someone gets out there and sees these springs they more often than not fall in love with them,” she said.
Kim Hurd, a 21-year-old UF public relations senior, first heard about the Spring Fling through her friends and social media.
“I thought the cause was very, very interesting,” Hurd said. “So I just thought it was really important to learn about that and then to attend this event.”
When Hurd first heard about the threats to the springs, she was surprised, she said. Although she had never been, she knew they were popular sites for students. She is now participating in the boycott of Ginnie Springs.
Hurd believes this event is important to spread awareness about issues concerning the springs, especially to students.
“As college students, we just think everything is fun and don't think about the deeper meaning behind things,” Hurd said. “We're giving our money to these places that are taking advantage of resources.”
She’s excited to attend the cleanup and experience the springs for the first time “in the right way.”
“Come out,” Hurd said. “It's a great way to celebrate Earth Day because you're giving back and then you're also getting to … admire these beautiful resources and state parks that we have the opportunity to go to.”
Contact Lucille Lannigan firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @LucilleLannigan
Lucy is a senior journalism major and the metro editor for The Alligator. She has previously served as a news assistant and the East Gainesville reporter for the metro desk as well as the health and environment reporter on the university desk. When she’s not doing journalism you can find her painting or spending time outside.