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Warning: Use of undefined constant ’ - assumed '’' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /home/environm/public_html/leadership/wp-content/plugins/student-posttype/student-register-posttype.php on line 24 Katie Vearil – Environmental Leadership Program
I joined the Environmental Leadership Program to aid in my growth both professionally and personally. The program allows for a community of like-minded students to help one another gain valuable skills and achieve their goals. Through the program I hope to gain the skills needed to become a strong leader and advocate for the environment while making a positive impact in our community.
The February event of Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It featured kayaking with Kelly Patton Thompson from the St. Johns Riverkeeper.
The St. Johns Riverkeeper is an organization that works to be the voice of the St. Johns River and the communities that live and work in the watershed. The organization provides educational classes and materials, advocates for environmental policy changes, leads patrols on the river, and investigates issues with the river.
The event began at Palmetto Leaves Park which offers a pavilion with picnic tables, a short hiking trail and a kayak launch into Big Davis Creek that flows into Julington Creek. The group met at the pavilion to hear Thompson briefly talk about the work the St. Johns Riverkeeper does as well as some history about the park and Julington Creek.
After the talk, participants kayaked along Big Davis Creek and Julington Creek. Adventure Kayak Florida provided the kayaks. The group collected trash throughout the paddle and found plastic bottles, bags and most surprisingly — two laptops!
The 2018-2019 series for Beyond the Trail has concluded. It was another successful series for “Beyond the Trail.”
The second event Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It took place in October with Groundwork Jacksonville. The featured speaker was Kay Ehas, the CEO of Groundwork Jacksonville. Groundwork Jacksonville is a local non-profit that focuses its efforts in the historic Springfield area and the Eastside neighborhood towards restoring Hogans and McCoys creeks and creating parks and trails in areas that were previously contaminated land. Recently, the organization has taken on creating the Emerald Necklace – an urban trail system that connects multiple neighborhoods in the urban core of Jacksonville. The emerald necklace was originally thought of for Jacksonville by the famous architect Henry Klutho in the 1900’s.
Ehas took participants to a few locations along McCoys Creek including Hollybrook Park and The Times Union Center for the Performing Arts. Hollybrook Park and the surrounding neighborhoods have been plagued with flooding from McCoys Creek during rainstorms for years. The channelization of the creek caused problems with flooding and decimated many ecosystems in the area. Groundwork Jacksonville is working to restore this area by returning the creek to its natural flow. This will help reduce flooding and pollution and increase the wildlife population. The goal is to work with nature instead of against it.
Groundwork Jacksonville has recently unveiled the plans for the Emerald Necklace. This plan has the potential to bring significant economic and social growth to Jacksonville. The goal of the project is to create a safe “outdoors” space to bring the community together in a variety of ways. The trail will feature a walking and biking path, parks, playgrounds, connection to restaurants and local businesses and will hopefully be a place for farmers markets and festivals. Ehas told participants about the planning process, the importance of speaking with the impacted community, and the positive impact the plans could bring to the city.
After the walking tour of McCoys Creek, participants joined Groundwork Jacksonville’s monthly cleanup of Hogan’s Creek at Confederate Park. The group helped clean up litter found in and around an important tributary to the St. Johns River. Groundwork Jacksonville holds monthly cleanups of in different areas of Hogans Creek.
The next event will take place in November at Julington- Durbin Preserve. The group will hear from the St. Johns Water Management District. The rest of the 2018-2019 Beyond the Trail will feature a paddle on the St. Johns River, speakers from UNF’s history department, Ixia Native Plant Society, the St. Johns Riverkeeper and much more!
This year, student project leader Katie Vearil took over the fourth series of “Beyond the Trail.” After participating in the St. Johns River Experience at UNF, she was inspired to educate others on the historical, scientific, and economic significance of the river. This inspiration led her to create “Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It.”
The first event of the 2018-2019 series took place in September at the Theodore Roosevelt Area. Many participants had not visited this park before the event. Park Ranger Craig Morris and Dr. Keith Ashley, a UNF professor were the featured speakers.
Dr. Ashley educated participants about the Timucuans who first settled in the area. The Timucuans created large middens. These served as a “landfill” site for leftover oyster shells and animal bones. The middens have been preserved in the park and are still visible today.
Park Ranger Morris pointed out the native plants and animals that inhabit the park. Participants saw cinnamon fern, blue tailed skinks, box turtles and more. He also explained the park’s history. The land was donated to the Nature Conservancy by Willie Henry Browne III. Willie lived his entire life in a small cabin on the land. The ruins of this cabin can still be seen in the park.
The rest of the 2018-2019 Beyond the Trail will feature a paddle on the St. Johns River, speakers from Groundwork Jacksonville, the St. Johns River Water Management District, the St. Johns Riverkeeper and much more!
The January 2019 event in the Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It took place at Friendship Fountain with UNF professor Dr. Charles Closmann.
In the early days of settlement in Jacksonville, the St. Johns River played a major role in trade. Goods such as lumber were shipped down the river. Eventually railroads developed alongside the river to make Jacksonville an important location for trade.
The expansion of stockyards, slaughterhouses, and the paper and lumber industries created major pollution problems in the St. Johns River during the late 1800s. Initially, the pollution was not considered a problem because of the old phrase, “dilution is the solution to pollution.” Since the river was so large, many thought the pollution would be diluted to a level that would not be dangerous.
After World War II, Jacksonville experienced a rapid increase in population growth and the city took on a “pro-growth and pro-development” mindset. Jacksonville became a well-known port city for lumber due to the growing paper industry.
Throughout the 1970s-90s, development in Jacksonville became too intense to combat pollution. The state of Florida threatened to prevent development if the pollution continued. Early efforts to clean up the river were a success largely thanks to the Clean Water Act and Mayor Hanz Tanzler’s push for environmental regulation. Hanz Tanzler also commissioned a study on Jacksonville’s parks in 1970. The study found that Jacksonville was significantly behind in the growth of parks compared to the rest of the United States. In 1999, Mayor John Delany and the City of Jacksonville worked to create the Preservation Project Jacksonville. The project acquired land to help divert growth to certain areas of Jacksonville, which later transformed these green spaces into parks and preserves for public access. Jacksonville now has the largest urban parks system in the United States, largely due to the work of the Preservation Project and the government partnerships created by the City of Jacksonville, the National Park Service and the Florida State Parks.
The St. Johns River Taxi has provided transportation up and down the river for a number of years. The service provides a variety of destinations within the downtown area. The group boarded the boat at Friendship Fountain and took the downtown loop to view Jacksonville from the water. The ride included passing by the recently imploded former Jacksonville City Hall, a view of the bottom of Jacksonville’s infamous bridges, and a new perspective of both downtown Jacksonville and the St. Johns River.
The next event in February 2019 will take participants on a paddle with the St. Johns Riverkeeper. The final wrap- up party for the 20189-2019 series will take place in March.
The third event in Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It took place in November with the St. Johns River Water Management District. The featured speaker for the event was Jennifer Mitchell, the public communications coordinator of the SJRWMD.
The event took place at Julington-Durbin Preserve. The preserve is a quiet getaway filled with diverse ecosystems nestled between suburbs and business offices. Julington and Durbin Creeks flow through the preserve. Both creeks are tributaries to the St. Johns River. They provide a good example of why protecting parks can help protect the river.
Mitchell led participants on the 3.9 mile White Blaze Trail. This trail provides a view of the many natural communities that exist in the preserve. From sandhill to flatwood and the wetlands area, the land provides a diverse range of ecosystems.
The St. Johns River Water Management District performs controlled burns in the preserve as part of their land management plan. Mitchell discussed the technique and importance of controlled burns. Many ecosystems like the ones seen in the preserve are fire dependent. These ecosystems require fire to restore diversity. Controlled burns also reduce the risk of dangerous wildfires. The gopher tortoise, longleaf pine, and wiregrass are fire-dependent species found in the preserve.
The sandhill community has seen a purposeful reduction in sand pines and a resurgence of longleaf pine (which was the dominant forest prior to silviculture), wiregrass, and pawpaw. The flat woods have a large population of longleaf pine. If controlled burns are not performed in the flat woods, palmetto will suppress the growth of the longleaf pine and reduce habitat for the gopher tortoise. Cypress, cinnamon fern, Florida cottonmouths, and manatees have been found in the wetlands. Both Julington and Durbin Creeks flow through the wetlands area. Wetlands play a vital role in protecting Julington and Durbin Creeks which flow into the St. Johns River.
The next event will be held in January 2019 and will take participants to the Jacksonville Riverwalk for a lecture by UNF history professor, Dr. Charles Closmann and a ride on the St. Johns River Taxi. The remaining 2018-2019 events will feature a paddle with the St. Johns Riverkeeper and a hike hosted by the Ixia Native Plant Society.
This year, student project leader Katie Vearil led the fourth series of “Beyond the Trail.” After participating in the St. Johns River Experience at UNF, she was inspired to educate others on the historical, scientific, and economic significance of the river. This inspired her to create, “Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It.”
The first event of the series took place in September 2018 at the Theodore Roosevelt Area. Dr. Keith Ashley, a UNF Assistant Professor of Anthropology and National Park Service Ranger Craig Morris were the featured speakers. Ranger Morris discussed the history of the park and talked about the native flora and fauna in the park. Dr. Ashley talked about the first people to inhabit the area around the watershed – the Timucua Indians.
The second event occurred in October 2018 with Kay Ehas, executive director of Groundwork Jacksonville. Ehas took participants along the future site of the Emerald Trail – a system of trails and parks that connect Jacksonville’s urban core. The group then participated in Groundwork’s monthly cleanup along Hogan’s Creek.
The final event of 2018 took place in November with Jennifer Mitchell from the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD). Mitchell led participants on a hike of Julington-Durbin Preserve which is managed by the SJRWMD. She spoke about important land management practices such as controlled burns and protecting native plants.
The first event of 2019 happened in January. Dr. Charles Closmann, a UNF Associate Professor in the history department, spoke at Friendship Fountain about the modern history of the St. Johns River and Jacksonville’s park system. After the talk, the group boarded the River Taxi for a ride on the river around downtown.
The fifth event in the series took place in February 2019 with the St. Johns Riverkeeper. Kelly Thompson Patton from the Riverkeeper discussed what the organization does as well as the history of Palmetto Leaves Park and the importance of the St. Johns River. Participants kayaked along Big Davis Creek and Julington Creek.
The final event of the series occurred in March 2019 at UNF’S Sawmill Slough Preserve. The speaker was Jake Tucker who performs wildlife monitoring in the preserve. He led the group on a guided hike of the area to showcase the native floria and fauna in the preserve.
The 2018-2019 series of Beyond the Trail was a great success as most of the student participants had not been to some of the parks and preserves and virtually knew little about the St. Johns River until attending this Beyond the Trail. More information about the 2019-2020 series will be available soon.
The final event of Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It took place at the UNF Sawmill Slough Preserve. Jake Tucker, an employee of UNF’s Environmental Center that performs wildlife monitoring in the preserve was the featured speaker for the event.
Former UNF President John Delany classified the area as a preserve in 2006. The preserve has almost 400 acres and includes wetlands, sandhills and flat woods regions. The goal that Delany set out to accomplish was to preserve the vital wetlands and natural habitat for the many native plants and animals that live in the preserve.
The preserve includes five different trail routes of varying lengths and difficulty levels. Tucker took the group by Lake Oneida – a man madelake that is home to crayfish and turtles. Students can often be found kayaking in the lake.
The Gopher Tortoise Ridge is a short trail that boasts many gopher tortoise burrows along turkey oaks and longleaf pines. If the weather is right and you are lucky enough, you may see a gopher tortoise or two outside of their burrows.
The 2018-2019 series for Beyond the Trail has now concluded. Each event revealed new information about how the St. Johns River connects us to our parks and our city.