City officials and environmental advocates have partnered for an annual event they hope will drive residents to give back to their community by cleaning up the St. Johns River.
The 19th Annual St. John’s River Celebration will be held Saturday, March 22 beginning at 8 a.m.
The City of Jacksonville, Keep Jacksonville Beautiful and the St. Johns Riverkeeper have organized a mass clean-up at approximately 60 sites across Duval County, 48 of them public.
Last year, the alliance gathered 2,000 participants and completed 3,400 hours of work. Their goal is to surpass those numbers this year by orchestrating the most successful clean-up yet.
“We’re challenging the community to get involved,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper executive director Jimmy Orth. “Not only is this important for the river but it shows that we as a community have pride in our river and in our community.”
Orth said they hope to double the number of participants this year.
“We live in a metropolitan area of over a million people, four or five thousand people is just a very small percentage,” he said.
The groups describe this event as a “call to action” and they are strongly encouraging the public and civic groups to give back to the city they live and work in.
Sheila Cribb, Senior Vice President and Senior Portfolio Manager at Citi, said corporations should utilize the event as a team building exercise.
“Year after year when you participate your business really starts to take ownership in that site,” said Cribb. “It becomes an annual event for your employees that they look forward to.”
The coalition stresses the importance of trash removal to lower pollution and protect aquatic life.
“One cigarette butt can kill a fish; one plastic bag can be swallowed by a sea turtle can kill a sea turtle,” said Keep Jacksonville Beautiful chairman Chris Buckley.
She said those not attending the clean-up can still help by cleaning near the sewage drains around their home.
“We’ve got a lot of sewage problems where we have sewage creeping into the river,” said Jacksonville City Council Member Don Redman.
According to Redman, a substantial amount of septic tanks are not functioning properly because of age.
These tanks, which may be located only blocks from tributaries, could begin to leak, causing sewage to seep into the river.
Keep Jacksonville Beautiful is asking residents, businesses and civic groups to display signs outside their homes and establishments to promote the event.
Clean up times for specific sites around Jacksonville are online at coj.net.
You can follow Scott Harrison on Twitter @Sharrison983.