Concerned residents gathered in Stuart to voice their opinions regarding damage to the river
By Alisha McDarris
For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY -- Despite the rain, as many as 6,000 concerned residents gathered at Phipps Park in Stuart Aug. 3 to stand up for their local waterways and protest the contaminated water being dumped into the St. Lucie River.
The park was an ideal location for the rally because of its proximity to the locks that are operated by the Army Corps of Engineers that are responsible for the dumping.
The locks were where protesters marched, armed with clever signage and homemade T-shirts proclaiming their outrage.
"Save our river," "I fish, I vote," and "Respect existence or expect resistance," were among the signs and banners being hoisted.
Before the march, attendees listened to brief presentations by organizers Evan Miller, Clint Starling and Mark Perry of the Florida Oceanographic Society. The presentations educated protesters as to why the river is in the condition it is.
Toxic algae is spreading, manatees, oysters and pelicans are dying, and signs have been posted by the county banning swimming, because of polluted water being dumped by the locks and discharged from Lake Okeechobee.
"It's a shame we have such beautiful waterways but can't use them," said protestor Landa Starling of Jensen Beach.
Veronica Dalton, a member of the RiverKidz, offered a message to big sugar that many blame for contamination.
"Do you care more about your sugar cane or the health of an entire eco-system?" Miss Dalton said. "Save our rivers, please."
Mr. Miller's goal for the protest, which was arranged in only five days, was to unite the community in a stand against the parties responsible and spread awareness. He hopes that the plight of the St. Lucie River will make national news.
Protests of this sort have been conducted before, but according to Mr. Miller, this is the most well attended one that Stuart has seen.
"I think if enough of us rally together our voices will be heard," said Tracy Bresson of Jenson Beach at Saturday's protest.
Protesters were called to action, encouraged by the Rivers Coalition, an organization that fights for local waterways, to write to government officials demanding change, sign a petition to ensure the protection of the estuary, and cast their vote for candidates who pledge to fight for the river. The Coalition was also the recipient of the more than $1,120 that was raised at the event.
"The residents of the river will not stand by and watch it die," Mr. Miller said.
More information on the health of the estuary, details about Plan 6 that offers a solution to the problem, and online petitions can be found at www.riverscoalition.org.
Note: Another Save the St. Lucie River & Wildlife rally is planned for 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, at Stuart Beach.