By Alisha McDarris
For Hometown News
TREASURE COAST -- Some bearing signs and homemade T-shirts begging government to "Save our Rivers" are fighting for the health of an ecosystem. Some are fighting for the ability to return to normal water-based recreation. Some are fighting for their very livelihood.
Thousands bombarded the beaches in Stuart and Jensen Beach this past Sunday morning in another protest against toxic dumping and Lake Okeechobee Discharges.
Early estimates placed 10,000 people at the beach.
They signed petitions, hoisted angry posters, and stood in groups to form letters spelling "Save our rivers" for an aerial photograph.
Protestors then stood side by side at the water line, stretching themselves from Stuart Beach north to Jensen.
Most came out to stand up to politicians, for the local ecosystem and against toxic dumping by the Army Corps of Engineers, but some were fighting for the ability to feed and shelter their families.
Perhaps the group most affected by the harmful blue-green algae, murky water and dying ocean life are those who rely on the river to make a living.
Captain Marcia Foosaner runs a fishing charter along the Treasure Coast but hasn't put her boat in the water since the end of June.
"I wouldn't have the heart to take anybody fishing in this sewer," Capt. Foosaner said.
Dan and Rochelle Neumann, owners of Coastal Paddle Boarding in Stuart, should be busy this time of year, but can't offer paddleboard rentals when people are instructed not to come in contact with the water.
"Our business is D-E-A-D. Dead in the water," Mr. Neumann said.
"Dead because of the water," Mrs. Neumann said.
The Neumanns, along with other local business owners, have even gone as far as sending bills to the Army Corps of Engineers for lost wages due to lack of business. The kicker is that they have a daughter going off to college this fall with no business revenue to pay for it.
Both believe this is a disaster for the entire Treasure Coast and its economy and Stuart Mayor Eula Clarke agreed, attributing the core issue to government mismanagement and greed.
"We can't have a vibrant community when we have an almost dead St. Lucie River," Mayor Clarke said. "It's like a part of us is dying."
Even some non-marine based businesses are feeling the negative effects of the toxic slime that has taken over the waterways.
Dale Davenport, who originally moved to Stuart because of its beautiful waters, now owns a wealth management company and is noticing that clients are leaving the city in search of greener pastures and bluer waters.
"If no one's going to fix this, a lot of businesses are going to suffer," Mr. Davenport said. Businesses still have to pay rent and feed their families despite having no business.
But Mayor Clarke, Captain Foosaner, even the Neumanns, are hopeful that if residents from Hobe Sound to Fort Pierce continue to raise their voices in protest, they will not go unnoticed.
"The river can't speak for itself. We need to support the river when the river needs help," Mayor Clarke said.
"I think if we keep at it we can make something happen," Capt. Foosaner said.
More scheduled protests are in the works in the hopes that concerned residents will continue to come out and fight for their businesses and their way of life on the Treasure Coast.