By Alisha McDarris
For Hometown News
TREASURE COAST -- The solemn sounds of dirges will fill the air, mourners in black will grieve, and a hearse will lead the way as people gather to bemoan the passing of a beloved friend: the Indian River Lagoon.
This Saturday, river warriors will replicate an event held in 1970: a mock funeral for the area's wrecked waterways. Together with Megan Remick and a whole host of other environmental activists, Stuart resident Michelle Roberts decided it was high time for another powerful symbol to raise awareness.
At 9 a.m., anyone and everyone who cares about the future of the rivers and estuaries in South Florida is encouraged to make their way to Phipps Park in Stuart for a mock funeral service that starts at 10 a.m.
"We're in mourning over all the animals that died last year and continue to die," said Ms. Roberts.
Well-known environmentalists like Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Florida Oceanographic Society's Mark Perry, who attended the original mock funeral in 1970, will deliver the eulogy. They are individuals who have been fighting for the river for years, know it like family, and will mourn it like family.
Following residents' goodbyes, a processional, complete with coffin, will weave its way to the nearby St. Lucie Locks to show dissatisfaction with the Army Corps of Engineers' recent actions.
The Army Corps of Engineers refused to sign off on the Central Everglades Planning Project that had given many hope for the region, thus delaying the project.
"We felt like it was a big setback, we felt like we were really moving forward," said Ms. Roberts.
The project would reduce hazardous discharges from Lake Okeechobee by moving more water south and away from the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
The South Florida Water Management District has endorsed the $2 billion plan and agreed to help fund it, but the project is stalled pending a sign off from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Ms. Roberts' hope is that they can fill the park with river warriors who won't stop until they've made a difference.
"We want to let them know that were not going away, that we want something done," Ms. Roberts said. "We hope that they hear us and our government starts pushing the Army Corps a little harder."
Ms. Roberts recommends residents join her for the service, dressed in black and toting signs expressing their dissatisfaction. They will be handing out flyers with contact information for local politicians and representatives.
"We want to continue to get the word out there," Ms. Roberts said. "We need to keep pressing forward."