I’m writing this the week before Thanksgiving and thinking about what I’m thankful for this year. At the top of that list is knowing that I live enfolded in the Springs Heartland of Planet Earth.
What healing gifts these springs offer to the world! Gifts of beauty, inspiration, relaxation, rejuvenation, life itself. Gifts not only to humans, but also to fish, birds, turtles, manatees and plants that depend on our springs and spring-fed rivers for life-giving water.
Water makes these gifts to us and, because we are interdependent with the world around us, we can also give back to water.
Since we’re moving into the season of Christmas, Hanukkah and Yule/Winter Solstice—holidays traditionally marked by gift giving—here are a few suggestions for local places to shop, if you’re looking for a water-related gift, or to offer a contribution, if you want to donate to a good cause. (See links in the sidebar.)
Rum 138 has something for almost everyone on your gift list, from canoe/kayak trips on a section of the Santa Fe River known for its many springs to water-themed books, paintings, pottery and jewelry. The gallery offers work by artists including John Moran, Jill Heinerth, Mark Long and Rum 138 owners Doug Jipson and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson.
Lanza Gallery and Art Supplies carries paintings, jewelry and pottery from local artisans as well as art and craft supplies. Lanza also offers classes and workshops for adults and children. Whose water-related creativity could you inspire with the gift of a class or art supplies? Some of the artists whose work you’ll find at Lanza are Barbara Knutson, Tim Malles, Karen LeMonnier and owner Tina Corbett.
Canoe, Kayak and Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Outfitters. Why not give someone a chance to experience our rivers and springs on a fun outing? In addition to Rum 138, there are many outfitters who offer shuttle service and rent canoes, kayaks and SUPs for trips on local waterways. Check out Adventure Outpost and its Springs Republic boutique, Drift, Santa Fe Canoe Outpost, Paddling Adventures, and Ichetucknee Family Canoe & Cabins.
If you’re considering a year-end donation to a nonprofit group that educates and advocates for protection of our springs, rivers, and aquifer, check out these local and nearby organizations.
Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) stopped a potential influx of water bottling plants on the Lower Santa Fe, advocates for a moratorium on water use permits, and is actively opposing the Sabal Trail Pipeline and a proposed phosphate mine on the New River (a tributary of the Santa Fe in Bradford and Union counties). OSFR also holds regularly scheduled paddle trips and is involved in a multitude of other activities.
The Ichetucknee Alliance legally challenged a bad minimum flow and level rule and worked to move the Sabal Trail Pipeline away from the Ichetucknee. The group monitors water quality and fish populations, organizes the “Water Voices” speaker series, and maintains a dialogue with state agencies that resulted in a new restoration focus area and economic incentives for agriculturalists to protect the Ichetucknee.
With a long-term goal of establishing a permanent springs research center, scientists at the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute (FSI) develop restoration plans and management goals that serve as blueprints for many springs advocacy groups, including members of the Florida Springs Council. FSI also offers monthly Springs Academy classes at its new North Florida Springs Environmental Center and holds annual “Give Springs a Break” events for college students. The Environmental Center also sells springs-related books and t-shirts.
The Florida Springs Council is made up of close to 40 advocacy organizations that represent over 150,000 citizens. The Council organized the 2016 Springs Restoration Summit that brought scientists, water managers and advocates together for 2-1/2 days of discussion about how to save our springs. The Education, Legal, and Legislative committees work actively in those three areas to restore, protect and preserve Florida’s springs.
Through their website, exhibitions, transit bus wraps and other activities, the three artists (John Moran, Lesley Gamble and Rick Kilby) who run the Springs Eternal Project (SEP) work to inspire people to value and redefine our relationship with springs. This past summer, SEP ran a Springs Ambassadors camp for middle school students.
The 10-year-old Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University Law School in Orlando is focused on changing and expanding our laws to provide better protection for springs and other natural systems.
To learn more about…
Lanza Gallery and Art Supplies
Our Santa Fe River
Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute
North Florida Springs Environmental Center
Florida Springs Council
Springs Eternal Project
Center for Earth Jurisprudence
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of "The Observer," a free monthly tabloid (circulation 5000 copies) distributed in the High Springs/Alachua/Newberry/Jonesville/Fort White areas of North Florida. Many thanks to publisher Barbara Llewellyn for her kind permission to post it here.