The River of Grass Canoe Expedition 2014 paddled through Miami Springs last week as experienced paddlers and Everglades experts led the annual expedition through the Southern Everglades.
The Miami Springs Lions Club opened its doors to the paddlers for a pit stop on Thursday night as the team needed a place to set up tents, and to rest their heads and their canoes. The Lions Club was the perfect spot on the map for the team, which began its journey at Lake Okeechobee and made its way to the Miami River and into Biscayne Bay.
The purpose of the unique expedition was to follow the water flow, monitor water quality, plant and wildlife, and to share these experiences with area schools via live webcasts. Classrooms joined every morning and every afternoon for the live broadcasts. Students from Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Palm Beach County were able to observe, interact and ask questions on the spot to the researchers.
The group began their adventure by launching out of Roland Martin Marina in Clewiston. They camped in tents every night along the way. Their itinerary brought them to Everglades Holiday Park, then to Mack’s Fish Camp. It was imperative that the group had a place to set up camp between Mack’s Fish Camp and their final destination at Biscayne Bay by Rickenbacker Causeway.
“All of this wouldn’t have been possible if the Lions Club hadn’t said yes to us,” said expedition leader Chris Carl. “We are truly grateful to the Lions Club and the Miami Springs community for allowing us to be here.”
Miami Springs Lions Club president Doris Sauer was quick to point out that “it was a unanimous decision for us to open our doors.”
Lions members met the group as they arrived in Miami Springs at about 4 p.m. The group was treated to a barbeque dinner and the following morning many Lions Club members returned to watch the excitement of the live webcast.
The team shared a few things that Miami Springs residents have known for years. “As we began to get closer to this area we spotted many iguanas, parrots and Muscovy ducks.” As they slept in their tents along the canal behind the Lions Club, they could hear sounds from Hialeah traffic. “The drivers were honking as though they wanted to say hello to us,” said Carl, an experienced paddler with decades of experience in marine and coastal clean-up who was leading the expedition for the fourth time.
Carl was joined by other Palm Beach County residents Susan Sylvester, who is chief of operations with the South Florida Water Management District; Tomas Boiton, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Citizens for Improved Transit; and Allen Trefry, a specialist in hydrology and water resource management with the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management.
From Broward County were Victor Suarez, with an extensive background in natural science and education, who is the NatureScape Broward Education specialist; Robert Carew, a certified Florida Master Naturalist and a Natural Resource Specialist with the County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Growth Management; and Flex Maslan, an avid paddler and accomplished outdoor photographer.
From Miami-Dade was Janet Talbot, an avid outdoor enthusiast and explorer of the Everglades with a Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics. Also from Miami was Carlos Arazoza, an attorney, CPA and former chairman of the South Florida National Parks Trust, a back-country volunteer with the Cypress National Preserve and founder of the South Florida Bushpaddlers Association.
The luckiest two in the group were Hope Hitchcock and son Ted, who were added because two other paddlers had to cancel. Hope has a Master’s Degree in Education and Ted, 12, is an avid outdoorsman and homeschooled student.
To say this group is a team of experts would be a complete understatement. While each person brought their knowledge and expertise to the expedition they all share a common passion, and that is a passion for education. The expedition’s main focus was to educate the public about the treasure of the Everglades. The aim is to create a continuum of education for students, ultimately creating young stewards of the Everglades, who will ensure the Everglades and other wetlands are preserved for future generations.
“This year’s expedition is especially interesting for the students because they are able to see the changes from fresh water at the top of the Miami Canal, to brackish water further south, and then to salt water at the Miami River,” said Carl. “They can see the changes in the plant life along the way and the effect salt water has as it intrudes deeper into the canal from the Miami River. This route is also important historically, because it was a significant transportation route in the 1800s.”
The River of Grass Expedition was organized by the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades. The live webcasts were all recorded and archived. If you’d like to learn more about the River of Grass Expedition you can visit www.artmarshall.org.