Thousands Support ‘Hands Across Lagoon’
By Space Coast Daily // September 29, 2013
Lagoon’s health gains national attention
ABOVE IMAGES: Advocates in the Merritt Island area did a “Kayak across the Lagoon” event and lined up kayaks from one side of the lagoon to the other.
CENTRAL FLORIDA, USA – Thousands of residents held hands across seven coastal bridges throughout the region today in an effort to raise awareness about the serious threats to the health of the Indian River Lagoon.
“The goal is to raise awareness and let people know how truly important the health of our waterways is, not just to save species, but for people who want to use the waterways for fishing and recreation,” said Linda Walters, a UCF biologist who has been working to help restore oyster beds in the Mosquito Lagoon.
“Oysters are natural filters that help keep waterways clean and healthy for other species. These threats are real and we all need to do our part to turn this situation around. There’s a lot at stake.”
The lagoon is a diverse, shallow-water estuary spanning 156 miles from Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County to Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County.
IMPORTANT ECONOMIC RESOURCE
According to the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Indian River Lagoon is an important commercial and recreational fishery and economic resource to the state and region.
The total estimated annual economic value of the lagoon is $3.7 billion, supporting 15,000 full and part-time jobs and providing recreational opportunities for 11 million people per year.
Walters and an estimated 900 volunteers particpated at the South Causeway in New Smyrna Beach, while others did the same at the Max Brewer Causeway in Titusville, the Melbourne Causeway in Melbourne, the Wabasso Causeway in Vero Beach, the South Bridge Causeway in Fort Pierce and the Stuart Causeway in Stuart.
Advocates in the Merritt Island area did a “Kayak across the Lagoon” event and lined up kayaks from one side of the lagoon to the other.
“Everyone’s help is needed to make this event a success,” Walters said.
The synchronized event ran from 9 to 10 a.m. and is the region’s National Estuary Day project. Several other activities are planned before and after the event in each location.
BREVARD ZOO RECOGNIZED WITH CONSERVATION AWARD
Walters has worked for years on the science behind re-establishing oyster beds in the Volusia County portion of the lagoon referred to as Mosquito Lagoon.
She’s also working with the Brevard Zoo to inform the community and gather volunteers for oyster restoration and creating living shorelines to prevent erosion.
Walters, her husband and high school biology teacher Paul Sacks, and coordinator Jody Palmer from Brevard Zoo recently were named 2013 Disney Conservation Heroes for this work and earlier this week the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums presented Brevard Zoo with the North American Conservation Award for this collaboration.
“The goal is to raise awareness and let people know how truly important the health of our waterways is, not just to save species, but for people who want to use the waterways for fishing and recreation,” said Linda Walters.
In Brevard County, the lagoon’s health has been gaining a lot of attention because it has been deteriorating for years.