Summer for me growing up in Virginia was marked as beginning on Memorial Day. Then I knew school would soon be over. And it ended unofficially on Labor Day, when I also knew it was time to go back to school.
Back then, classes didn’t start until after Labor Day, and we always had a big family beach cookout with my father’s company to mark the occasion.
So now that we have started our traditional summer, I have a challenge for the readers of River Life:
This column has been dedicated to telling you about the life of the St. Johns River. So my challenge to you is to get out and enjoy the river this summer. Think of it as your “summer resolution.”
There are so many outstanding opportunities to enjoy the river that there really isn’t a good excuse not to. I understand parking and river access can be a problem, but with a little forethought and planning, you can find plenty of good options.
If you go to the city of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation web page (http://ow.ly/Nygza), you will find that we have a very large and highly diverse urban park system with more than 400 park and recreational sites, including open spaces, hiking and nature trails, numerous boat and kayak launch sites, and a very interesting arboretum. The city is also sponsoring a learn-to-swim program for children called Waterproof Jacksonville. Learning to swim is a critical need in a community surrounded by water.
We have the Riverwalk downtown on both the Northbank and the Southbank to enjoy. My summer resolution is to walk the entire Riverwalk. Not all at one time, but in short, manageable segments, probably mostly in the early evening when the temperature drops and there is a nice breeze along the river. I want to photograph the sights as I watch for manatees and dolphins.
I think if I had not become a marine biologist, I might have tried nature photography. I have thousands of old slides, waiting to be digitized, but that is a project for after retirement, which will not be anytime soon. I have too much to do and too many places to visit and explore, much of it right here in River City.
You can also go fishing. If you really want a treat, take a child fishing. Or maybe do something like taking the River Taxi across the river when you are exploring the Riverwalk. Then, have a meal at one of the restaurants that offers a river view.
The St. Johns Riverkeeper has an excellent guidebook and iPhone app for the St. Johns River called Get Your Feet Wet, which can guide you to discovering the river from Mayport to Palatka. These give you tips on where to go and what to do along the lower basin of the river. There is even information on identifying wildlife you might see.
The Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute is also co-sponsoring with the St. Johns Riverkeeper a summer camp for teenagers that will explore the river and other marine environments during the last two weeks of June.
The St. Johns offers so many ways to be enjoyed. It’s a shame not to take advantage of it.
ASK RIVER LIFE
Earlier this year there were frequent reports of dolphins dying along the East Coast. What has happened recently?
From July 2013 to April 2015, more than 1,600 dolphins died along the East Coast of the U.S., with more than 300 here in Florida. The cause of death is suspected to be a measles-like virus known as Morbillivirus. The good news is that the disease appears to have run its course and the number of deaths has declined. The bad news is we don’t know exactly what triggers an outbreak and have no way to stop it once it starts.
River Life runs the last Friday of each month in The Florida Times-Union. E-mail A. Quinton White, executive director of Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute, with questions about our waterways at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the MSRI, visit ju.edu/msri.