This year, student project leader Katie Vearil led the fourth series of “Beyond the Trail.” After participating in the St. Johns River Experience at UNF, she was inspired to educate others on the historical, scientific, and economic significance of the river. This inspired her to create, “Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It.”
The first event of the series took place in September 2018 at the Theodore Roosevelt Area.
The second event occurred in October 2018 with Kay Ehas, executive director of Groundwork Jacksonville. Ehas took participants along the future site of the Emerald Trail – a system of trails and parks that connect Jacksonville’s urban core. The group then participated in Groundwork’s monthly cleanup along Hogan’s Creek.
The final event of 2018 took place in November with Jennifer Mitchell from the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD). Mitchell led participants on a hike of Julington-Durbin Preserve which is managed by the SJRWMD. She spoke about important land management practices such as controlled burns and protecting native plants.
The first event of 2019 happened in January.
The fifth event in the series took place in February 2019 with the St. Johns Riverkeeper. Kelly Thompson Patton from the Riverkeeper discussed what the organization does as well as the history of Palmetto Leaves Park and the importance of the St. Johns River. Participants kayaked along Big Davis Creek and Julington Creek.
The final event of the series occurred in March 2019 at UNF’S Sawmill Slough Preserve. The speaker was Jake Tucker who performs wildlife monitoring in the preserve. He led the group on a guided hike of the area to showcase the native floria and fauna in the preserve.
The 2018-2019 series of Beyond the Trail was a great success as most of the student participants had not been to some of the parks and preserves and virtually knew little about the St. Johns River until attending this Beyond the Trail. More information about the 2019-2020 series will be available soon.
I joined the Environmental Leadership Program to aid in my growth both professionally and personally. The program allows for a community of like-minded students to help one another gain valuable skills and achieve their goals. Through the program I hope to gain the skills needed to become a strong leader and advocate for the environment while making a positive impact in our community.