STUART — As many as 2,000 people said they’ll join forces at Phipps Park on Saturday to show they’ve had enough of the pollution being pumped into the St. Lucie Estuary from Lake Okeechobee.
That’s how many RSVPs people had posted on the Save the St. Lucie River rally’sFacebook page as of Friday morning.
“My hope is that enough people will show up to prove that Martin County is willing to stand up and fight for its rivers,” said Clint Starling, who co-organized the rally with Evan Miller.
Attendees are encouraged to bring signs and posters and even dress in costumes that illustrate their agitation, the most creative of which will receive prizes donated by local businesses.
The rally will kick off at 10:30 a.m. with several speakers, followed by a march at 11 a.m. from Phipps Park to the adjacent government property where the infamous locks are located.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it must drain water from Lake Okeechobee to prevent a levee breach and flooding of the surrounding communities. Water is discharged through several South Florida Water Management District canals, including one that flows into the Indian River Lagoon via the St. Lucie River.
High levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and freshwater that reduces salinity in the brackish estuary can cause potentially toxic algae blooms, such as the lagoon is experiencing now, and other issues that kill wildlife.
Some say the government should protect the lagoon instead of sugar farmland around the lake, and advocate flooding their fields.
“We’re trying to educate the crowd,” Starling said. Miller added, “People know the river is screwed up, but we want to educate them as to why and how.”
IF YOU GO
What: Save the St. Lucie River rally
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Phipps Park, 2175 S.W. Locks Road, Stuart
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
10:35 a.m.: Florida Water and Land Legacy
10:40 a.m.: Larry Jones, Snook & Gamefish Foundation
10:45 a.m.: Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic Society
10:50 a.m.: Leon Abood, Rivers Coalition
10:55: Protest across the locks
Noon: Return to rally point for costume and sign awards
Traffic: Expected to be heavy due to tight entrance on Locks Road; attendees are encouraged to arrive early.
Parking: Martin County Sheriff’s Office volunteers will assist; attendees are encouraged to carpool.
Food/drinks: Bring your own. None will be available for purchase because the permit/insurance does not cover the presence of vendors.
Restrooms: There are permanent facilities at the park.
Donations: Welcomed to cover costs, including the $50 permit and $365 insurance, and to support the Rivers Coalition.