UNF students paddle their way up the St. Johns River


(Photo courtesy of Ryan Barber)

By: Sarah Brown, Contributing Writer

UNF students Ryan Barber and Ty Miller will be traveling 310 miles up the longest Florida river on stand-up paddle boards.

They hope their endeavor will draw attention to the environmental and recreational issues surrounding the St. Johns River while raising popularity for stand-up paddle boarding as an outdoor recreational sport.

Barber and Miller’s expedition, Stand Up for the St. Johns, will begin in May and will run for two weeks.

The journey will give Barber and Miller a chance to see the river up close while helping bring attention to the pollution issue, Barber said.

Currently, the historical river is of high concern. The water’s brown hue underscores the detrimental state of the waterway.

UNF Chair of the Department of Biology Dr. Courtney Hackney said there is a legacy of negative environmental impact on the water that needs cleaning up. Pollutants, such as fertilizers from the land, cause imbalances in the water.

“You just can’t separate the water from the land,” Hackney said.

Stand Up For The St. Johns will be partnering with St. Johns Riverkeeper, a well-established, privately funded, independent advocacy organization working for these causes. Access Your St. Johns River, a group that has coalesced to push for improved small craft access to the river in the Jacksonville area, will join them.

Executive Director for the St. Johns Riverkeeper Jimmy Orth said he is happy to work with the two UNF students to raise awareness about the river’s nutrient and habitat issues, as well as to encourage recreation on the river.

Though it is in a bad state, the Jacksonville community should not give up on the river because it can provide an opportunity for recreation and enhance the quality of life, said Orth.

Both students have background knowledge that will help them on their trip. Barber is an American Canoe Association-certified instructor with Black Creek Guides.

Miller is a competitive paddler and employee at Sunrise Surf Shop. He is also the owner and operator of Backyard Explorations, an adventure group offering Eco tours.

“What better way to travel the St. Johns than in the most primitive way, on stand-up paddle boards,” Barber said. “Anyone can do this, and we want people to have a chance to join us.”

Email Sarah Brown at [email protected]