The mission of the Lullaby of the Rivers Festival is to awaken and nurture connections to nature in gatherings of all ages, by using music and stories that inspire environmental awareness and consciousness.
Just look at the benefits for people that spend time outdoors and are connected to nature!
In 2005, Richard Louv wrote a bestselling book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” He writes, “Since 2005, the number of studies of the impact of nature experience on human developed has grown from a handful to nearly one thousand. This expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens ecological literacy and stewardship of the natural world.”
Richard Louv thinks Nature Deficit Disorder can be reversed, and we at Lullaby of the Rivers think so too. That’s why we create opportunities to gather people in outdoor settings, always with music and stories to entertain and to inspire awareness.
One of the highlights of the Lullaby of the Rivers Festival is the Earth Day Fair, where organizations set up booths with information and activities that teach about the outdoors, about the creatures that live there, and what we can do to preserve their habitat and ours. Hands-on activities show children — and adults — how to be involved in a way they will remember.
We also are developing the Raising Water Protectors project, based on a year-long, school-wide program at Jacksonville’s Fishweir Elementary School in 2005-2006. All students (PK-5) learned about Florida’s waterways and how they impact the flora and fauna and ultimately the lives of all who call Florida home. The inspiration for this comprehensive study was Bob’s award-winning song, “The Lullaby of the Rivers”.
Each class chose a river from the song and studied various aspects of their adopted river, like it’s geography, natural history, statistics, and ecology. They included school wide books-of-the-month and weekly assemblies where the children were invited to report on their river, sing water songs, and create art work. New understandings and appreciation for the unique ecosystems and habitats for wildlife were evident in the proliferation of student artwork as well as the research projects and responses to literature.
The idea works! They won an award with the program. The model can be applied to any state and any group of rivers. We need to teach our children about the environment. If we don’t, they won’t grow up wanting to protect it, and we need them to fight for it.
There are many organizations that support community environmental actions. For instance, the Litter Gitter is a program of Matanzas Riverkeeper that takes members of our community out on the river to remove trash from our waterways and to learn about the issues surrounding marine debris and litter. Friends of Anastasia State Park invite us to walk on the beach and feel fresh ocean breezes while help picking up trash to keep the beach beautiful and safe for guests and wildlife. There are many opportunities. Lullaby of the Rivers is creating a database to make them easy to find.
We’ve also created a membership program, Lullaby Buddies. Our Lullabuddies help us implement programs and offer ideas and assistance for carrying out our mission. Help us out! Be a Lullaby Buddy!
Bob Patterson has been a long-time activist, inspiring others through songs like “Silver Springs”, “Old Hawk”, and “Stop Stealing Our Water”.
The setting for many of my songs and stories is the Ocklawaha River Wilderness. I do this for a reason. The Ocklawaha is one of the oldest rivers in Florida flowing north from central Florida through wilderness for seventy four miles before reaching its destiny in the mighty St. Johns River just south of Palatka. The river has its own story to tell. In its day, it was considered to be one of the prettiest waterways in the world, attracting some notable characters such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, and Mary Todd Lincoln just to mention a few. The poet Sidney Lanier called it “the sweetest water lane in the world”. Thousands of people took steamboat rides up the Ocklawaha from Palatka to Silver Springs. A great deal of Florida history played out along the historic route to Silver Springs and beyond. Silver Springs, a major tourist attraction in its day, is one of the world’s first magnitude springs which for many years contributed large quantities of clean water to the Ocklawaha, making it the St .Johns River’s major tributary. Its contribution to the health of the St. Johns River is very important.
The Ocklawaha endured severe ecological damage when Florida’s biggest boondoggle, the Cross Florida Barge Canal, began construction in 1968. The Army Corps of Engineers rejected the project for many years, but succumbed to political pressure from both Tallahassee and the Federal government. Thanks to some amazing citizens, that project was declared an environmental disaster and halted by President Richard Nixon.
As part of the cross Florida barge canal construction plan, part of the river was impounded with the construction of dams, creating a shallow lake known as the Rodman pool or Lake Rodman. The plan was to remove the dams and restore the river after being declared a disaster, but developers wanted to keep the dams in place in the hopes that they could once again resurrect the barge project at some later date. Over the years big money won out and the Rodman dam (aka Kirkpatrick Dam) is still in place, even though the permit for the dam expired years ago.
The dam is located on land controlled by the U.S. Forest Service. Environmentalists have been fighting ever since to restore the river. The latest effort by the Florida Defenders of the Environment heard in court revealed that it did not have jurisdiction to rule over the National Forest Service. Opponents to restoration say that the Rodman pool is a reservoir and should be preserved. But the Rodman is not a reservoir. Reservoirs are designed to hold and conserve water. The Rodman is too shallow. Billions of gallons of water are lost everyday to evaporation.
It’s the perfect place to grow water vegetation and FWC sprays tons of herbicides on it to keep the lake navigable. Every few years they have to draw down the water to help kill off the vegetation. The plants die and sink to the bottom causing toxic mud. Signs are posted to warn about illness from eating the fish from the pool.
Taxpayers pay out over a million dollars a year to maintain the locks and dams. Manatees die when caught in the locks and dams. Natural fish populations, like striped bass, can’t migrate up the river past the dam. The same for manatees who once toured these waters all the way to the Silver River and beyond. Bass fishing tournaments are held at the Rodman yearly, but the biggest fish still come from the St. Johns and Ocklawaha River. The communities on the the
western side of the pool, the Eureka Dam side, used to have tourists who would come down to fish those chain of lakes along the river. But because of the dams, fish can’t migrate and, frankly, there are no fish worthy of the effort. Those communities lose important revenue from the sport fishing industry. So is it fair that Putnam County and parts of Marion County benefit while surrounding counties suffer? You might ask yourself how taxpayers in the Florida Keys
benefit from supporting the dams, and how about folks in the panhandle, how many of them drive to the Rodman when better fishing benefits exists in their own back yard.
Beneath the murky water of the Rodman pool are at least twenty beautiful springs that reveal themselves every several years when the FWC draws down the water in the pool to help control the overgrowth of aquatic weeds. People who make the effort to visit these springs during draw down instantly recognize their beauty and the potential for eco-tourism that might yield far more economic growth for the county than bass fishing.
When one studies these environmental events going on in Florida, you learn a lot about pork barrel politics and citizen-environmentalism, and you soon realize that there are two visions for Florida’s future and one of them ignores the future environmental crisis…water! The way I see it, we appear to regard the environment as a commodity belonging to us without love, respect, or high regard for its aesthetic value. In the more than fifty years that I have lived here, I’ve
seen our environment degraded to the point where it’s no longer safe to go to some of our beaches because of toxic algae blooms, flesh eating bacteria, or contamination from human waste. Many of our rivers and beautiful springs are contaminated with the same issues, and while there are good people, defenders of the environment, trying to call attention to these issues, politicians are not listening.
That’s why we ask for your support. Join our Lullaby of the Rivers team and create positive change.