City Commissioner Anita Grove to join paddling fundraiser for the Riverkeeper

This Tuesday morning, Oct. 9, a team of ardent paddlers will launch their gear-laden kayaks at the northern end of Florida’s Apalachicola River just below the Jim Woodruff Dam in Chattahoochee.

Their goal? Follow the river nearly 110 miles over five days until it empties into Apalachicola Bay, all part of RiverTrek 2018, the annual fundraiser for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. The non-profit member-based organization is celebrating 20 years of protecting the Apalachicola River and Bay.

The Apalachicola River moves the largest volume of water of all Florida rivers, as it nourishes Apalachicola Bay's diverse estuary, famous for its oysters and seafood. The river basin provides critical habit for plant and wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species.

RiverTrek has special significance this year since the U.S. Supreme Court has considered the issue of upstream water use, primarily in Georgia, and its effects on the river and bay. A special master appointed by the Supreme Court, Paul J. Kelly, Jr., a senior U.S. appeals court judge, has been tasked with further investigating the issue and weighing solutions.

The 16 RiverTrek participants hail from Tallahassee, Apalachicola, Sopchoppy, Gainesville, North Carolina, rural Georgia and metropolitan Atlanta. There are millennials, retirees and baby boomers. Volunteer fundraising efforts have included events at local breweries, a fish fry, neighborhood and community meet-and-greet gatherings, a wine and cheese social, an ice-cream social, and a bingo party. Each RiverTrek group has raised more funds than the previous, and last year’s group set a high bar of $60,000.

“Core outreach and education programs are supported through RiverTrek fundraising efforts,” said Executive Director and Riverkeeper Georgia Ackerman. “The community awareness raising aspect of RiverTrek is central to the mission of Apalachicola Riverkeeper.”

This year’s group includes Apalachicola City Commissioner Anita Grove. “Our lives revolve around the Apalachicola River and Bay,” she said. “They are woven into every aspect of our lives and our livelihoods. By participating in RiverTrek I hope to help raise awareness about the issues and help ensure Apalachicola Riverkeeper can continue to bring focus to equitable use on the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint River system.”

Janine Gedmin, a recent Apalachicola transplant, is competing for being the lead RiverTrek fundraiser, having raised more than $6,000 thus far.

“Fundraising has been a blast,” she said. “I've reached out to family, friends and former colleagues from the Florida Keys, and many new friends here. People have been so generous. When you’re raising money for such a good cause it really is pretty easy and lots of fun.”

The RiverTrek team will gather at the River Landing Park in Chattahoochee for a 10 a.m. launch on Tuesday. They are slated to paddle into Apalachicola on Saturday, Oct. 13, between 4 and 6 p.m. The public is invited to welcome them as they land at the kayak launch beneath the Gorrie Bridge.

RiverTrek is coordinated by a volunteer team headed by Tommy Thompson of Tallahassee. You can support the RiverTrek team through the Riverkeeper website apalachicolariverkeeper.org/rivertrek