A view of the St. John's River with wild horses seen.
In Irish Gaelic, “uisce beatha” (pronounced whiska-ba) is the same thing the Romans called “aqua vitae”, or Water of Life. The Irish, being saucy, shortened that to “whiskey”, and thus the world was gifted with the Emerald Isle’s love and lore of the legendary fermented grain.

But that’s a whole different story. We digress.

The point is that water is and has always been the single most important natural resource — other than breathable air — which makes this planet so unique and extraordinary among just the nine (yes, we’re counting Pluto) in our solar system. It’s what makes plants and crops grow, keep bodies clean, keep us alive. You can survive up to thirty days without food, but water? Three days. Then you’re in trouble. So it behooves us as an intelligent species to keep it clean and accessible.

Volunteers working hard.
The group of volunteers posing together.
Valerie and Samantha Dailey
Volunteers geared and ready for clean-up.

“How important are the waterways?” asks Melissa Murray, Member Service Specialist with the Hernando County Association of Realtors. “It’s a lot of people’s livelihoods and safe haven. I know that’s what it is for me. I can’t imagine living anywhere where water isn’t nearby. You have to preserve that.”

For the entire month of July, the Florida Realtors Association has spearheaded the annual Clean Up Florida Waters Event. Thousands of Association members volunteered to clean up lakes, beaches, canals, and other waterways in an effort to promote the importance of healthy, vibrant natural ecosystems and community enjoyment. Florida Realtors, teaming up with community partners, cleaned up rivers, streams, bays, the Intracoastal Waterway, Gulf, and ocean environments, encouraging others to join the effort in keeping these neighborhood hubs clean.

“It brings attention to water areas in each county. Everybody does it differently,” says Valerie Dailey, owner/broker of Showcase Properties. She participated in several cleanup events in July as District 7 Vice President, including Citrus, Hernando, and Marion County. 

“It’s always fun promoting an event that means a lot to so many people.” She explains. “Water quality is a huge issue anywhere you live, so being able to participate in that activity and meeting other agents from other counties, getting involved in our communities and seeing this beautiful state was a really nice treat.”

“It’s always fun promoting an event that means a lot to so many people. Water quality is a huge issue anywhere you live, so being able to participate in that activity and meeting other agents from other counties, getting involved in our communities and seeing this beautiful state was a really nice treat.”

—Valerie Dailey, Owner/Broker of Showcase Properties

Florida’s waterways are, for most residents, the happy place where they boat, swim, ski, kayak, and paddleboard. They swim with manatees, marvel at the pristine beauty of the Everglades, and enjoy fishing for a big catch and a photo for bragging rights. Without the continued flourishing of these dynamic and essential places, our weekends and holidays would be much less to look forward to. But it’s a big state — so the Clean Up Florida program encourages people to start with their own backyard, as it were, and focus on keeping their community gathering spot beautiful and thriving.

 

A group of volunteers picking up litter.
The polo players on the field at sunset.
Lovely smiling volunteers

The efforts from the program also appear to be having a positive impact, much to the delight of the organizers. When volunteers showed up for the Hernando County event at Linda Pedersen Park, they were somewhat flummoxed to find the park was in nearly pristine condition — a solid difference from the year before when the team came for the first Clean Up Florida event. 

“It was really clean!” Murray laughs in wonder. “And then we saw a sign saying it had been voted ‘cleanest park in Hernando County’.” This was confirmation that the community itself had taken up the responsibility of maintaining the park, because, as Murray points out, “It takes more than just County workers to keep that park clean.”

The group of volunteers.It didn’t leave the assembled volunteers with much to do other than exclaim their admiration of the residents’ commitment and dedication. It was gratifying, to say the least, that the goals for the cleanup program had been taken so much to heart by the residents in this corner of Florida. The park was obviously important to the community — and like so many like it across the state, a place to gather and enjoy the outdoors, near the water. There are little corners of Florida like it all across the state, with neighborhoods who value and want to protect their own Shangri-La.

“I think it does start with the small things.” Murray reasons. “If our waterways aren’t clean, we’re eventually not going to have them or have those wonderful experiences. It’s universal that we all want to be in a peaceful, beautiful environment whenever we can.”

An aerial view of the Rainbow River with swimmers enjoying the pristine water.

If you would like to find out how your community can join next year’s Clean Up Florida Waters event, or to find out how you can do your part in protecting our water and marine areas, visit the Florida Realtors website:  https://www.floridarealtors.org/events/clean-up-florida-waters.

Have more questions about Ocala and more of Central Florida? Take a look at our Discover Ocala blog category for a look at local events, neighborhoods, residents, and more!