WEEKI WACHEE — Now, just months away from a state-sponsored restoration project, the Weeki Wachee River is getting some extra help from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which owns much of the surrounding uplands.
The district, along with local and state partners has launched a public education campaign to educate visitors the best ways to enjoy the river while protecting it by reducing negative impacts.
The recent carrying capacity study funded by the district and Hernando County found direct links between recreational use on the river and environmental damage. For example, visitors leaving kayaks while on the river have trampled vegetation and eroded riverbanks and sand point bars. Also, numerous trees have been damaged from climbing and rope swinging.
The study showed that managing the types of activities on the river is just as important, if not more important, as managing the number of visitors.
The campaign focuses on seven rules for visitors, which include staying in their vessel, tying off in shallow waters if necessary, avoiding docking on riverbanks, not trampling vegetation or kicking up silt, avoiding walking on banks or sand bars, not climbing trees or using rope swings and not littering.
The campaign will be a community effort with free education materials made available at kayak shops, vacation rentals and other businesses near the river.
For more information and to see videos related to the river, visit WaterMatters.org/ProtectWeeki.