About 70 volunteers recently spent a morning cleaning invasive algae out of Weeki Wachee Springs in Hernando County.
The volunteer event was a coordinated effort by the District and local rotary clubs to remove a blue-green algae known as Lyngbya. This event was part of a long-term maintenance plan for a District restoration project completed in 2009 designed to help keep the river healthy.
While not all algae are bad, this quick spreading species can rapidly invade disturbed areas and displace beneficial grasses, reducing the overall stability of this unique underwater ecosystem. Volunteers used rakes to lift the invasive algae off of the submerged grasses. Karen Van Sickle, of the Brooksville Rotary, said the volunteers used a very careful process.
“You get in and you rake it out without removing the eel grass, working to preserve and clean off the eel grass,” she said. “The lyngbya gets on it and smothers it, kills it and eel grass is good.”
The harvested algae were then placed onto kayaks which were filled and then dumped on to a pontoon boat. The collected algae were dried and hauled away to be used as fertilizer at other locations.
The technique was developed by the Kings Bay Rotary and its president Art Jones, who founded the One Rake at a Time Program in Citrus County. That program was an inspiration to the Brooksville and Spring Hill Central rotary clubs, which wanted to apply it to Weeki Wachee Springs.
Jones said this type of community effort sends a message about the importance of our springs.
“We had Rotarians here, we had volunteers here, we had people from Swiftmud here, we had people from all walks of life joining together to clean up the environment and that’s what it’s all about,” Jones said. “That’s what I like, when you see the community integrating and we all work to that common cause.”
The District’s Springs Team Leader Chris Anastasiou said he hopes the event educated the volunteers.
“I hope that people walk away from the event with an appreciation of what’s here,” he said. ” It’s really important to know that this river is unlike any in the world.
When you give the public ownership in restoring these springs, it’s hugely important because people really begin to understand the problems these systems face and ways in which each and every one of us can do something about it.”