The morning of September 14, 2022 Crystal River City officials, ecologists, community members and a group of Lecanto High School students met with members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation to discuss a project that has been brewing in downtown Crystal River. The project is to raise awareness and permanently connect, protect and restore the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Why Crystal River, you may ask?
Here is their answer:
“This 6.8 square mile coastal city is self-proclaimed “Home of the Manatee” and known for its world-class fishing, pristine waterways, and breathtaking views. Visitors from all over the world come year-round and the community local economies thrive on this tourism. It also relies on the Florida Wildlife Corridor for clean, healthy waters and wildlife populations. Learn about the importance of the Crystal River Connection, get to know our first mural artist, and see the partners who support the Crystal River Mural. Nature Coast towns like Dunnellon, Yankeetown, Crystal River and Homosassa, rely on the health of the geographic Florida Wildlife Corridor. Those communities’ economies rely on visitors snorkeling, swimming and paddling the springs and rivers, manatee viewing, hiking and biking the trails, eating in local restaurants and staying in local hotels. Land protection within the corridor helps to sustain the wildlife and habitat that supports these economies.”
What is Florida’s Wildlife Corridor?
The Corridor provides animals with natural routes to travel, undisturbed, through the states growing communities. It makes up approximately 18 million acres of undeveloped land from the headwaters of the Everglades to the Panhandle. Of which, only 46% is protected from development.
During her speech, Maureen Vicaria, Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation Member, states that Crystal River is a “bottle neck” area of the corridor. This means that, in this area, is a very narrow (less than 1 mile) connection between corridors. If this connection is severed, humans, plants and wildlife will not be able to thrive. She uses Central Park, New York in a comparison to the effect of a disconnected corridor. Further explaining that Central Park is a miniscule part of the large city and is one of the only places to find grass and/or trees. Emphasizing that, if we do not take care of our corridor, we will end up in a similar situation with little-to-no plants or wildlife. “It will be like a bunch of green postage stamps across the state,” she pictures “and they won’t be connected.”
So, what is the project?
Maureen introduces the project as a “Science Based Visual Mural Campaign”. This campaign is projected to be state-wide with Crystal River being the starting point. “We hope to have 50 murals in 50 towns across the state” foundation member exclaims. “It’s not just about having beautiful art on the wall; this project is about community engagement.” The murals are a place for people to rally and ask important environmental questions. To gather local town leaders, students, visitors and residents and raise awareness of our precious wildlife corridor.
Chamber CEO and President, Josh Wooten, was asked to speak. “This is not anti-growth; this is smart-growth. Planned growth in the right places so that we can make sure our wildlife is protected and our natural resources are protected so we can still enjoy living in this wonderful place.” Wooten mentions that 1000 people a day (net) are moving to Florida. “We are just so thrilled to be a part of this project.” Says Wooten, “We are getting on the map for the right reasons, here in Crystal River. That we care, and that we embrace this, we embrace the mission, and we embrace the cause.”
Finally, Bryan Herrmann, planning and development director, was there representing the City of Crystal River. He says since adding murals to the cities code, we now have about 10 or 11, and that this one will be the most unique and best. He also thanked everyone involved from the cities point of view.
What makes this mural unique?
Artists, Kelly and Blake of Canvas of The Wild were happy to explain. Canvas of the Wild support’s community engagement and education, welcoming Lecanto High School students’ participation in the painting of the mural. She then brings up the technological and educational element of the artwork. Near Field Communication (NFC) “touch points” will be embedded into the wall for viewers to scan with their cell phones. This will allow people to access further information about the species and habitats reflected in the artwork.
On October 7th the Foundation will be partnering with Main Street and The City of Crystal River to do an unveiling of the mural and screening of their new production “Home Waters”. Home Waters is a documentary of a groups trek across 50 miles of the nature coast. This 4-day expedition started on paddleboards from Rainbow Springs State Park ending in an ocean debris cleanup in Homosassa Bay. Previous expedition films have received national attention and multiple film awards, so definitely stop by and check it out.
For more information about the wildlife corridor visit https://floridawildlifecorridor.org/
To view the trailer of their new production “Home Waters” visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31iPjywGwwI
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