Art Jones is hoping to replicate his success in helping clean up Crystal River’s waters, this time for the Dunnellon area, as his nonprofit One Rake At A Time, Inc., sets its sights on restoring the Rainbow River to its original beauty.
Beginning in 2009, Jones, with his One Rake At A Time initiative has spent thousands of hours removing thousands of pounds of muck, algae, and invasive plants out of local waterways.
Jones started in Kings Bay in Crystal River cleaning and restoring Hunter Springs so that the local kids had a clean place to swim. This project was so successful that many other communities formed their own groups, modeled after One Rake At A Time. One Rake officially formed as a nonprofit in 2015.
The project grew and is now part of Save Crystal River’s Kings Bay Restoration Project. This large-scale vacuuming and replanting method has been so successful now Jones is looking to bring that method to the Rainbow River.
Studies have shown the Rainbow River is in decline and the lower Rainbow River is especially impaired by the invasion of hydrilla and muck. Hydrilla is native to Africa and Southeast Asia but was imported as an aquarium plant. After first being disposed of in Florida waters in the 1950s, the aggressive weed came to occupy around 140,000 acres of Florida waters by the 1990s, according to FWC.
To restore the river and eliminate the need for herbicides, Jones’ method, in part, aims to remove the hydrilla and replant native eelgrass in its place.
Toward that end, Jones has launched a fundraising initiative to undertake a detailed benthic survey that will allow the completion of the permit applications necessary from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
With the State Legislature being supportive of water restoration projects lately, Jones is confident this project can be added to the list of funded projects for next year as long as it is permitted and shovel-ready.
Visit the One Rake At A Time website at https://onerakeatatime.org to learn more about the project.