This project began when Matt Keene was eighteen months old.
It was at that point that his parents moved to the small town of Minneola, Fla near the headwaters of the Ocklawaha River. Growing up in Lake County, Keene was never quite aware of the association the many lakes in the aptly-named county had with the Ocklawaha. He was happy enough just to swim and fish in the cypress-bordered waters and hike and camp amongst the rolling hills and long-leaf pines. He did, however, recognize the steady decline in water levels throughout the Minnehaha and Harris chain of lakes as extensive droughts and water-withdrawals exposed white sand beaches where once-tannic waters rippled.
After a 310-mile kayaking expedition along the length of the St Johns River, Keene wanted to experience the St Johns River’s largest tributary, the Ocklawaha River. Accompanied by fellow paddler Ryan Cantey, Keene paddled the length of the Ocklawaha, beginning in the Harris Chain of Lakes, close to his childhood home. Had he undertaken the trip as a young boy, Keene might have been able to paddle the river from its true, historic source in the Green Swamp.
It was on this trip that Keene felt the river’s magnificence, flow and unique position as a signifier of Florida’s environmental attitudes. Paddling slowly through the Drowned Forest, along the most upstream stretches of the Rodman Pool, Keene was compelled to share the story of the Ocklawaha, Kirkpatrick Dam and Cross Florida Barge Canal with whatever audience he could gather.
This project, River be dammed, is a direct result and manifestation of those experiences.
River be dammed is a project that has taken more than six months to construct.
It could not have been completed without the support of Florida Defenders of the Environment, the Felburn Foundation and, specifically, Karen Ahlers.
It would not have been worth reading or viewing without the support of the Communication Department of Flagler College in St Augustine, Fla.
Many thanks to:
Lonesome Bert and the Skinny Lizards