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Jacksonville University, JAXPORT team up to help educate North Florida residents about St. John's River's health

JU and JAXPORT have created "Connected," a program aimed at teaching North Florida residents what they can do to help improve the health of the St. John's River.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The St. Johns River is as beautiful as it is important.

"Cargo activity through Jacksonville's seaports supports nearly 139,000 jobs in our state and has an economic impact of more than 31 billion dollars," JAXPORT CEO, Eric Green, said. 

JAXPORT and Jacksonville University teamed up to create, Connected, a program whose goal is to raise awareness about the importance of the St. Johns River as a vital natural resource. 

"We're going to reach out to the public through education, business, general information and let people know what's going on with the river and the importance of the river," Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute (MSRI) Executive Director, Dr. Quinton White, said. 

Before launching the program, JU and JAXPORT surveyed 470 North Florida residents and asked them if they knew how to protect the health of the river. 

The two organizations said nearly one in four people said they did not know how they could better protect the river. 

"Our program is going to work on that, because we can all do more for our river," Jacksonville University assistant professor of marine science, Dr. Melinda Simmons, said. 

Dr. Simmons is also leading Connected. She says the program's goal is to reach people of all ages. 

"We do talk about the water quality salinity impacts so again taking down the Rodman Dam could increase some of that increase the flow to the south. We have everything from coloring sheets up to more formal lesson plans," Simmons added.

"We want this connected program to drop that brick, if you would, in the river and let the ripples spread out throughout the community,"

The two organizations weren't motivated by one specific event or ongoing problem. Instead the two wanted to teach people how to be a good neighbor to one of Jacksonville's oldest residents.

"The river is important to our quality of life and again it's a responsibility of all to protect it," JAXPORT Immediate Past Chairman, Jamie Shelton, said. 

For more information on Connected, you can visit its website.