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Hi gang, Rick Ostler here from North American Waterway bringing you Used Pontoon Boats along with news and views from the boating industry. DUNNELLON — Jack Dennis piloted his 18-foot pontoon boat up the Rainbow River on a recent Saturday, watching for rocks, shallow areas and tubers bobbing in the cool water.
Rainbow River Patrol Waterway Clean Up
While folks on the boat were looking for trash on the waterway, it was hard to keep their eyes off the hundreds of fish swimming along the sandy bottom, numerous birds along the shore and a mischievous otter that surfaced to peek at the boat before darting back into the rippling current.
Trash in and along the river is a big problem, even if you don't immediately see it, said Jerry Rogers, coordinator of Rainbow River Conservation's annual Rainbow River clean-up. That is why Rogers would like as many volunteers as possible to meet at Rio Vista Park on May 17 to help with the clean-up.
Kayaks and Canoes for Waterway Clean Up
"You have to take your kayak or canoe and get in close to the shore to find trash," Rogers said. He said water bottles and soda cans tend to get caught in grass along the banks. He pointed out a bikini top draped over a Rio Vista Park sign. He picked it up earlier and put it there, he said, hoping the owner might come back for it.
"I found two pairs of shoes the other day set out right here beside the road," Rogers said. "Now wouldn't you think that people would miss their shoes?" In other years, volunteers have found T-shirts, towels, abandoned floats and inner tubes, lottery tickets and even false teeth, Rogers said.
Waterway Spring Clean-up
"The rules, regulations and enforcement have helped keep trash levels down a tremendous amount over the last years," Rogers said. "But there's still trash that gets blown into the river off of boats, or thrown into the river. We pick up a fair amount of trash each year during our spring clean-up, usually about a trailer full."
Over the years that Rainbow River Conservation has sponsored the event, groups such as area Scouts and high school students have lent a hand. About 140 people came out to help last year, Rogers said. "We will have the Marion County Sheriff's underwater recovery team," Rogers said, which lends the community a hand while practicing skills for their own operations.
Jet Boat owners no wake zone
While pollution from trash is a grave concern on the popular, fragile river, there are other issues. "I'd say the worst problem is getting people to adhere to the no-wake, idle speed," said Dennis, also a member of Rainbow River Conservation. "I hate to say this, but it's the fishermen with the big jet boats. They'll raise their prop up to try to keep from scarring (on the shallow bottom), and it throws a gigantic wake."
In 2006, Dennis endorsed forming the Rainbow River Patrol, a volunteer group supported by the Marion County Sheriff's Office. Members get training and must pass a test. With the mix of sometimes thousands of tubers out for a day on the river and people wanting to use boats in the same space, the river patrol is a welcome presence, Rogers said. "We use a sheriff's patrol boat and go out on weekends," Rogers said. "We wear shirts that say who we are, and talk to people in boats who may not be aware of things they can't do."
Kayak Group Cleans Up
The group regularly picks up debris, and people who live along the river are constantly policing it, Rogers said. "We have a kayak group that cleans up on a regular basis. If they go out on the river and see something, I know for a fact they pick it up."
Rainbow Springs is a first-magnitude spring ranked fourth in Florida for volume of discharge. It produces 400 to 600 gallons of water each day that disperses throughout its 5.7-mile length, according to Rainbow River Conservation officials. The 220-member group formed in 1962. They began sponsoring the annual river clean-up in 1980. While picking up somebody else's trash isn't the most pleasant task, organizers make it fun by awarding prizes for most trash, most unusual item, and largest item.
And, there's food. "After the clean-up, my wife and I will do a cookout for everybody who has taken part," Rogers said. "We do this every year. We'll have hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans and cold drinks."
Thanks to LORA E. IDE, Ocala.com for this.
Used Pontoon Boats, By Rick Ostler
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