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Neil Armingeon announces he will be the new Matanzas Riverkeeper

4:52 PM, Dec 11, 2013   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The Nation's Oldest City welcomed the country's newest Riverkeeper Tuesday when Neil Armingeon announced he will be the new Matanzas Riverkeeper.

Armingeon, who served for eight years as the St. Johns Riverkeeper, says one of his chief priorities will be protecting the river's oyster beds, which are threatened by development, pollution and sea level rise. Despite those threats, the southern Matanzas remains one of just three local fisheries where shellfish may be safely harvested and consumed -- and one of just 13 in the state.

Armingeon said he hoped to bring a new focus and energy to local efforts to protect the 23-mile Matanzas.

"Everybody should realize how blessed we are to have this river as part of our community," he told First Coast News. "And when they think about Matanzas Riverkeeper, I want them to realize that we're gong to be out protecting this river. That's our job and we take it very seriously."

St. Augustine welcomes new Riverkeeper

Several dozen locals and environmentalists attended the ceremony at Genung's Fish Camp in Crescent Beach, with the river's oyster beds and frolicking dolphins as a backdrop. Patrick Hamilton, a longtime civic and environmental activist, helped bring the Riverkeeper chapter to St. Augustine. He said the community was thrilled to have Armingeon's experience focused on protecting the waterway.

"It's one of the few places in the state where the water is still clean and we have an intact food web," he told the several dozen who attended Tuesday's announcement.

No local officials were in attendance, although many were invited, but Armingeon said he will make his presence known in the coming weeks and months. He will also focus on raising money to operate the chapter, and meeting with residents to discuss their concerns.

Although the water quality of the Matanzas is among the cleanest in the state, Armingeon said that's all the more reason it needs a strong advocate. He notes that there are two wastewater discharges upstream of the prized oyster beds, and their operations will be one focus of the Riverkeeper's attention. 

"I have been blessed in my life to defend some incredible bodies of water," he told the crowd. "I've loved every one of them. But there is something about this river that speaks to me I way none of the others did to me."

First Coast News

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