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AES students help rake Lyngbya

Under gray skies on a recent Thursday morning, Academy of Environmental Science students shivered as learned the true meaning of environmental stewardship.

Through the One Rake at a Time Inc. and the Kings Bay Rotary, about 20 students entered Hunter Springs to maintain the unsightly Lyngbya that hides white sand.

“We are doing maintenance on the Lyngbya because we’ve been cleaning the swimming area regularly, but during the winter it basically goes dormant, so it’s really easy to get it,” said One Rake President and Rotarian Art Jones.

Despite the chilly air, as soon as the students stepped in the 72-degree springs they immediately felt warm enough to haul an entire trailerload of the Lyngbya, which will be used at a local farm.

Jones said they moved roughly two to three inches, which would clarify the water, revealing the white sandy bottom.

“It will just be more beautiful and more inviting, it’s all about taking care of our park and being good stewards,” Jones said. “That’s the beauty of this.”

To make the day happen, it took a lot of community volunteers.

“River Ventures bought over the barge, Mary Morgan with the Crystal River Kayak company donated kayaks, Bigfoot paddle board donated paddle boards, Rick Brown from Brown Funeral Home — he’s also a Crystal River Rotarian — brought the trailer, and Kings Bay Rotary brought the rakes, pitchforks and the supplies,” Jones said.

Twin brothers Bryce LaPlante and Jason LaPlante couldn’t wait to start their first Lyngbya cleanup, despite the dropping temperature.

“Besides being cold, I think it is good that we are getting rid of the Lyngbya and putting it to use in a responsible manner that isn’t just a Band-Aid that will cause problems further down the line,” Bryce said.

“We are an environmental school, so environmental stewardship is something that we focus on, so I think it is cool that we get the hands-on experience,” Jason added.

Head teacher and school administrator Zac Leonard led his group by jumping into the water first to lead by example.

“None of them have been a part of this project, and this is really what the academy is all about; getting into the community, partnering with organizations that are already there and teaching these kids how to be environmental stewards as they grow up,” Leonard said, “so they can take the mantle as these guys start to retire.”

“Everyone out here is freezing, but we’re all here because we care about this environment and we want to take care for it,” Leonard said.

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