Haunted paddle event is a lesson in river respect

The trash monster will rear its ugly head as costumed paddlers make their way around a loop on the Santa Fe River on Thursday night.

The second annual Haunted Paddle event is sponsored by Current Problems and the Kings of the Springs environmental advocacy groups and is aimed at educating locals on enjoying the beauty of waterways and learning how to protect them for generations to come.

Nicole Llinas, executive director of Current Problems, a nonprofit organization that is working to protect and restore waterways and resources throughout North Central Florida, said the fundraiser is an educational event that brings together local groups to teach participants about ecosystems and how to protect them.

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The event was launched during the pandemic last year as a safe way to celebrate Halloween while being able to socially distance and enjoy the river at night.

“All the other Halloween events were canceled due to COVID,” Llinas said about how the idea came about. “This was easy to social distance.”

The event involves a 30-minute paddle in High Springs but paddlers can keep looping around throughout the evening, Llinas said.

There will be tables set up from conservation organizations, including the Alachua County Environmental Protection Agency, and there are special coloring book kits for sale as a part of the fundraiser as well.

“It’s a fundraiser and an awareness event,” Llinas said, noting that last year brought out a lot of mermaids, superheroes and trash monsters.

“This is a collaborative invite from every nonprofit that works on the river,” Llinas said, adding that the Florida Springs Institute, the Kings of the Springs and Trail Trash Outdoors river cleanup brothers Travis and Maverick Smith will be at the event advocating for keeping rivers and waterways clean.

The coloring book kits on sale for $7 include a book that highlights aspects of protecting the local waterways and how they are a part of the overall ecosystem that depends on clean water to survive.

“The main point of the coloring book is that it has descriptions of what each conservation group effort does,” Llinas said.

The Alachua Conservation Trust page is about an otter that has to go through the maze of connected pieces of land, she said.

The coloring book kit includes a reusable mesh bag, the book, homemade crayons from The Repurpose Project, cookies from The Talented Cookie Company in High Springs and non-toxic eco-friendly play dough.

For more information on the event, which costs $15-$20 depending on whether participants bring their own canoe or kayak or purchase a ticket that includes a rental from the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost, click here.

The invitation states to bring water to drink, and costumes are encouraged, but participants must wear a life vest over their costume.

The event starts at the outpost located at 21410 U.S. 441 in High Springs.

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