Captains Elizabeth Jolin and Xavier Figueredo have been navigating the waters of the Florida Bay for 20 years. Figueredo left Colorado in search for a new life on the waters of the Florida Keys. Jolin moved to the Keys after working and living in Washington, D.C.

Captains Elizabeth Jolin and Xavier Figueredo know the Florida bay quite well having navigated the waters of one of the nicest coastal waters in the world for the past 20 years. With their love for the bay, the two are also very attuned to the issues and complexities from water flow and water control to the Central Everglades Restoration project (CERP).

On June 6, I recently had the opportunity to hop on the boat with the two for an afternoon out on the bay to get a real understanding of the issues at hand. Joining me was photographer Ian Wilson, who captured some amazing shots of our adventure. With a rookery full of beautiful birds, one the trip highlights was the spotting of a juvenile bald eagle up in a nest.

“It’s so exciting,” said Jolin, who moved to the Florida Keys after working and living in Washington, D.C. She ultimately got away from the hustle and bustle of the city life and found the waves and the ocean to be her joy and inspiration. 

She enjoys educating and teaching as evidenced by her camp currently underway that’s teaching young girls basics behind operating a boat. A member of the grassroots organization Florida Bay Forever, Jolin is also interested in educating and engaging the public on the issues surrounding the bay and Everglades Restoration. 

“It started off after the seagrass died off that brought high salinity levels,” Jolin said. “It’s threatening wildlife. The bay is in need of more clean, fresh water. Today, we rely on rain.”

A picturesque day on the Florida looking out at Everglades National Park. IAN WILSON/Keys Weekly

Florida Bay Forever is helping the community communicate with policymakers by providing tools for advocacy and guidelines on to best communicate on a political. Jolin admits the issues are “incredibly complicated,” and she’s right. For any citizen, understanding CERP and Central Everglades Protection Plan is no easy task — not to mention all the agencies involved and the roles they play. Jolin says one of the bigger roles for Florida Bay Forever is simplifying the issues so residents know what to do and who to call to encourage change. 

Just recently, Everglades National Park received $60 million to complete the Tamiami Trail project, which will go to help restore the natural flow of freshwater into the Everglades. Funding to move the project forward is a big win, Xavier acknowledged, as lack of freshwater has impacted wildlife and destroyed critical habitat like seagrass. Full project completion is expected by 2023. 

While the news surrounding Tamiami Trail is encouraging, there’s still more educating and work to do. Florida Bay Forever will be doing just that next month by giving readers some basic knowledge on the bay and the Everglades and ways to act to protect the vital waters of the Florida Bay.  

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