Speaking up for the Apalachicola River

March, 2024 – On December 7th, 1998, a group of dedicated individuals came together out of concern for the threats facing the Apalachicola River, its floodplain, and the Apalachicola Bay. During a community forum, they agreed that an independent group was needed to advocate for the long-term health of the Apalachicola River. This was the beginning of Apalachicola Bay and River Watch and, in 1999, became Apalachicola Riverkeeper.

To continue celebrating our 25th anniversary, we’re honoring some of the early voices of Apalachicola Riverkeeper and are sharing their stories.

four people stand with arms around each other, laughing
From left to right: Georgia Ackerman (Executive Director), Andy Smith (founding member), Earl Morrogh (long time member), and Tom Herzog (long time member and current committee member)
Susan Anderson, our first Riverkeeper

Susan Anderson grew up on the Apalachicola River, near present day  Abercrombie Landing.  She served as the first Riverkeeper at Apalachicola Riverkeeper

Susan says, “Without a voice then the only voice that is heard are those who want to run over the resource and that’s why Riverkeeper is important, because that voice demands a very high level of information, a very high level of diplomacy, a very high level of passion – and bringing all of those things together will take many, many strong voices.”

Andy Smith, founding member, board member, and an executive director at Apalachicola Riverkeeper recognized the importance of an independent voice for the Apalachicola River system.

Andy says, “For the value of the ecosystem, being a nursery, providing food, providing habitat, all those reasons make it worth protecting. And it’s not going to be protected unless there are people willing to fight for it.”

Chad Taylor served on the board of directors for nearly two decades and continues to work in collaborative roles in the ACF Basin.

Chad says,“I have kind of a “bio-regional” view of the world, I don’t think I’m going to go out and save the world but I do have the illusion that I might make a difference in the ACF.”

Dave McLain was a founding member of Apalachicola Riverkeeper and served as Riverkeeper from 2000-2004. He then served as the Senior Policy Director when Dan Tonsmeire took over the role of Riverkeeper

Dave says, “The whole connection with the river deepened the longer you’re with it, the more you work with it, the more you work with the people on it, the more your intense involvement in everything that has to do with the river becomes.”

From left to right: Cameron Baxley (Riverkeeper), Dan Tonsmeire (former Riverkeeper), and Georgia Ackerman (Executive Director)

Dan Tonsmeire has been a long time member of the organization, serving as Riverkeeper from 2004 – 2017 and remains active in Apalachicola Riverkeeper’s Slough Restoration Project.

Dan says, “The people related to it [the Apalachicola River], it is a deep, heartfelt love that they have for the resource, and that’s a cold kind of word, but the river and bay – they talk about the river like it’s their mother or uncle, I mean it’s a very close association. And I was truly impacted by that.”

Watch the Founding Voices video series on our YouTube channel here.


Four people stand together, smiling
From left to right: Cameron Barton (committee member), John Alber (incoming board member), Dodie Alber (board member), and Ivo Marcich (board member).
four people gathered together smiling, two people sit together at a table and two stand close together next to the table.
From left to right: Bruce Means, Kathy Steinheimer, Katie McCormick (current board member), Chad Taylor (long time member).




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