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Conservationists push to remove dam in Ocklawaha River

There's a popular river that runs through parts of Marion County and the Ocala National Forest, but conservationists are fighting to restore it after they say a dam is threatening the land and wildlife.

There's a popular river that runs through parts of Marion County and the Ocala National Forest, but conservationists are fighting to restore it after they say a dam is threatening the land and wildlife.

"It was beautiful, it was mature forest all along the banks, with cypress and cabbage palms and good fishing and a lot of wild-life and it was a paradise for us kids," Robert Simmons, a member of the Florida Defenders of the Environment, says.

But now all of that has changed. Conservation experts say the Ocklawaha River is not as beautiful and vibrant as it used to be.

"For decades life on this river consisted of fishing fish that no longer exist on this river," says Steve Robitaille, another member of the organization.

They're pushing to remove the Rodman dam, which they say is hurting the wildlife and killing trees along the river.

"So the forest is stressed all the way up to Eureka now because they're holding the river, the water in Rodman Pool too high," he says. "Experts tell us if the river is ever restored, they'll start to see an increase of fish and other wildlife in the water," says Ritter.

The fact of the matter is a much broader and a much healthier fishery would result ultimately from the dam being removed.

Captain Erika Ritter has worked on the Ocklawaha River for over three decades and she agrees that removing the dam would benefit some of the local fisherman nearby. "Fisherman want this fish back in this river that's blocked by the dam, the Rodman Dam or Kirkpatrick Dam that keeps them from coming up the saint Johns River and silver springs and even beyond to Moss Bluff.

That's why Ritter likes to lead tours down the river. She says she enjoys educating visitors about her family's home along the Ocklawaha and the landscape.

You can book your own tour with Captain Ritter to see the Ocklawaha River for yourself by visiting the GTN Facebook page.

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