The Great Florida Riverway Premiere

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The history, science, passion, and economics converge into a one-hour online special featuring 24 voices along the Great Florida Riverway — the Ocklawaha, Silver Springs and St. Johns. From stunning videography to unforgettable memories to leading-edge science, those that care about this Great Florida Riverway came together for the rivers.

Action Alerts

Click on your favorite organization below and send an Action Alert to Governor DeSantis


Other Social Media Partners

Florida Wildlife Federation

Florida Defenders of the Environment

Florida Springs Council

Audubon Florida

For a list of all our coalition members go to Free The Ocklawaha River Coalition — For Everyone!

Show Hosts

Shannon Blankinship

Gregg Jones

Live Show Producer

Ray Hays

Gemstone Media

Creative Contributors

Cinematography and Videography

Mark Emery – Nature photography
Gaby Eseverri – Canal history segment
Reinier Munguia – Introduction, History, Solution and Science segments
Matt Keene – Drawdown segment
Drew Russ – Introduction
Alan Youngblood – Economic segment
Defenders of Wildlife – Wildlife segment and wildlife footage
Save the Manatee Club – Blue springs and manatee footage


Margaret Hankinson Spontak

Voice Overs

Gregg Jones  •  Steffanie Munguia  •  Tony Mann

Logo and Website Design

Wingard Design and Communications

Thanks to the voices of the river.


Shannon Blankenship

Shannon has worked at St. Johns Riverkeeper for 9 years. As Advocacy Director, Shannon works to evaluate and prioritize issues and emerging threats to the watershed and develop and implement advocacy action plans. As Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper for six years, Shannon lead and organized social media, events, partnerships and education for our members. That included supporting the Rising Tides, young professionals of St. Johns Riverkeeper who made an annual overnight swim-kayak-camp trip along the Silver and Ocklawaha Rivers. The trip included tire swings, monkeys, and smores and quickly became a favorite recruitment tool for new Rising Tides leadership.

Shannon received her Bachelors of Science from Purdue University in Environmental Science and Natural Resources Economics in 2006 before working for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network in Philadelphia. She received her Juris Doctor from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville with recognized honors in Pro Bono community service and the Environmental Certificate of Law. She served as an elected official in Duval County as a Supervisor at the Soil and Water Conservation District from 2014-2018.

Gregg Jones

Gregg is a former Santa Fe College theatre faculty where he taught for 28 years, retiring in 2015, and is a proud member of Actors Equity (1974) and SAG-AFTRA (1985). Mr. Jones has been a company member at The Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville Florida since the 1978-79 season when he first appeared in They Shoot Horses Don’t They?. Since then, he has played various roles in more than 50 productions at the theatre including: (Tom) Dinner With Friends, (Salvador Dali) Hysteria, (Adrian) Private Eyes, (Leslie, Phyllis and Tom) Sylvia, (Sid Caesar) Laughter on the 23rd Floor, (Det. Nick Rosetti) Shear Madness (2 Runs), (Adrian) Stage Kiss, (Walter Flood) Becky’s New Car.

Film and television credits include: Waterways, Miami Vice, A Flash of Green and Coastlines (Victor Nunez). Since 2004 he has been the director of Leading Edge, a business theatre ensemble that works with major corporate clients as part of Exec. Ed./UF. His heartfelt connection to the environs of the Ocklawaha river includes his yearly attendance at the “Baachanalia,” a yearly reunion of artists and friends, on the banks of “Butterbutt” landing where he regaled his college friends as emcee and storyteller for over 40 years. He has spent many nights tent camping on the Ocklawaha, floating and swimming in it’s waters, and enjoying it’s unique pristine beauty and wildlife.

Mark Emery

Mark grew up in Ocala Florida, worked at Silver Springs wrestling alligators and milking rattlesnakes for Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute. He and his wife Mary have now traveled to 35 countries producing, directing and shooting scores of television shows and commercials about fish and wildlife for the BBC, National Geographic Television, The Navy Seals and The Discovery Channel. He has won two Emmys for Cinematography, a Cine Golden Eagle award, a Chris Award, and Wildlife Communicator of the Year Award and the Audience Choice award at the SSIFF.

Mark and his music partner Tracy Collins have written and performed music for over 350 national television shows and commercials including scores for National Geographic Television, the Discovery Channel, Fuji films of Japan, Walker’s Cay Chronicles, Infisherman, Captain EOS commercial for Disney World, Larry Csonka’s North to Alaska, One More Cast and many others.

Mark has guided and filmed in Alaska for 32 summers. His clients have included Olivia Newton John, Supreme Court Justice Alito, NFL coach John Fox, fishing legends Shaw Grigsby, Larry Dahlberg, Babe Winkleman and Al Lindner and many others. He has guided as well as filmed with the BBC, Nat Geo Wild, Marco Polo films, IMAX crew from Macgillivray Freeman films.
Emery’s still photography has been published in National Geographic Magazine, Newsweek, The London Times, Outside Magazine, Outdoor Life, Florida Sportsman, Alaska Magazine as well as many books, calendars and other publications.

Gaby Eseverri

Gaby Eseverri is a recent graduate from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. She focused her studies in the fields of photography and multimedia production, and environmental journalism. During her last semester at UF, Gaby completed a short documentary, “The Rodman Dam,” following the history and current events around the Ocklawaha River. She joined Free The Ocklawaha Coalition For Everyone in early May as a Communications Intern. She produced several short videos during her internship, including “Silver Springs: The Heartbeat of the Ocklawaha River.” As a South Florida local and a nature lover, she is now serving as a Communications Intern with the Everglades National Park Service.

Reinier Munguía

Reinier Munguía is a full-time naturalist, illustrator and photographer based in Lakeland, Florida. His work has appeared in various publications including books, magazines and scientific publications. He spends much of his time documenting wildlife and their struggles in our constantly changing environment. His passion for conservation and wildlife can be seen in numerous illustrations, and photographs and commissioned work for conservation organizations such as the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy.

In his spare time, he leads photography workshops in exotic destinations including Galapagos, Costa Rica and Panama, among others.

Matt Keene

Matt Keene is an award-winning journalist and record-setting adventurer based in St Augustine, Fla. His writing, videography and photography focus on environmental and social issues, particularly those affecting his home state of Florida.

Matt has spent more than 13 months in a tent on multi-week, long-distance adventures, raising awareness of wild areas, recreational opportunities and natural conservation. He has hiked more than 3,500 miles, kayaked more than 2,000 expedition miles in Florida alone, and bicycled more than 4,000 miles across the United States. Matt also holds the world record for being the first person to complete Florida’s 1,515-mile-long saltwater-paddling trail, the Circumnavigational Trail.

Drew Russ

Drew Russ was born and raised in Ocala, FL. He has been in the film industry for over ten years, directing and editing music videos for international musical acts. His work has earned him several awards, three gold records, and one platinum record.

Drew has credited growing up in Ocala as reason for his success: “Coming from a small town as Ocala has resulted in a certain tenacity among my peers and I to exceed expectations in production. What outsiders see as a sleepy small town, the natural beauty is a hidden gem and a natural inspiration. My childhood was filled with many great memories of visiting Silver Springs, boating down the Silver River, and swimming in the crystal clear waters. When I was asked to partake in this project, I was thrilled to lend the skills I have developed to help others become aware of the need to restore and preserve the natural wonders of this waterway so future generations can experience what I had growing up here.”

Alan Youngblood

Alan Youngblood has been telling stories for 35 years full-time as a photojournalist and photo editor for New York Times Regional News Group, Halifax Media Group and finally Gatehouse. He has reported stories as far away as war-torn Europe and as close as his own backyard. Alan has won many awards through the years, including being named Gatehouse Photographer of the Year in 2017.

What matters to Alan is the impact his photography has on people’s lives. The intimate moments, the scenes discovered. Decisive moments, emotions. Nothing gives him more satisfaction than when someone looks at an image he just produced and says, “I never saw that and I was standing right next to you”. Photojournalists do not get another chance. The moments happen once.

Today Alan has his own company, Alan Youngblood Images. It has given him the freedom to work on some of his passions including breathtaking underwater photography of nearby Silver Springs. Here he volunteers with a team to clean the glass bottomed boats and cherished springs of a vital tributary of the Ocklawaha River.