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Beach resident selected as River Champion

March 5, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Beach resident John Heim is a known arts activist, rally organizer, guest teacher, muralist, advocate for clean water and fund donator to Beach Elementary School.

Now, he can be called a River Champion.

Heim was selected to that latter title by Washington D.C.-based American Rivers organization as part of its 40th anniversary celebration after being nominated by local activist Nancy Feraldi. He became one of 20 reader's choice river champions named for "true dedication to America's rivers."

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Beach resident and activist John Heim was named a River Champion by Washington D.C.-based American Rivers organization recently. You can usually see Heim speak at clean water rallies such as the Hands Across The Sand here.

"I'm flabbergasted and completely honored," said Heim. "I do feel there are way many more influential people who are deserving for this honor. The award may have my name on it, but the reality of it is this is for everybody. I present this award to anyone who has ever influenced me when it comes to the education and involvement in the clean water movement."

Heim's selection was officially announced in the American Rivers' March enewsletter, The Current, today. According to its website, American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America's Most Endangered Rivers campaign. Their involvement includes efforts in stopping pollution runoff, protecting water supplies and river cleanups.

Heim has been instrumental in helping spread the word towards cleaning up the Caloosahatchee River, the Gulf of Mexico and our area's estuaries.

In his approved biography for the honor, Heim was listed as an organizer for the local Hands Across the Sand on Fort Myers Beach. It also states that "John has worked tirelessly to promote clean water consciousness for the Southwest Florida Gulf waters and more recently has taken up an energetic and inspired campaign to stop the flow of dirty "fresh" water from Lake Okeechobee into the gulf, which creates the unhealthy cancerous algae growth called red tide killing sea life and the Gulf waters upon which the local economy depends. John organizes local clean water rallies, bus trips to D.C. to speak with congress, bus trips to Tallahassee to take the Clean Water pledges signed by local citizens. He organizes the River Kidz West Coast group in Florida. He sometimes just steps into a local commissioner's office to ask for a signature on the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration."

Heim said the recent Rally in Tally trip was successful despite the bus breaking down and its ralliers being late for the event. When things looked bleak, Heim rallied the troops by telling the busload it was about getting up there and showing their faces.

"I just wanted to keep the morale up. Afterwards, everyone seemed to have a general understanding that it wasn't about the rally, but more for representing our area," said Heim.

Southwest Florida ralliers did get some face-to-face time with congressional leaders and the Gov. Rick Scott's aide, though.

"We got there at the very end of the rally and received a standing ovation as we filed off the bus one by one," said Heim. "We did have Naples resident and bus member Karen Dwyer from Stone Crab Alliance speak about anti-fracking as the last speaker and a voice from Southwest Florida."

Heim and fellow activists will be attending a rally at Venice on March 8 to save the warm mineral springs and will have their voices heard at Golden Gate on March 11 for anti-fracking with Environmental Protection Agancy members present.



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