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East County Wednesday, May 15, 2019 3 months ago

Old Braden River Historical Society plans for future

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The Old Braden River Historical Society hopes to expand after 12 years.
by: Andrew Atkins Staff Writer

As the Old Braden River Historical Society celebrated 12 years at its May 7 meeting, members looked back on the successes of the organization and discussed plans for the future.

The historical society has built a replica cabin at Jiggs Landing and hosted more than 30 river clean-ups between the organization’s formation in 2007 until now. Considering the relatively young history of the area, the historical society primarily focuses on maintaining the health and beauty of the Braden River, though it’s looking for new projects, both historical and environmental.

A main focus of the organization is attracting new members, although it has a handful of dedicated members, like Bob Batts.

Batts moved from Tennessee to a spot next door to the Linger Lodge in 2014. As someone who spent time enjoying nature in Tennessee, he found a similar sense of serenity along the Braden River.

So he joined the Old Braden River Historical Society.

“It doesn’t take much,” he said about being involved in an organization that works to preserve the Braden River.

The historical society started as a way to restore one of the original cabins at Jiggs Landing. The historical society became a nonprofit with the mission of collecting funds to that end, though that nonprofit dissolved in 2015. The members remained without nonprofit status so they could continue clean-up efforts.

The cleanups have removed items like toilets, a Jet Ski, and thousands of pounds of garbage from the river.

Keeping the river clean and promoting sustainability drew the interest of Peggy Christ, who lives along the river, to join the historical society.

“This river is probably the prettiest river in Florida,” Christ said.

Christ is aware the historical society has struggled to maintain a high number of attendees at its meetings.

“People are always busy,” she said.

But she said that doesn’t mean they don’t care. She noted the number of attendees at regular historical society meetings might not be what she’s hoping for as it hovers between 10-20, but the biannual river cleanups draw between 20 and 35 people.

Now that the cabin at Jiggs Landing is built and the river cleanups continue, Halstead said the society is looking for a new project. Some of the ideas he offered were continuing historical research and creating more informational placards for the site or focusing on the environmental side and working to replant native vegetation.

Denise Kleiner cuts the "birthday" cake celebrating 12 years of the Old Braden River Historical Society.

Ultimately, Halstead said, he sees the historical society focusing on both historical and environmental efforts.

“To what degree, it’s hard to tell,” he said.

The uncertainty is partially because the historical society is looking to send out a questionnaire to the surrounding community to figure out what the community is interested in. This is partially to try to boost membership and also to better reflect the values of the community in the historical society.

No matter what, though, Halstead said its clear the community cares about the mission of the Old Braden River Historical Society.

“Otherwise, we wouldn’t have such a great turnout at river cleanups,” he said.

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