HIGHLANDS COUNTY -- Dec. 11 was a day of revitalization and restoration for Yoga participants on the beautiful, flowing Kissimmee River. After 22 years, the middle portion of the river has been restored to its curvy flow through the heart of Florida.
This day was also memorable as Loisa Kerwin, assistant director, Florida Atlantic University’s Environmental Studies and director of Riverswood Field Lab in Lorida commemorated the close of her official duties in collaboration with the Army Corp of Engineers, creating a living dream of returning the natural flow of 40 square miles and 20,000 acres of wetlands floodplain to its original state.
In the l960s, federal and state officials straightened the Kissimmee to address flooding concerns due to the state’s explosive population. The change from a slow winding waterway that spread out to sheetflow slowly south to a fast running straight ditch resulted in the dying of native habitat. Today, the river’s life is restored and life rejuvenating!
Yoga students from various cities boarded the pontoon boat with USCG Masters Captain, Mark Compeau, at the helm, pointing out the soaring flocks of white heron, Roseate spoonbills, pelicans and other beauties in the sky with swirling pools of fish below. The day was a “unique combination of Yoga and natural exploration,” in the words of Loisa.
The yoga retreat down the river was a rare opportunity to relax, enjoy a bag lunch and learn about the natural habitat of the area, as explained by the experts, Loisa and Captain Compeau. The tour also lingered at the homestead of Edna Lockett Pearce, one of the oldest settlements in Highlands County, first built for Zachary Taylor (1837) when John Mizell brought his family and cattle ranching to the new homestead along the Kissimmee. The restored Lockett house and surrounding property is now owned by Butch Thompson, available for special retreats in the memory of “old Florida” and the rugged pioneers who settled here.
After the end of the cruise, everyone disembarked at the lab for a relaxing yoga practice and accompanying easy flow music merging into the serene environment.
As the day closed, the class posed for a yoga picture beneath the tall oaks with Luisa in the center. Loisa will still serve as a volunteer, as new Director Amber Moore picks up the reigns in January 2022.
We will miss you, Loisa, but know as this amazing journey of exploration for you comes to a close, a new one awaits your discovery. Much success. In a reflective quote, Loisa recorded these words to ponder: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.