crystal river mural florida wildlife corridor foundation

Crystal River Celebrates its Value to Florida Wildlife with a Mural Party – and you’re invited!

By Diane Bedard Posted on November 3, 2022

Three teenage girls volunteered for an important mission. In 2021, Ava, Marin, and Mallori traversed 50 miles of the Nature Coast to submerge themselves in the wilderness between Dunnellon and Homosassa. Their journey resulted in a film that celebrates the magical waterways of the Rainbow River, the Withlacoochee River, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Homosassa River, called Home Waters.

Crystal River, Florida, is a 6.8 square mile coastal city located around Kings Bay. The Bay and its various canals and rivers are fed by pure water springs that stay 72-degrees year-round. Crystal River is often called the “Home of the Manatee” and is known for its world-class fishing, pristine waterways, and breathtaking views.

This critical link supports a unique ecosystem that is important to the ecological health of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. How Citrus County grows will determine the fate of wildlife, clean waters, and the natural beauty that we all take pride in.

This short film was produced for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation, a 501c3 that seeks to connect, restore, and protect enough wild space in the sunshine state so that the unique and often endangered flora and fauna will be able to survive – and even thrive – while we continue welcoming thousands of new human residents each year.

Connecting People to Nature through Art

A mural was commissioned by the Foundation, created by Kelly Quinn, Art Director and Muralist with Canvas of the Wild at 35 NE 5th Street in Crystal River, that features species native to the local ecosystem, including Florida black bears, roseate spoonbills and, of course, manatees.

crystal river wildlife mural
Art students from Lecanto High School and all three teen trekkers from the Foundation’s recent film, Home Waters, joined Quinn as contributors to the mural. Image courtesy of Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation.

Kelly shares, “I’m proud to be part of a team working to inspire a connection between people and our wild places. I loved painting the mural with local Lecanto students. Seeing their excitement to engage with the artwork and working together as a community to create something meaningful was a rewarding experience I won’t soon forget.” 

The mural is interactive – embedded with near-field communication (NFC) tags to allow viewers to explore a digital version of the mural that connects them with the species and ecosystems represented in the art!

“By connecting people to the natural Corridor through public art, we hope to inspire our Crystal River and Citrus County communities to take pride in their part of the Corridor and to treasure the irreplaceable value it has, encouraging one another to protect these wild places,” says Marly Fuller, Director of Strategic Communications, “This event celebrates the beginning of a statewide mural movement to connect Corridor Communities. Next year we will install six murals, including one in Brooksville.”

This mural is made possible by Burt Eno and the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, in-kind sponsors Lumen and Sunbelt, partnership with Crystal River Mainstreet and the City of Crystal River, and special thanks to the Citrus County Education Foundation.

Home Waters film
In 2021, Ava, Marin, and Mallori traversed 50 miles of the Nature Coast to submerge themselves in the wilderness between Dunnellon and Homosassa. Image by Alex Freeze, courtesy of Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation.

Home Waters film Celebrates our Connection to the Wild

The Crystal River mural builds upon the 2021 teen expedition from Rainbow Springs to Homosassa Bay, where three local high school students experienced wild Florida in their backyard.

Along the journey, Ava, Marin, and Mallori paddle past an important bottleneck (area of wilderness less than a mile wide) in the Corridor that connects nearly two million acres of the Big Bend and Nature Coast critical linkages (areas of wilderness that are protected so wildlife can safely flourish). This narrow segment is the only protected area for wildlife to pass through.

“Many gaps in protection exist along the Corridor including a thin bottleneck just north of Dunnellon only a half-mile wide, which narrowly connects the Corridor across Hwy 41. Each Corridor gap throughout Florida provides an opportunity for its community to invest in connectivity through creative planning, with the goal of preserving the ecological function of the Florida Wildlife Corridor as the community grows,” explains Jason Lauritsen, Chief Conservation Officer of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation.

community paints wildlife mural in crystal river
The Crystal River mural project’s goal of community building included Citrus County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Josh Wooten, adding his artistic touches to the effort. Image by Jade White, courtesy of Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

Join the Crystal River Wildlife Mural Unveiling Monday, December 12 to Celebrate the Nature Coast

We are all invited to view the Crystal River Wildlife Mural’s unveiling, 35 NE 5th Street, Crystal River, at 5pm on Monday, December 12.  Mayor Joe Meek and Citrus County Chamber President and CEO, Josh Wooten will address Crystal River’s unique position within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

We will then take a short walk to the City of Crystal River’s new splash pad at the historic water tower, 806 NW US-19, for an outdoor showing of the movie, Home Waters by Jenny Adler and Ian Segebarth.

The viewing will be followed by a Q & A session with the film’s youth trekkers. There will be snacks and refreshments, although you may want to plan for dinner out after the event, as there are several good restaurants in the area.

florida wildlife corridor foundation mural campaign
These awesome stickers are being given to guests at the Mural unveiling December 12 in Crystal River. Meet me there!

Be sure to get your Florida Wildlife Corridor “Corridor Community” sticker at this event too!

Why is Citrus County so Important to Wildlife Conservation?

Jason Lauritsen explains, “Citrus County is a treasure trove of magnificent springs, inviting rivers, forests, wetlands, and an expansive coastal marsh system with productive sea grass beds.  Thousands of acres of conservation lands have been set aside for public benefit.  These parks, preserves and refuges provide the foundation of the region’s Nature Coast identity. 

These conservation lands are connected within a statewide network of greenways called the Florida Wildlife Corridor (Corridor). 

Citrus County is in fact encircled by this wildlife corridor, from the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway to the north, to Potts Preserve and Flying Eagle Preserve on the east, the Withlacoochee State Forest to the South, and the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and Crystal River State Park to the west. 

bobcat in florida's wildlife corridor
Bobcats, bears, birds and more move through the Florida Wildlife Corridor. The Corridor’s connectedness provides some safety as they move naturally. Image: FStop Foundation.

Water and wildlife move within this network, from protected patch to protected patch supporting diverse communities of plants and animals.  The unprotected stretches between these conservation gems are quite narrow in many places.  Left unprotected, these narrow segments of the Corridor are vulnerable to fragmentation.  They are conservation bottlenecks and easily severed by land conversion. 

It is our hope that as Citrus County grows, it will consider the value and function of the wildlife corridor, and plan to retain the vital connections that make it a world-renown hub for outdoor recreation.”

How to Get Involved with Florida’s Wildlife Corridor

This map of the Spring to Shore expedition route helps me visualize how protected green spaces must be connected to protect the wildlife moving through them. Map courtesy of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation.

The Nature Coast is an important part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, and the Florida Wildlife Corridor is an important part of the Nature Coast. We are going to have to work together to save wild places. This often includes showing up for government meetings and writing elected officials to let them know how important saving and connecting green space is to us.

Whether you’re into science, story, education, or the conservation status of the Corridor, there is something for everyone in its mission. Sign up here for the Corridor Foundation’s updates.

If you want to watch award-winning films that show the beauty of our State while teaching how wildlife traverse it, from the Everglades to the Georgia/Alabama borders, watch past expeditions on the Foundation’s website.

Are you interested in recreational adventures throughout the Corridor? Explore Live Wildly’s wonderful interactive map that connects you with the wilderness that makes up Florida’s Wildlife Corridor and activities that thrive there.

Crystal River Mural Unveiling Time & Location:

The Crystal River Mural’s goal is to raise awareness of how what we treasure connects to the rest of Florida, and even our country and our world, empowering all of us to have pride in our roles as protectors and conservators of nature.

Mural Unveiling: December 12 at 5:00pm at 35 NE 5th Street, Crystal River

Screening & panel discussion: Directly following the unveiling. Just a few steps away from the mural at the Crystal River Pumphouse and Historic Water Tower, 806 NW US-19, Crystal River, Florida.

RSVP and get updates about the event by clicking here.



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