Riverkeeper: Possibly the coolest job title ever, but not exactly self-explanatory

Author: Jen Lomberk - Matanzas Riverkeeper
Anastasia Island Community Journal - July 2018

My name is Jen Lomberk and I am YOUR Matanzas Riverkeeper. When I announce my job title I am generally met with one of two responses. It is either “That is fantastic! Thank you so much for everything you do.” or “That doesn’t sound like a real job.” While Riverkeeper might be the coolest sounding job title ever, it does not exactly lend itself to an intuitive explanation, so I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself, and explain who Waterkeepers are and what we do.

There is an ancient principle originating from the Justinian Code called the Public Trust Doctrine. This principle states that certain crucial resources such as breathable air, clean drinking water, and the seashores are to be held in trust by the sovereign and protected for the good of the people. This fundamental principle has shaped many of the environmental laws in our country and can even be found in our state’s Constitution. But sometimes the sovereign, for whatever reason, does not protect these crucial resources that the people rely upon. That’s where Waterkeepers come in.

The Waterkeeper movement began in New York in the 1960s when a group of fishermen banded together to fight the industrial polluters who were decimating the Hudson River fisheries and, subsequently, their way of life. Their grassroots activism led to increased environmental regulations resulting in the recovery of the Hudson River and inspired other Waterkeeper groups, first around the nation, then around the world. Today, the Waterkeeper Alliance is a global network of advocates who protect over 2.5 million square miles of rivers, streams, and coastlines in 23 countries across 6 continents. Within that network each Waterkeeper (i.e. Riverkeeper, Coastkeeper, Baykeeper) organization operates independently to address the issues that are relevant within their watershed.

Waterkeepers from around the world gathered at Niagara Falls in June 2018 for the biennial Waterkeeper Alliance conference

Photo by: John Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeeper




In that vein, the Matanzas Riverkeeper was founded in 2013 under the command of Neil Armingeon, a well-loved and well-respected member of our community who dedicated his career to serving as a voice for our vulnerable natural resources. Neil decided that the Matanzas needed a Riverkeeper because it is such a beautiful and unique river. The banks of the Matanzas are home to two historic forts. The river supports an extensive tidal marsh habitat. And, perhaps most importantly, it is one of the last places in northeast Florida that you can harvest and eat oysters from. But despite the apparent historical, ecological, and cultural importance of the River, the Matanzas is facing increasing threats on a number of fronts including sea level rise, sewage spills, urbanization, and stormwater run-off just to name a few. The mission of the Matanzas Riverkeeper is to protect the health of the Matanzas River and its watershed through advocacy, education, and engagement. We participate in policy decision making processes, we educate children and adults alike on environmental issues, and we strive to foster a connection between our community and our waterways.

Neil Armingeon - Founder of the Matanzas Riverkeeper organization

Photo by: Walter Coker


Our goal is simple: to keep our waterways drinkable, fishable, and swimmable.