A seven-county poll conducted by Jacksonville University listed the St. Johns River as a more important asset to the region than the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Some of what we were looking for was a snapshot of how the people viewed the river, particularly in Jacksonville and south of us," said Quinton White, Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute executive director, at a Jacksonville Waterways Commission meeting.
The poll showed the Jacksonville metropolitan area — comprising Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties — valued the river more than the counties to the south, said White.
Waterways Commission member Ralph Hodges responded to the results that showed people view littering and dumping as the worst source of pollution.
"I didn't realize that was a large source of pollution and I wonder if it's just visual pollution. I'm like anybody else, I don't like to see bottles floating in the water, but seems to me there are more important things than that," said Hodges at a Wednesday commission meeting.
White talked about the items that continue to be pulled out of the river that are the result of dumping and littering.
"I would say that littering and dumping is, in fact, a problem. It's amazing to me the number of tires and washing machines, tons of debris that continue to be taken out of the river," said White.
The interviews for the poll were conducted Nov. 10-18 among a sample audience of 379 adults 18 years of age or older living in Brevard, Clay, Duval, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia counties, which all are along the St. Johns River in Northeast and Central Florida.
The interviews were conducted at Jacksonville University under the direction of the JU Social Science Research Center.
Questions and results included:
• Which of the following do you consider to be the more important asset to the Jacksonville area? (Asked of the participants from the 904 area code)
Navy bases in Jacksonville and Mayport — 63 percent
St. Johns River — 28 percent
Jacksonville Jaguars — 8 percent
Don't know — 1 percent
• What do you see as the biggest source of pollution in the St. Johns River?
Littering and dumping — 38 percent
Stormwater runoff — 26 percent
Industrial and commercial activity — 22 percent
Don't know — 14 percent
• Which of the following statements do you think best describes the health of the St. Johns River?
A river in good condition in need of improvement in some areas — 52 percent
A degraded river which has value, but needs a major cleanup — 35 percent
A polluted river not worth saving — 3 percent
Don't know — 10 percent
• Do you feel knowledgeable about what you can do to help improve the health of the St. Johns River?
No — 56 percent
Yes — 44 percent
• Do you think there is a direct connection between your personal actions and the health of the St. Johns River?
No — 56 percent
Yes — 44 percent
• On a scale of 1-10, where 1 means "you do not try at all" and 10 means "you try very hard," how would you rate your personal efforts to protect the St. Johns River?
Average rating — 4.9
• Which of the following do you think is the biggest problem facing your local community at the present time?
Creating jobs — 58 percent
Reducing crime — 18 percent
Improving schools — 15 percent
Protecting environment — 4 percent
Don't know — 5 percent
The survey also asked about recreational use of the river:
• Over the past year you have fished on or along the St. Johns River at least…
Not at all — 75 percent
Once a year — 14 percent
Once a month — 8 percent
Once a week — 3 percent
• Over the past year you have boated, canoed, kayaked or Jet Skied on or along the St. Johns River…
Not at all — 70 percent
Once a year — 15 percent
Once a month — 11 percent
Once a week — 4 percent
• Over the past year you have swam on or along the St. Johns River…
Not at all — 90 percent
Once a month — 5 percent
Once a year — 3 percent
Once a week — 2 percent
• Over the past year you hunted or observed wildlife on or along the St. Johns River…
Not at all — 62 percent
Once a month — 16 percent
Once a week — 12 percent
Once a year — 10 percent