PALATKA, Fla. — As the sun set along the widened expanses of the St. Johns River, Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill grabbed a cooler filled with beer and climbed aboard the Pride of Palatka. Inside the red-and-white riverboat sat a group of visiting environmental enthusiasts, eager to see the attraction locals hoped could revive the rural town they love.
Sam Carr, a Palatka native who runs a local outdoor activities promotion group, told passengers they’d soon be immersed in a waterworld of green marshes and moss and mangroves, of tall birds wading in the current and alligators lingering in the water.
The travelers hoped the old river might be the key to a prosperous future for a rural community that, like many others across the United States, has been largely left behind by the modern economy. They envision bed-and-breakfasts along the water, condominiums rising for retirees who might prize the view, and tourists flocking to experience a rare pocket of undisturbed, natural Florida.
“This is our best thing,” Carr said.
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